How to stick to your resolutions

7 October 2015 by
First published: 5 February 2015

break the goal down into small steps and recognize each milestone

You might have hit January with the best of intentions, but now February’s here, Jessica Houtby explains how to stick to your resolutions long term.
Sat here munching on my bowl of ice cream I’m hardly one to talk when it comes to sticking entirely to my New Year’s resolutions (eat less sugar). According to a study from Professor Richard Wiseman from the University of Hertfordshire, most of us have already scrapped our New Year’s intentions as early as 23 January. Oops!
Come February, few of us are walking around in a cloud of Zen modeling our perfect figures and glowing skin. So what’s the answer? Abandon the resolutions and resign ourselves to another year with a tarnished halo? Or change our attitudes and even the goals themselves to achieve real results? We think the latter!
Executive Coach Ruth Groves and Mindfulness Practitioner Cecilia Hazlerigg explain to us the root of the problem and how best to realign our goals on the road to success. Both ladies are part of the team at PUSH Mind&Body, an exercise retreat, which uses both coaching and mindfulness techniques to help clients clarify and set realistic goals.

Why are we straying?
Let’s first back track and start from the beginning – why we are straying in the first place?
For most of us it’s because we are setting the bar too high. Making a drastic change can be scary stuff and if we start too big we can put ourselves off. ‘The difference between a big long-term goal and today’s reality can be daunting and overwhelming. So chunk it up, break the goal down into small steps and recognise each milestone,’ says Ruth. Set yourself realistic goals because ‘confidence comes from the small wins. The more confident you become, the shorter the journey to the big long-term goal.’ she explains.
We’ve all heard of the SMART mnemonic right?
S – Specific (or Significant).
M – Measurable (or Meaningful).
A – Attainable (or Action-Oriented).
R – Relevant (or Rewarding).
T – Time-bound (or Trackable).

To give ourselves a fighting chance this is the template that we recommend using.

Finding your motivation
‘We also need, I think, to be really clear about the motivations behind the goals we set ourselves in the first place. Why is it that we are deeming something to be important to us? And why now?’ asks Cecilia. ‘Unless our motivations are genuine, we are apt to fail before we have begun. Classic examples can be found both within the personal domain (trying to please a partner) and at work (meeting objectives set for us by our boss),’ she says. ‘In either scenario, unless we are truly interested in the “goals” we sign ourselves up to, chances are we will not pull them off.’ So ask yourself is this goal something you are committed to?

How do you get back on track?
So we’ve found our motivation and set our SMART goals, but we are still straying – what else do we need to make sure we’re doing?
Accepting that things don’t always go to plan
‘Accept that change is rarely linear,’ explains Cecilia. ‘We need to get more comfortable with the “messiness” that change so often entails. Life is unpredictable. When we are less ready to beat ourselves up when things don’t go exactly to plan, we are far more likely to stay on course much more of the time, thereby increasing our chances of achieving the goals that mean most to us,’ she says.
Get clear and focused
The best way to make a training or fitness goal stick in the New Year is to really try to make it part of your lifestyle. That way it becomes an integral part of what you do rather than something additional that you’re trying to squeeze in around everything else.’Without focus, our attempts will come to nought. Commit to what it is that you want, and set in place strategies for avoiding negative thinking or external distractions,’ says Cecilia.

Find a social support network
Cecilia also says that we might find it helpful to identify a mentor (someone who can hold you accountable to your values when you’re working on your goals). ‘A friend, coach, or mentor can help you recognise patterns of behavior that are not in line with your valued life. Choose someone who is not quick to criticise or judge you; they may have achieved similar goals, and be willing to share their story with you. They can also help you celebrate success, which is important to positively reinforce the changes you make along the way,’ she says.

Finally… rise to the challenge!
Remind yourself about how good you’re going to feel and what you are going to gain. It’s not always about how you look (that comes later), but how you feel that is most important! Ruth recommends ‘recognising what works for you and crucially notice when something isn’t working. Be kind. You can’t get everything right 100% of the time and if you’ve learnt from it, it’s never a mistake!’ Good luck!

Two top tips:
1. Don’t sleep deprive yourself by getting up too early going to the gym. The brain requires energy to do something we don’t necessarily want to do or find difficult to do. Over time you might find it harder to keep going with a lack of energy – instead try switching morning for evening sessions.
2. Try making your goals enjoyable – boredom can be such a de-motivator!