Ever wondered why you consider the start of a New Year to start new stuff AND do better at it?

Well the origins are thousands of years ago, the Babylonians who chose better ways of pleasing the Gods in the New Year.

For most of us at this time of the calendar year, it’s an opportunity to forgive our past faults and errors and move into a new phase. We dream of a better life, more aspirations, goals and gratitude.

Sadly, many of you fail, almost immediately.

Why? Often the process, and how you go about it is unrealistic. It is done with little insight into thinking, emotions and behaviour. This is not a criticism, it is an observation.

So how can you do it better?

  1. Observe your current thinking about the problem you are trying to solve.
  2. Question this thinking by examining any distortions. Look for evidence to confirm or deny current state of mind.
  3. Revisit favourable and unfavourable experiences from the year past. Realistically appraise your efforts, use of energy, observation, understanding of beliefs, how you learn new skills, support mechanisms, priorities and self-talk.

These 3 steps support you to examine the reality of the problem you are trying to solve (like eating healthier or becoming more active) as opposed to setting unrealistic, high expectation goals. Failure is almost certain if you avoid addressing the rationale and beliefs system behind the problem.

And What Else?

Often goal setting is convoluted at this time of year. There is a constant level of comparison to others. You see what they are doing and engage in negative self-talk, derailing motivation. Consider how to talk to yourself in your plans for the year ahead. Is it helpful or a hindrance? Do you use language that contributes to real strategies, motivation and functioning or set yourself up for failure?

There is no point expressing in 2019 you are going to go to the Gym, when you have not been to a gym before, and have no experience of what that means. Considered from the practicalities of getting there to what you will do when you get there.

A more realistic approach is to set a goal to increase activity might look like – ‘I am going to be more active this year than I was last year’ or ‘I will walk three times a week in my local neighbourhood before work’.

You can assess the scope, how will you increase activity safely to avoid injury or self-sabotage, nutrition, lifestyle fit. You might seek support from a GP, is the goal to lose weight or simply be more active. Alongside of this, examine the past barriers to being ‘more active’.

These may have included time, not knowing where to start, not wanting to do it on your own, health complexities and thinking errors. When you do this, you can establish contingencies to manage barriers if they arise as you are work towards your 2019 goals.

Ultimately I recommend to my clients, they avoid setting New Year’s Resolutions. It applies an inordinate level of pressure and unrealistic expectation that can exacerbate existing stress and anxiety, around the problem you are trying to solve.

Being realistic is important. Talking about what you did in the year past and how you would like to do it differently. Examine the beliefs structure holding you back from doing it differently.  Understanding skills acquisition and practice and establishing new internal dialogue will all support realistic goal setting. You underlying goals here are to create more favourable experience in the year ahead. You will do this gradually building and reinforcing new ways of achieving your goals and coping with the stress-producing experiences along the way to stay on track.