Written by: Meg Sharp, Wellbeing Consultant, Cambridge Group of Clubs
“Resolution” has a number of different meanings. Scientifically, we might use the term to measure the sharpness of an image or explain the process of making distinguishable the individual parts of an object; the act of breaking a complex notion into simpler pieces.
Then there’s the “New Year Resolution”: A flirtatious, finnicky, and sometimes evasive spirit. A hope. A dream. An aspiration. That – if left unresolved – can leave one feeling defeated, demoralized, and complacent.
Here’s a fact: Many New Year’s Resolutions are left unresolved.
Another fact: The problem, wonderful reader, may not be you. It may not even be the Resolution itself that is to blame, but rather, how it is viewed and approached. Maybe we need to infuse our 2023 Resolution with a little more science.
A great resolution has clarity. And many simple parts or steps.
So, ask yourself the following questions:
- What exactly does my new improved end point look like?
- How will it feel like when I get there?
- More importantly how will it start to feel as I progress towards that end goal?
- Most importantly: Why does it matter to me? When I imagine the changed state, how exactly is it going to impact me and those people and things that I care about? And – perhaps? – what happens if I don’t?
And what of the different parts? These simple little pieces are not even remotely as glamourous or exciting as the end goal. But they are, in truth, where all the transformative power lies.
What is the first small change you need to make to start your journey towards your end point? What new habits need to get ingrained? And then repeated? And which ones need to be displaced?
List all the parts inherent in your whole. All the small behaviours that will be required in order to attain and maintain your new end point. Start with one or two. And then power them up. Once they are entrenched and growing – use them to help you displace a few bad habits. And then add one or two new ones.
Refocus your dream. You will need to keep the power of hope alive. Stay motivated by a clear vision of where you are going. Keep your lens focused forward, never back.
And when you do slide back, dig your heels in. Find a strong foothold, look, and move forward again. Focus on the next positive step. Celebrate that win and how it makes you feel. Remember change is difficult. Be patient. Be proud of your efforts and every small gain.
A few additional tips of creating and sticking with new habits:
Focus more on implementing habits that “add” rather than “take away”. For example, if you aspire to have a healthier diet, set goals that involve “more”. More vegetables and protein. More time planning and enjoying food preparation and savouring each bite. More sips of water.
Habits rely on cues – so, at the beginning, planning and scheduling things as often as possible is vital. Schedule exactly when you will shop for fresh produce twice a week. Make meal plans and grocery lists. Prepare your vegetables for easy consumption before you put them away in the fridge.
Repetition is incredibly powerful. You want to become stronger, and you know you will need to start exercising more. Lifting weights will be part of that equation. Start by planning to exercise 5+ days a week. Book the workouts into your calendar. Some days you will complete the whole 45 minutes. Other days you may only have time for 7 minutes. Your brain cares far more that you did something than it notices how much you did. If 6 months from now you are still exercising 5 days a week, don’t you think you will have improved your strength and fitness?
Plan events – things you will look forward to – that support a new habit or are incompatible with an old one. Meeting a friend for an early morning run will support starting the day with exercise, reconnecting with friends who share healthy habits, committing to an earlier bedtime, and drinking less alcohol! That’s potentially four amazing habits tied to one small event. Throw a vegan dinner party. You’ll get reinspired in the kitchen and discover some delicious new vegetable-based dishes.
Focus on how the changes make you feel. If you have cut back on your alcohol consumption, be laser focused on how great you feel in the mornings. How much more patience you have for your kids. How much more creative you are at work. How your sugar cravings seem to have abated.
As you move more often, how does your body feel? Stronger? Taller? More grounded? Calmer? More vital? These feelings are the kinds of rewards that ultimately make the habit ingrained. Celebrate how much better you feel. Embrace a sense of pride in your new behaviours and your slowly adapting self. As you continue to feel better, the other habits – some of the tougher ones – that may be required in order to reach your ultimate summit – become more manageable, attractive even.
One more thought: Your brain only understands what you tell it. Phrases of hope, positive reinforcement, patience, and perseverance are key. Compassion changes us from the inside. Particularly powerful when we voice that compassion to ourselves.
You’re doing a fabulous job. A small slip is hardly a failure. Keep up the great work. Never stop trying. Your end goals are a great aspiration. Feel and celebrate all the wins along the way. And, if you determine you want to pause at one of those wins, go for it. Life is a long, interesting journey. You can reach for different goals at different points. The idea is to keep moving forward. Feeling a little bit better every day.