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How to stick with your new year resolutions (part 2)

By January 26, 2013No Comments

Following on from my last blog, here are a few more things to consider if you are still struggling with your resolutions.

What are you giving up?

I’m not talking about the obvious here, but about the side effects which you may not have anticipated, where aspects of your lifestyle which you enjoyed or have always taken for granted have to be sacrificed in order for you to reach your goals.

The best illustration of this is people who give up smoking.  Sure, they give up the actual cigarettes, along with the health problems they cause, but they also give up something they’ve been used to holding, gesticulating with and enjoying as an accompaniment to a pint or glass of wine.  Office workers also give up a reason to get up from their desks for a change of scene, a chat and some fresh(!) air every time they have a cigarette break, and a de-stressing tool.   Smokers sometimes don’t realise how much their working days are structured around cigarette breaks until they are taken away.  Their days take on a different shape, they don’t get away from their computer screens, and they miss the daily catch up with colleagues.  So becoming a non-smoker is more about changing lifestyle than simply nicotine withdrawal.

This applies to other types of resolutions too – giving up cakes and biscuits means that a tea break feels like less of a treat, going running before work means you’re giving up time for a leisurely breakfast, giving up alcohol might mean you feel left out when you go to the pub.

To some extent you have to live with some sacrifices, and remind yourself why you made the resolution in the first place – how much better are you are going to feel in the long term?  And what doesn’t challenge you doesn’t change you.  But it is also worth acknowledging the losses you are dealing with, and letting yourself grieve for them rather than beating yourself up for what simply feels like a lack of willpower.

Once you’ve acknowledged the losses you can start on strategies to deal with them.  If you miss your leisurely breakfasts because you now go out running, consider setting the alarm slightly earlier to give yourself more time.  Change your schedule to allow for your new activity.  If you miss cigarette breaks at work, schedule a time to get up from your desk to fetch a coffee from the nearest coffee shop.  Try to replace what you’re missing with something new.  Think about how you can divert yourself from missing your old habits.

Do you really want this?

Did you make your resolution because you wanted to or because you thought you should?  If you’ve joined a gym because you think you should be exercising three times a week, but don’t have a clear end goal in mind, you’re going to be less successful than the person who joined the gym because they have a specific goal of, say, more toned arms for the summer, and who is therefore committed to lifting some weights to achieve them.

In a nutshell, you need to want it.  Motivation can only come from you, and if you feel obliged or pressured or shamed into doing something it won’t feel inspiring and you won’t feel motivated.   Consider whether you really want to stick to your resolution, and if you don’t, consider giving it up and concentrating on something that you do want.

Too many resolutions?

How many resolutions did you make?  January is a dark and depressing month and putting yourself under too much pressure is a recipe for failure.  If you’ve committed to eating more healthily and exercising regularly, and you’re now struggling, consider tackling just one of those at a time.  I’d recommend that eating comes first – spend a month or two cleaning up your diet and you’ll be better nourished to take on an exercise regime later.  And if your goal is to lose weight, weight loss is more about diet than it is about exercise.  The gym can come later when you’re more energised and feeling positive because you’ve already succeeded with your diet.

Were you too ambitious?

Were your hopes too high when you set your goals?

Were you hoping to lose a stone in a month and now three or four weeks into the year, despite sorting out your diet, you realise that it’s not going to happen?  Things like weight loss aren’t an exact science so there’s no dishonour in resetting your time frame now that you have some real evidence of how long things are going to take.

Or have you started an exercise regime but aren’t seeing results yet?  If you’re a regular reader of women’s magazines (or, to some extent, men’s) you’ll be used to reading articles on the latest get-fit-quick plan, leading you to believe that you can make visible changes in a matter of weeks or even days.  In fact it takes longer than that.  Unless you sign up for an intensive program with a personal trainer you won’t see real changes for (in my experience) about three months.  So hang on in there, it is happening, but gradually.

And finally – don’t beat yourself up!

I hope these tips, along with my previous blog, have helped you to understand why you might be struggling with your resolutions.

My tips are obviously meant to help you stay on track, but I hope they also encourage you to be kinder to yourself.  Permanent change is hard, and many people have several attempts at things before they finally succeed.  Understand the reasons you’re struggling, stop blaming yourself for a lack of willpower, then keep going.

Good luck, and I’d love to hear about your resolutions, experiences and successes – you can contact me at