It's time to overhaul your New Year's resolution!

When January 1st rolls around we have the best intentions of making this year "the year I actually achieve my New Year's resolutions", only to beat ourselves up in February when we haven't...

How many times have you resolved to eat a little healthier, or get more sleep, but found yourself a week later saying “oh the diet starts next week,” or “I’ll just get this paragraph finished and I’m going to bed.” The thing is, even if you don’t take part in “New Year’s resolutions”, chances are there are behaviours or areas that you would like to improve or adapt in various life domains, not just health. This starts with realising that making a lasting change, while good and necessary, does not happen overnight. It begins with a critical reflection of what barriers have prevented it in the past, what ones may exist in the future, and how to set smarter goals for lasting improvement.

Common barriers that prevent lasting change:
  • Unrealistic goals – it may be the timeframe you have set to achieve the goal in, or even the environment in which you are trying to achieve them in
  • Goals that are outcome driven – when we become focused solely on the end result, we forget to acknowledge the process we go through to get there
  • Goals that are too negative – focusing on “losing” or “getting rid of” behaviours or habits, rather than taking into account the positive effects that come with it, e.g. instead of stressing about losing weight, focus on the healthy lifestyle you are gaining
Setting SMARTer goals for lasting change:
  • Use the SMART method when setting goals:
    • Specific: vague goals will not work. Clearly define what you what to achieve – e.g. change “studying more” to “Each day between 9am and 11am I will study”
    • Measurable: in order to know when you have achieved your goals, you need to have a way to measure them – e.g. achieving better sleep hygiene by tracking the hours slept each night
    • Attainable: is this goal really important to you? Weigh up the time, effort, and cost of achieving the goal – e.g. are you working “harder” because longer work hours are seen as a sign of success or would it be better to work smarter and in less hours?
    • Realistic: is it actually possible to achieve the goal? At the end of the day we are all human and have limits! It’s important to know them – e.g. If you are already working, have a family, and studying, taking on a second job may not be possible
    • Time bound: majority of people work best when there are deadlines involved, otherwise procrastination takes over, and things may never be completed – e.g. instead of saying “I want to get fit this year” set yourself a realistic time line in which to achieve specific goals
  • Positive reinforcement is also important in making lasting change – we are more likely to keep doing something if we are seeing positive effects, rather than beating ourselves up about what we haven’t achieved.