The holidays come and go in a flurry of coloured packages, merry parties and communal overindulgence. That’s why it’s no surprise that for many of us, ringing in the New Year often means resolving to make changes.
Making real changes can be a challenge at the best of times. With a little planning and discipline, however, you can make those resolutions stick.
Timing is everything
Firstly, it’s important to decide if making a change at the start of the year is the right fit for you. “The best thing about resolutions is that they make you think about what you want to change,” says Bob Summerhurst, a business coach and consultant based in Ottawa, “but you have to decide if this is the right time of year for you to get on with it.”
Summerhurst suggests that for many people, it’s easier to make significant changes at the beginning of September, a time of year that we’ve been conditioned to associate with change, rather than jumping on the bandwagon with everyone else in January.
If you are ready to commit to a resolution, it’s important that you set yourself a realistic goal, and then break it down into manageable steps. Dana Marcon is a Halifax-based life and business coach with a background in fitness. She recommends writing down what you want to achieve and then outlining how you’re going to get there.
“All or nothing behaviour is what gets people in trouble,” says Marcon. She says that making more than three changes in your life at one time creates stress – that’s why it’s important to take change one small step at a time. “It’s too much to handle if it’s a total life change.” Marcon recommends finding five sub-goals that will help you on your way to reaching your larger goal. Those smaller achievements will help you build you confidence “so that it’s stronger… like a muscle.”
Get a support system
If you need more motivation, get yourself a cheerleader. “You need somebody to nag you,” says Summerhurst. Whether you enlist a partner, friend, parent or a professional coach, it helps to have someone to answer to. “If this change matters to you and you share it with somebody,” says Summerhurst, “well, they want you to succeed at it.”
Making change takes work and it’s important that you clear some space in your life to really do it, even if that means taking something else out of your busy schedule so that your goal becomes the priority. Be selfish!
One step at a time
Once you’ve committed, take your changes one day at a time. And if you stumble, get up again – and don’t beat yourself up about it. If you miss a gym session or cave at a proffered piece of cheesecake, for example, it’s not a sign you should give up.
“Our belief systems are a big part of whether or not we’ll succeed,” says Marcon. “Our tendency is to be hard on ourselves, but if we believe we should be perfect than we’re doomed to failure before we’re even out of the gate.”
Be kind to yourself
Real change takes time – and patience. “You have to get used to failing and falling down a little bit,” says Summerhurst, “but that’s normal.” When you do reach a goal, even if it’s a small one, celebrate!
“You’ve accomplished something,” says Marcon, “so really bask in the feeling of ‘I’ve done it! I’ve made it this far!”
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