At the start of each New Year, many people look to make resolutions to change something about their life, to make positive adjustments for themselves and often for others. Celebrities also get caught up in this ‘New Year – New You’ approach: Music Mogul Simon Cowell aims to spend more time with his family and friends instead of the gym, Presenter Gabby Logan just wants to drink more water, Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg wants to read a recommended book every two weeks, and Athlete Desiree Henry aims to spend more time relaxing and switching off.
So, what are the secrets to making and achieving a New You? Here are 5 key tips.
1 It may be worth considering that change can often happen quickly, like a triggering event such as a bereavement, that makes us change how we see ourselves and value others. Maybe it’s a critical health emergency that instantly propels us into a healthier lifestyle. However, often change happens slowly via small steps. Creating small, steady positive changes over time can often lead us to achieving our goals. So maybe aim small, and be realistic, and be consistent – don’t beat yourself up if you ‘fail’ at something – just get back on the plan as soon as possible.
2 It is helpful to understand how change happens. Below is the concept we can adopt, and it all starts with an awareness of a need to change. Once awareness is in place, we can start to unfreeze a poor behaviour (start the melting away process) and implement a new, better behaviour. Slowly over time, we can consolidate or refreeze these better behaviours, so they become our normal way of being.
The initial key here is to be aware, and observe your:
1 Cues 2 Routines 3 Rewards
An example of this in real life is trying to stop drinking. Your cues might be a certain time in the day, friends asking you to go for a drink, a need to escape a stress, being lonely, etc. Then, you need to identify what routine you go through ie drink to excess, drink to be sociable, drink between certain hours. Finally, how do you feel rewarded ie fully elated, elated initially, but down soon afterwards/next day, craving the next drink even more, or beating yourself up?
Recognising your cue to drink is crucial, as soon as you do this, your routines are going to happen to satisfy your need. So, you need to hijack the drinking routine before it happens ie replace drinking with something that gives you a better, more sustainable reward. In Alcoholics Anonymous, 12 steps are vigorously followed, and this involves talking openly about what each person’s triggers are and the group suggesting better routines to follow. The group are non-judgmental and supportive, and recognise people might slip or fall, but are always willing to help give support. Every day they put awareness at the front of their consciousness.
Another simple way to change this pattern of behaviour is to work backwards i.e if I am not feeling good after a drink, how can I introduce a better, more sustainable reward that does not involve drinking? Replacement or substitute the reward of drinking with the reward of something else such as exercise, socialising without drinking, or even limiting your drinking to set amounts, on set days?
3 Understand that willpower is finite and will not last forever – it needs to be re-charged. Leading Willpower authors Baumeister and Tierney, talk about five golden rules to improving and sustaining willpower. The first golden rule is to identify, or find, your Whypower – what is motivating your change? Once you understand this, your Willpower will increase…but you will still need to replenish it regularly.
The second golden rule is not to deny yourself something forever – it will drain your Willpower. So have the chocolate, but maybe not so much, and not so often, but crucially enjoy it.
The third golden rule is to have clear goals, but not too many goals, especially if there are conflicting goals ie a steep reduction in calories with an excessive exercise routine.
The fourth rule is to build in support, either from close family and friends, or online. In each case you are also building in accountability with people holding you to account.
The final fifth golden rule, is to build in rewards as this can supercharge your Whypower and therefore improve your Willpower.
4 Do not stop when you have a bad day, or indulge in a poor behaviour. You must keep your self-esteem intact and then continue to grow it – nobody is perfect and the word itself should be banned. We are all developing, growing and evolving and we need to constantly give ourselves permission to accept who we are and what we are trying to achieve.
5 Re-frame your past. Many people see themselves as past failures in something and they carry this baggage around with them, sometimes for a lifetime. Try and re-frame who you are and what you want to achieve by letting go of past negative experiences and remembering your previous good experiences. This constant counter-balancing is essential if we are to grow.
Often in life, what we saw as failure, has been mis-interpreted by ourselves as we are always fault finding and looking for the negative scenario. We have over 6,000 thoughts a day, and nearly 70% are negative. We are species that is constantly assessing danger, and avoiding threats, so it’s in our genetic makeup to keep doing this! So as we enter the New Year why don’t you start giving yourself more credit and re-balance your negative thoughts – if you do this, there can only be one winner….you!
This also might be the starting point to not set any New Year resolutions and simply maintain all the good habits you are currently performing – it certainly takes the pressure off and could be a subtle way of accepting yourself?
Ross McWilliam, has been developing people for over 30 years, and has helped change the lives of a million people. He helps people and organisations develop a powerful, positive mindset to unlock their potential and achieve their goals. Email email@example.com for more details on how he can help you.
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