New Year’s resolutions

Ok, so it’s that time of year where you have enjoyed Christmas (maybe a little too much!) and you are looking forward to the new year. This year is going to be your year; look out world here I come!

One of the first things that you are going to do is set some New Year’s resolutions. Unfortunately for most people these are ditched before the middle of February and this year starts to look like last year and the year before, and the year before, and so on.

To make this year different then it’s time to rethink those new year’s resolutions and really look at the goals you set and how you approach change. Check out my top tips to master change.

Change one thing at a time

Don’t get overwhelmed with lots of things to focus on. People generally do better when they have just one goal as their focus. Master one thing and then move onto the next. It’s ok to have longer term goals that involve multiple things changing, but on the day to day basis look to do just one thing, and prioritise it. Make it easy to succeed.

Set “do” goals rather than “don’t” goals

Many people will have goal that focus on what they won’t do, for instance I’m giving up coffee this year (perish the thought!). It is much better to focus on what you will do rather than what you won’t; it’s more positive and has you striving to achieve something rather than desperately trying to avoid things. In this example you could focus on what you were going to do instead, like drink 8 glasses of water a day. focussing on, and achieving, that goal will probably naturally lower you intake of coffee anyway, but the other way of framing that goal will probably have you running to Starbucks before the week is out.

Keep a record

Write down your goals, and then break them down into daily actions that will help you achieve these goals. Committing them to paper, or computer/tablet/phone makes them a permanent record that you can refer back to. This helps you keep them in mind. Also keep a record of how you are doing against each goal. This will show you where you are doing well and will also give you information to tweak your daily actions once you see what works well and what doesn’t.

Get specific

This is tied into the point above, and if you are writing things down it helps to be specific about exactly what it is you want to achieve. Getting fit and healthy is not a great goal, instead you will need to define what those terms actually mean to you. For some people this will relate to a performance goal e.g. able to run a 6 minute mile or it may relate to your body size i.e. I want a 30" waist. Whatever your goal is make sure that you know what it would look like if you achieved it. One you know exactly what it is you want you can figure out where you are now and how near/far away you are from that goal. You will also need to be specific in defining what steps you are going to take to help you reach that goal.

Focus on behaviours not outcomes

The last tip leads me nicely into this one. Many of your longer term goals will be outcome goals i.e they focus on a result like the two goals mentioned above. Generally outcome goals are very powerful motivators initially, but over time they can leave you despondent if things don’t go the way you expect. Generally improvement is not a linear process, you don’t steadily get better at the same rate each week until you achieve a goal. Instead there will be plateaus, setbacks and all kinds of other obstacles that you will have to face. When you focus solely on the prize (the outcome) rather than the journey (the behaviour) it is easy to become demotivated during these times. Ideally you want to break down your longer term outcome goals into smaller outcome goals that are then broken down into even smaller behavioural goals. These behavioural goals are about what you do rather than what you achieve. For instance your goal may be to lose 10 lbs. Whether you lose this or not will depend on many factors, stress, sleep, genetic etc. You can’t control these, but you can control what you do. In this instance a behavioural goal would be to eat to 80% full at each meal. This you can control (it may take some practise, but it is certainly something you control), and you can measure. Ultimately following this goal should get you to your other goal, but it is something that you can control and succeed with.

Focus on improvement, not perfection

Change is a marathon not a sprint. Particularly with New Year’s resolutions everyone tries to go from eating chocolate for breakfast to very low calorie diets, whilst running twice a day and lifting weights, trying to be the perfect picture of health. This isn’t how sustainable change works; new habits take time to embed (around about 6 months to truly stick). Rather than focus on being perfect and doing everything right, keep it simple and focus on getting just a little better each day. Try and do too much and you will fail, but just try and do a little bit better and build on that success and you’re setting yourself up for longer term change. It’s better to walk ten minutes each day for 6 months than it is to spend the first two weeks in January in the gym for 2 hours and then never go again.

Get help

My last tip is to get help. Humans are social creatures they do well when surrounded by like minded people. This could be a friend, a partner, a smiling stranger at the gym class you just went to, a running group you saw on Facebook, a personal trainer or a nutrition coach. When people have some social support they tend to do better. You need someone who will keep you accountable during the hard times, someone that will share in your success in the good times. If you really want to succeed in your health and fitness goals working with a qualified professional to help guide and support you through the change process with be easily worth the price you pay.

If you are ready to make a change and want to get healthier, happier and have more energy contact me now at

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