As the clock strikes midnight on January 1st, we start out with the very best of intentions, but as we come towards the end of January, it’s highly likely that most people will have abandoned their New Year’s resolutions. However, the dawning of January 1st is just one fresh start out of the 365 available every year, so if your motivation and resolve could do with a helping hand to start again tomorrow, read on…
What did you really want?
Let’s start with whether this was something that you really wanted to do or something that you felt you should do. We are more likely to put in discretionary effort if we are focused on what we want to do. So start by being honest with yourself, then take a look at how you framed your goal…
Everyone is unique, and different ways of motivating yourself work for different people. However, framing your goal in the positive (what you do want), rather than in the negative (what you don’t want) generally works better. Giving your brain a positively framed goal is the equivalent of programming a destination into your sat nav; once it knows the destination you want to arrive at, your brain can help you spot opportunities and make decisions that take you nearer to your goals.
If your goal was described in terms of what you didn’t want, try turning it on its head; what do you want? How will you feel when you get to your goal? What kind of things will you be doing? Where will you be? What will you see and hear? If you like words, write it out; if you prefer pictures, draw yourself as if you’ve achieved your goal or create a collage of pictures from magazines that give you a sense of what you want. Have fun with it!
Did you make a plan?
Of course, no matter how well-crafted the goal is, it won’t happen automatically; programming your sat nav is all very well, but unless you take steps to drive the car, you’re not going to get anywhere! What are all the ways in which you could achieve your goal? Which of those are most attractive to you, e.g. they’ll be fun for you, they’ll fit into the time/budget you have available, they feel authentically you.
Once you know what tactics are going to get you there, write down all the individual steps you need to take and by when you are going to complete them. If you keep a diary, put them in alongside your appointments so that they are scheduled in, and be realistic about how much time things are going to take. Think about the resources you might need and where you’ll get them from, and whether your plan needs support from anyone else, e.g. do you need your partner to pick up the children one day a week so that you can attend an evening class? You can revisit and revise the plan at any time.
Did you consider what you might have to give up?
When you embark on any new venture, there are things you might have to give up to make room for it. Regardless of how much wishing we might do, there really are not going to be any more than 24 hours in a day (I know because I’ve wished really hard). When you planned your new endeavour, did you take a realistic and broad view of how you’re spending your time? Are you making your goal a priority for you, or are you saying yes to help others out and eating in to the precious time you’ve set aside? There might be other sacrifices too, e.g. your goal might take a financial commitment, meaning no summer holiday or meals out for a while. Be honest with yourself about what’s important to you and work around it.
Don’t get grumpy; get curious!
When we start out, we probably have a sense that getting to our goals might involve a few setbacks along the way, but when they happen we can still be incredibly harsh on ourselves, and we can even consider abandoning our efforts altogether because it just feels too hard. Next time you’re tempted to beat yourself up, take a break from the destructive self-talk, accept that you’re human… and get curious instead. What was it about this situation that tripped you up? How could you approach things differently next time? What would you say to your best friend if they were feeling deflated? Was there a hidden benefit to you in not completing that task? Be honest, but respectful and accepting of yourself. Treat every setback as a chance to learn about yourself and how you’re approaching your goals, then take a deep breath and get going again. The concept of starting something new at the beginning of the year is attractive, but you can choose to see any and every day as a fresh start.
Celebrate your successes
We are generally incredibly good at focusing on the negatives, but to stay motivated and learn, we need to look closely at our successes. Take time each day or each week to recognise what went well and why it worked for you, and resolve to do more of it. All those little wins are tangible steps along the way and enjoying the journey is important.
If you’re struggling with your goals, one-to-one coaching can be a big help, providing a bespoke mix of support and challenge to get your started and keep you going. If you’d like to find out more, I’d love to hear from you; you can get in touch and book a free introductory session here.