Before you start on your New Year Resolutions

It's 2018 and I'm sure we have all made a few new year resolutions for the coming year. Some of us want to lose weight and get healthier, some of us want to tone up to look and feel fitter, others may want to break habits like smoking or watching excessive TV, or else take up a new hobby or activity, earn more money, work less, be happy, spend more time with the family, travel more, and the list goes on and on.

Now if we could fast forward our clocks ahead 12 months, 2018 is over and chances are that many of our new year resolutions remain unfinished. Maybe we can just add the unfinished ones to the next year and wish all over again ?

So what happened? Why is it that even with all our best intentions to change a behaviour or take new actions in our life, it is so difficult to change?

In Newton's first law of motion, it states that every object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless compelled to change its state by the action of an external force. The key point here is that if there is no net force acting on an object then the object will maintain at constant velocity and keep travelling in a straight line.

The First Law of Motion is just like us. Without some external force to push us in a different direction or divert us from the path we are already on, we will tend to take the "path of least resistance" and keep moving down in the same direction as before. By making a resolution to change and taking some initial course of action, we have created that external force that will "bump" us into a new direction. But without continuous effort over time, the path of least resistance will generally lead us back to our original path as before. So sustained change requires effort, time and perseverance.

Effort initiates the change, but time is necessary for our brain to "reprogram" our bodies with new desired behaviours. Over time and repetition, these new behaviours will become "unconscious" habits which are automatic and a permanent change is achieved. Perseverance is needed to continue making those small, incremental changes in our behaviour during our reprogramming, especially when the going gets tough or we get distracted from our goal. Often, we start off changes in behaviour really well with lots of enthusiasm, but give up too early, before it has had a chance to become a habit or permanent change.

If you are a golfer, you may know what I mean. You've wanted to change that erratic golf swing for a while so you decide to get some lessons with your local Golf Pro. You get a few lessons and under your coach's tuition and watchful eye, you start making those changes and corrections to your hands, head, feet and body. After a few weeks of lessons and lots of practice swings, you start feeling those improvements and see changes in your swing. Then comes the Annual Club Championships or corporate golf day. You're super excited to show off your new swing to everyone. At the first hole, you tee up the ball perfectly, position yourself exactly as you have been taught and practiced. Then you take your swing. But something feels off. You are off balance, your body and arms tense up and instead of that perfect drive you imagined, you tighten up and absolutely flub the shot. You are left standing at the first tee feeling devastated as you watch the ball dribble down the course 50 metres away. You throw up your arms in the air, exclaim that your lessons are not working and decide to revert back to your "old" swing to avoid further embarrassment. So back to the drawing board with no noticeable improvements in your swing. Does this sound familiar?

If you really want to make a change in your life, it is going to take effort, time and perseverance. But the starting point is to change your thinking. Your brain is the most complex organ in the human body and the most powerful. Your thoughts create the feelings from which your body can take action. Your thoughts also create your perception of reality. Think of the "the glass is half full or the glass is half empty" analogy. You can perceive a single event in a very different light, positively or negatively, simply by thinking differently. It can make you feel differently even in the same situation.

Your thoughts create the feelings that generate the emotions and help us to perceive our sense of reality. Our emotions then drives our behaviours and actions that get results. To make a new action into a habit, we need to drive our actions for longer and harder. So change really starts with our thoughts, not with the action.

So before rushing off to start on your new year resolutions, you really need to start with your thinking:

  • Create the reason "why" you need to make those changes in the first place. Make your "why" really strong and emotional by visualising what success looks like and how you will feel like when you get there
  • Set yourself some goals. Short, medium and long term. Be specific with realistic targets and deadlines
  • Identify what obstacles are in your way to you achieving those goals, and what you may need to overcome them
  • Acquire the addditional skills and knowledge that you may need to achieve your goals
  • Find people around you that can help you and act as your coach to support, guide and help you stay on course
  • Make a detailed plan of what you need to do, what steps you need to take and the time and priorities
  • Start by taking action. Back your plan up with persistence and determination

Take the first steps towards your new year resolutions and see yourself a winner !

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