So January has come around again and all over the world there'll be people making their resolutions - only to break them three or four days later!
If you've broken yours already you're not alone. Polls show that less than 5% will still be sticking to their resolution by the end of the month. Yes it's easy to make a vow to get fit and eat healthy after a week or two of festivities. When you're sitting their with a full stomach and getting sick to death of the sight of yet another mince pie while noticing your clothes are feeling tighter than they were a few days back, guilt will play a role.
But what about the next morning? You get up and feel hungry - what's the easiest thing to do?
Reach for your favorite breakfast of course, and why not treat yourself to a little extra - the diet and health kick can start the next day. Yep, we've all been there :0)
So why is breaking a resolution so easy? How do you make a resolution and stick with it?
First we need to recognize that breaking a habit is difficult when surrounded by all the things that trigger the bad habit in the first place. Most smokers get the urge when having a drink. So to try and stop smoking while still drinking is quite a challenge.
If you have a craving for chocolate or something sweet after dinner you can't stop eating dinner! But what you can do is to change your behavior after eating. Maybe you can get up from the table and tidy up straight away. Or go out for a walk or read a book. The more you stick to your routines, the harder it is to change the habitual behavior triggered by your routines.
Another reason why so many people fail to stick to their guns is because the goal they set is way too ambitious to achieve in one go. So the first vital step to moving towards your target is to set the right on - see my article on setting goals to help decide where you need to start. Once you can set down your thoughts on paper and see what steps you need to take to get you there bit by bit, it can be easier to see your path.
Sharing your resolution with other people can make a big difference. Either you tell friends and family what you hope to achieve, or get them to join you if it's about losing weight or getting fit.
The reason why it's so challenging to overcome bad habits is because... it's who we are! Habits are bundles of strong connections in our brains that are quickly (and easily) triggered by stimuli. For example, the taste of coffee giving you the urge to eat a biscuit. So in order to change them, you have to change more than just the end product - you have to stop the first link in the chain setting in place everything that leads to the unwanted behavior.
So when you decide what it is you want to change, look at what needs to alter beforehand. Add a new routine that you can do that takes you away from the moment you're most likely to give in. As Einstein said - insanity is doing the same things and expecting different results! So do something different and see a different result.
My resolution? To walk at least 3 miles a day. Simple or what? Yes I row, run and train in various athletics events, but walking is a much under valued form of exercise. But it's not just for the exercise benefits that I've decided to walk more. In a busy world with many demands on my time, walking is one of the few times I get to myself these days. I don't take my iPod so I can think. I think of the stories I'm writing, ideas for new ones, what I'm going to do over the next few weeks, and then sometimes I just enjoy the scenery - that's if I'm walking the dog across the fields.
Other times I do what's referred to as park and stride. I park a little further away from where I need to go and with no effort at all, I've instantly added another mile to my day.
So don't get too pie in the sky. Make small steps towards your bigger goal and you'll get there :0)
Roy Palmer is an athletics coach, teacher of The Alexander Technique and a rowing fanatic.