Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The New Years Fresh Start

This article was first published in the January 2013 issue of Natural Food Magazine

The New Years Fresh Start
Secrets to making your New Years resolutions successful.

This New Year I will…
Lose all my unwanted weight!
I’ll exercise every day- and train for a marathon!
I’ll get more organised!
I’ll find the perfect partner!
I’ll increase my savings!
I’ll buy a new home!
I’ll get the job of my dreams!
I’ll be a better person!

If 2014 was the fresh start you were waiting for to become the best version of yourself then your resolutions will have summed up all your enthusiasm and hope for the year ahead…

But lets face it, most new years resolutions are broken by the first month of the year and forgotten by the second. Though made with the best of intentions they have the potential to haunt your fabulous new year as a constant reminder of the unattainable perfection you’re striving for.

Without deterring the eternally optimistic resolutioners out there a dash of practicality may be needed to enhance those original goals. Now the New Year has come and gone lets take a moment to review the resolutions (that may or may not be transforming into reality) and see if you could tweak them to better suit you.

Making New Years resolutions to sum up your enthusiastic longings for the year ahead can fall into many traps, assess your resolutions, could you improve them and avoid any of these?

·        Setting huge goals that you are bound to fail
I’ll find the perfect partner and buy a house! - Attempting to move a mountain can deter you when progress doesn’t appear fast enough. It’s fantastic that your end goal might be to run a marathon but if you haven’t run in years then aiming for going for a jog three times a week will be much more achievable. Keeping your longer term goal in mind work backwards and make some smaller, shorter term goals to start with and keep you motivated towards the grand finale.

·        Attacking too many goals at once
I’ll be a better person, get organised, get a new job, increase my savings, make new friends, and be healthier… The desire for a new start in all areas of your life might be tempting but by attempting to change your whole world you’re most likely biting off more than you can chew! If you want to focus on multiple areas such your health, personal life, work etc. why not make one smaller main goal for each or determine your priorities and devote the most dedication to it?

·        Setting goals that are too vague/not measurable
I will be healthier- a great sentiment for a resolutions but incredibly vague. Do you want to focus on your medical concerns? Exercise? Diet? Meditation? Setting ambiguous goals can lead to confusion and frustration with your progress and ultimately demotivation.
EquallyI will be a better personis be a lovely idea but how do you measure better? How will you rate your progress and keep motivated? Will you be satisfied with one good deed for the year (after all it may be an improvement of the year before) or are you striving for being more thoughtful with your words or weekly volunteering? Setting specific goals that you can track will keep you motivated through the year.

·        Setting goals that are too tough (or not getting the help needed)
I will find the perfect partner- some things in life can be quite a challenge! Setting huge goals that you’re unlikely to ever reach or that are impossible to achieve without asking for help can trip us all up. There’s no point striving for a degree without enrolling in university, take the steps needed to start you in the right direction. Remember- asking for help is a sign of strength and intelligence not weakness.

·        Taking an all or nothing approach and giving up!
I’ll exercise every day. Just because you didn’t get the chance to exercise yesterday doesn’t mean it’s all over and there’s no point even trying to go today. Obstacles will come your way- life isn’t as easy as we would all like it to be! When you’re faced with a setback the all or nothing approach often leads to failure (and regret). Get your head in the right place and keep on going. It’s never over until you decide it is.

If your new year isn’t off to the start you envisioned remember it’s NEVER too late to start over. The opportunity for a fresh start presents itself every moment, everyday, every week. Every decision you make is another chance to start fresh and be proud of your actions. You’ve only truly failed when you’ve given up. Just get back on the bike and keep on the journey to your goals.

Practice kindness, cut yourself some slack- this isn’t about perfection- it’s not an all or nothing endeavour, forgive yourself for minor slip ups, acknowledge that obstacles will come your way (how boring would life be without them?) and just keep going!

Here’s the secret: Set yourself up for success.

·        Make achievable, specific, measurable goals
You can always exceed your goals. Start with small, short-term goals and work your way up to your longer-term outcome. Set goals that you know you can accomplish- I know it may sound counter productive but it really does work. By regularly achieving your goals you will have the renewed motivation to continue the desired behaviour and on to your final goal.

Specific goals will allow you to focus your energy and effectivelytrack your progress. Havingexplicit short, medium and long-term goals gives you bearings and allows for frequent achievement to heighten enthusiasm.
Measurable goals give a daily/weekly/monthly progress update- allowing you to keep track of your journey and keep accountable for your actions. This tool can be hugely motivating when you need a boost and can look back at all your hard work.

·        Expect obstacles/setbacks
Sometimes life gets in the way- we know this! There are uncontrollable factors is everyone’s lives- think extreme weather, sickness, last minute occasions etc. When a true obstacle arises (not you trying to use it as an excuse!) don’t beat yourself up over it or let it cause your failure, simply accept it and move on and up.

·        Don’t give up!
Sometimes a setback can be more than a missed workout or meal out- even if you’ve put everything on hold to fly across the world to be with family you don’t have to give up. If needed alter your goals for a time period- perhaps it’s only realistic to take the stairs instead of the elevator or say no to dessert rather than uphold your usual standards. Until you stop trying it’s not over- keep heading in the right direction and don’t give up!
Time off is another option. If you’re going on holiday for example and don’t have the equipment needed a week off to relax and have fun with your family needn’t be your failure. Make the best choices you can at every given opportunity and get right back to your plan when you return.

Now you’ve worked out how to tweak those resolutions here are some ideas and tips that will help you edit your plan of action(if needed) and successfully achieve your new years resolutions.

Assess your priorities
What matters most to you, to your life? What are you most passionate about? What excites and invigorates you? What will make you happiest? Is this what you’re going to achieve via your new years resolutions? If not perhaps a slight reshuffle of goals could help…
·        Write a mission statement
Write yourself a mission statement that you can read to refocus your efforts. Having this resource to remind you exactly what you want and deserve can be a golden ticket when your motivation starts to waiver.Begin by listing all the things you don’t like about you/your life before you reach your goal and then all the positives you envision after reaching it.

·        Planning and preparation
This cannot be underestimated! Timetable the time in your diary to reach your goals, set aside the money needed and make a detailed plan of action for success. Prepare your environment as well as yourself, clean room to exercise, clean out cupboards/fridge/freezer.

·        Pick enjoyable activities
For example if you’re goal is to eat 5 serves of fruits and vegetables daily don’t force down the sprouts- rather enjoy the strawberries! With fitness goals if you hate running don’t make yourself run, find something you do love! Switch the jog for swimming, hula hooping, football, rock climbing etc.

·        Public acknowledgement
By showing those around you that you are committed to reaching your goal you have the opportunity to get other to help you. By having others on side you’re accountable to more than yourself and can use their support when needed. This also has the potential to raise some tension among the negative people in your life, try to surround yourself with positive like-minded people who will respect your desires and help you reach your goals.
Perfection is overrated!
Try to put less pressure for perfection on yourself. While we all want to be the best possible version of ourselves, shooting for perfection can lead to disaster. Reduce the self-inflicted pressure for perfection, accept (and enjoy!) the occasional break and just keep moving in the right direction. Progress at a rate you’re comfortable with, if you’re happy jumping in with a splash go for it! But if you’re happier dipping one toe in at a time then take it slow and steady. Remember you’re striving for consistency over perfection!

·        Track your progress
This may sound annoying but it really is priceless. Keep a journal or electronic document to record your journey. Having to record your actions keeps you accountable and allows for reflection of progress and achievement.

·        Reward desired behaviours frequently
By having achievable short-term goals (in addition to longer term outcomes) you have to opportunity to regularly reward yourself for achieving your objectives. This keeps your enthusiasm up and makes every day count.

If there’s only one thing you take away from this let it be that it’s never too late to keep trying. Don’t allow yourself to give up and wait until next years resolutions to make the effort you deserve to be your best self.

When challenges come your way take deep breaths and remember your goals. Be kind to yourself- but firm- beating yourself up isn’t a productive plan of action, it’s not going to help you reach your goals and will more than likely just make you miserable. Forgive yourself if you slip up but be firm and get back on track with your next choice- don’t let it snowball into something you will regret.

In this same positive manner of practicing kindness with yourself you always have the option to aim for 80, 90 or 99%. There’s no one standing behind you with the rules telling you what to do- if you’re happy that your goals may take a little further to get to you can always shoot for the 80/20 principle. Having a little wiggle room can make all the difference to maintaining your positive mindset.

Forget about perfection; just ask yourself- what’s the best decision I can make for me in this situation? and go with it!For example if you’re aim is to adopt a vegetarian diet but it’s all too much at first go ‘almost veg’ and take each meal as it comes. Remember to value consistency over perfection, you’re most likely focusing on year or lifelong goals that will enhance your big picture, jus take a step back if you feel overwhelmed and remember all the positive changes you’ve made to address your goal.

Whether you dip in one toe at a time and make small changes to help you achieve your goals or jump in with both feet- just keep going! Take baby steps, just focus on continuing to place one foot in front of the other. Cut yourself some slack if things don’t always go according to plan and keep moving forward!

Love and Smiles,

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