Keeping a New Year’s resolution…

Keeping a New Year's resolution by Charles Harris - Chariots of Fire the movie

We all make them, but how many of last year’s resolutions are you still keeping today? Any?

Here are nine tricks that I use to make keeping a New Year’s resolution much, much easier.

1. Why?

Your reason for keeping a New Year’s resolution is a powerful driver. Make it a positive one – ie: something you actively want – not something you don’t want.

The danger of visualising a negative – such as not being fat or failing to write a book – is that you’re focusing on what you don’t want, and that drags you down.

Visualise what you do want to achieve: such as impressive abs, a polished manuscript or playing a Chopin etude. Create a picture in your mind.

2. Make keeping your New Year’s resolution a habit

There’s nothing so difficult to break as a habit – so make your resolution into one. The best way to form a habit is to put aside a few minutes every day and just do it. Make it simple, make it doable, and repeat…

They say it takes 21 days to fix a habit. Begin today.

3. Be positive and specific

Research shows that the likelihood of achieving any goal goes from 20% to 40% if you are clear and specific (especially if you give it a number) – eg: rather than “I’m going to write more” make it “I’m going to write 4 pages a week.”)

And as in 1, above, positive goals are much more effective than negative ones. If you’re trying to break a habit you don’t want, then it becomes easier if you find a positive habit or habits to replace it with.

For example, if your resolution is to spend less time on social media, then decide what are you actually going to do instead – positively and specifically.

Read a book, say, play with the kids for ten minutes or go for a half hour walk.

4. Start small

The strongest habits start small. Nobody takes up smoking with the aim of getting through fifty a day. First you try one, then another… before you know it, you’re hooked.

So don’t aim to the gym for three hours every day or write 3,000 words every morning. Begin with something so tiny you just have to succeed.

Resolve, say, to walk for ten minutes, play five minutes of scales or learn six words in a new language. (You can always do more as you go).

5. Find a resolution trigger

Habits generally have a trigger – a feeling, sight or event that tells you it’s time to do something.

Decide on what your resolution trigger is going to be: for example, after lunch, at 6.30pm or when you brush your teeth.

6. Create an advert

This is one of the most enjoyable parts of forming a resolution. Ad agencies spend fortunes creating adverts because they are powerful ways of influencing behaviour. You can do the same – but at no cost – in your own mind.

Close your eyes. Imagine you’re watching a TV or cinema screen, and on that screen plays an advert for the very resolution you’re making. See yourself up there, in full colour, doing the very thing you’ve resolved to do.

Now, go to town. Draw on every ad you’ve ever seen. See how great you look. Add music. Beautiful scenery. Sexy people of the appropriate gender (no need to worry about the censor). Now imagine a voice-over, spoken by your favourite actor, laying it on thick.

Play it over and over again, making it more compelling every time.

7. Rewards

The best resolutions are reinforced by rewards. Take a sheet of paper or open a new computer file and list all the ways you could reward yourself for doing what you’ve resolved to do.

These could range from small treats to large presents – such as giving yourself ten minutes away from your desk, reading the next chapter of a trashy novel or taking a trip somewhere special.

Vary them around and give yourself a reward, large or small, each time you complete your resolution.

8. New Quarter’s resolutions

This is a variation on starting small. Most of us find a whole year’s resolution feels rather daunting. So aim low.

Instead of resolving to do something for twelve months, start off with three. Make it a New Quarter’s resolution. With luck, by the time you’ve finished the quarter, you’ll have created such a strong habit that you won’t be able to stop yourself carrying on.

9. Share

Studies have found that if you share your resolution you more than double the chances that you’ll succeed.

So tell a friend, put it on Facebook – or share it in the comments below.

And have a very Happy New Year.

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