It’s that time of year again when many people commit to making a change or starting a new habit. Whether it’s to do more exercise, drink less alcohol, or take the plunge to change career, new year’s resolutions can be the start of lifelong change. Or they can be a January flash in the pan. So what does it take to make a new year’s resolution a long-term success?
Firstly, when we’re thinking about making a resolution, it’s important to consider what is within our gift to change. In his book ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’, Stephen Covey discusses how we have the most power to change things that sit within our ‘circle of control’. This typically includes our own thoughts and behaviours. Next is our ‘circle of influence’ – things we don’t have direct control of but can have some influence. This could include aspects of our relationships with others such as friends, family members and colleagues. Finally, the ‘circle of concern’ contains the things that matter to us but that we have no influence or control over, such as the past, the weather, or a global pandemic! People who are successful at making a change most often choose change that is within their circle of control. They also practice ‘radical acceptance’ – the idea that we must accept the challenging things that are outside of our control, notice how they are making us feel, but ultimately not allow them to affect our thoughts or behaviour in a way that compromises our goals.
Research also suggests that people who are successful at sticking to their goals and creating new habits look for small wins, rather than trying to climb mountains. They recognise that the will power required to make a change comes and goes, so use their high will power moments to prepare for their low will power moments. Examples include putting fruit in a bowl on the kitchen table, whilst unhealthy snacks are placed at the back of a high cupboard. Or putting running shoes by the front door as a reminder to take exercise. These small actions reinforce the positive new habits and minimise the temptation to relapse into old behaviours.
People who are successful in making changes are also well prepared to manage difficult moments and setbacks. They visualise their success when having a weak moment. They have a support network of friends and family who are ambassadors for their positive change. They reward themselves for not giving in with something that’s important to them, such as some quality time with family or friends.
Finally, it’s important to remember not to place too much pressure on ourselves. When our resilience levels are not at their strongest, one of the first things to fall by the wayside is our focus on taking care of ourselves. Make sure you eat, sleep and exercise well. Have some fun and include laughter along your change journey. These activities build resilience more than we think when times are tough. We must remember that change is a process. It generally isn’t easy and we should expect to hit challenges and difficult emotions, particularly during the early stages. But with the right mix of will power, resilience and self-care, we can push through this and there will be learning, growth and success.
About the author
Steven Berry is an Organisational Development Manager in Greater Manchester and joined our committee in 2021 as our Social Media lead. Prior to that, Steven served as a Branch Ambassador supporting our Wellbeing and OD special interest groups. Connect with Steven on Twitter and LinkedIn