Are you planning your 2018 new year’s resolutions with grand plans of ditching bad habits and becoming a more awesome version of yourself?
And are you secretly hoping that, unlike every other new year’s resolution you’ve ever made, that this time you’ll stick to them, at least for longer than two weeks?
According to Statistic Brain, more than 40 per cent of people who make resolutions fail to maintain them, with almost half giving up in the first month.
Sound familiar? If you are at risk of falling into the 40 per cent ‘failure’ zone, don’t blame yourself for a lack of willpower, there are very good reasons why you’re finding it so hard to sustain the change.
So, before you ditch your good intentions and break open a family block of chocolate, try these tips for making life changes that will last longer than your beach tan.
One of the best ways to ensure success is to build in some short-term rewards. If your goal is to lose five kilos, you will need something more than the long-term prospect of losing weight to drag you off the couch and into the gym.
Change expert Aubrey Daniels advises that positive, immediate and certain consequences are the most effective factors in strengthening desired behaviour.
For example, if you listen to podcasts or watch your favourite show while working out, the reward is positive and immediate and therefore you’re more likely to keep doing it. If you exercise with a partner or friend, the incentive is spending time with them. For a food-related resolution, the instant reward may be the creative buzz you get through experimenting with new, nutritional recipes.
Whatever your reward, focus on it when you’re tempted to quit. If you don’t have an immediate reward, find one – just make sure it isn’t a tub of Haagen Dazs!
There’s a scientific reason why you might find it so difficult to stick to your goals. It’s called ‘decision fatigue’, which basically means the more decisions you make during the day the harder it is for you to continue to make good decisions as the day wears on. This mental fatigue leads to acting either impulsively or doing nothing at all. Thank you science, we knew it wasn’t just us being lazy and undisciplined.
If your goal is to eat healthily and go to the gym after work but you’ve spent the day making dozens of decisions, chances are that by 3pm you’ll be grabbing a handful of biscuits and cancelling your gym class.
While you can’t eliminate decision making from your life, there are strategies you can use to counter the effects of decision fatigue.
If your goals require action in the afternoon or evening, take the decision making out of the equation. If you exercise after work, take your workout gear with you and go straight to the gym. Make this a regular habit and there won’t be any decision making involved – it’ll simply be part of your daily routine.
Likewise, if you have every intention of cooking a healthy dinner but find yourself phoning for a pizza at the end of a tough day, let pre-planning be your friend. Plan your meals at a time when your energy levels are higher, such as on the weekend. If you have your whole week’s menu planned and have shopped for the necessary ingredients, you don’t have to decide at the end of the day what to cook.
Staying on the resolution wagon
So, this is the year you’re determined to tackle that big goal, arm yourself with strategies so that you’re not one of the 40 per cent of quitters.
Give yourself short-term rewards, eliminate decision making and let 2018 be the year you smash your goals out of the park.