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New Year, New you: How to keep those difficult New Year’s resolutions

Words by Uzma Afridi, careers coach at NABS

A symbolic time for many, the New Year gives us a chance to reflect on the past year and what we wish for the year ahead. After overindulging during the festive period and waking a little worse for wear on New Year’s Day, you may feel the need to detox and set yourself new goals. This time creates the perfect opportunity for many to reinvent themselves through New Year’s resolutions. Thinking of goals to set is the easiest part, however it’s keeping them that proves difficult for most.

New Year’s resolutions start off great but the lasting effect is likely to fail, demonstrated in a study by psychologist Richard Wiseman. Of 700 participants who were asked about the strategies they developed to keep their New Year’s resolutions, 78% failed to keep these resolutions; it was found that these participants focussed more on the thought of failing as opposed to achieving their goal. Does anyone ever successfully keep New Year’s resolutions? Why do we bother?

More positively, the study also found that those who did successfully keep their resolutions broke them down into smaller steps and goals, rewarding themselves along the journey. They also spoke about their resolutions to friends to gain support and many kept diaries to track their progress.

For a New Year’s resolution to work, we have to try to make a behavioural change and to do this we need to change our thinking to create new neural pathways to change habits. Therefore making your goal a habit is crucial to succeeding in gaining your end result. Resolutions require willpower and the area in the brain that controls that is in the prefrontal cortex (right behind your forehead). It has many jobs such as looking after your short-term memory and keeping you focussed to name a few. This area is like a muscle and a resolution is like a huge weight it has to lift, without any prior training. Turning your resolutions into new habits equates to creating new workouts for the brain; the more weights we lift, the stronger the muscles get.

So, if you are going to make a New Year’s resolution for 2015, here are some tips to making them stick:

1.       Make one resolution and focus on it; set realistic and specific goals. Focus your thinking on new behaviours and thought patterns.

2.     Set this goal early in the year so that it will have a long-term impact rather than short-term easy wins. Spur of the moment decisions tend to be less motivated by intent and we are therefore less likely to stick with them.

3.     Be positive in your language and approach.

4.     Make a plan as to how you are going to achieve your goal, with small milestones along the way. Reward yourself when you reach each goalpost.

5.     Discuss your goal with others; they may be able to help keep you on track or even join you in their own goals.

If you want to discuss your own career goals with someone, remember you can call on NABS’ career coaches. The career coaching service is for all levels, offering support and help to find new strategies in achieving your goals and resolutions. To arrange a session with a coach, call 020 7290 7070.

 

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