14 December 2022
In our latest Reflecting Ireland research, we found 8 out of 10 of us (81%) already had a 2023 new year resolution in mind by late November. Most focus on improving our physical, mental or financial health to get us match-fit for 2023. Other popular resolutions include spending more time with family and friends.
This is very positive. However, we know from experience that most of us will start the new year with every intention of sticking to our resolution but, once the distractions and worries of life get in the way, our good intentions will take a back seat. Here, Claire Cogan of BehaviourWise delves into behavioural science to find how to help ourselves stay on track.
Choose the right goal for you, rather than comparing yourself to others or letting others choose it for you. Choose something that motivates and excites you. This will keep you committed. Look to others for support or encouragement but make sure the goal is one you have chosen for yourself.
Frame your goal as something you want to do or achieve, rather than something you want to give up or avoid. For example choose ‘have more energy’ or ‘feel healthier’ rather than ‘give up junk food’. A positive frame will be more motivating.
Set a target that isn’t overly optimistic but still challenges you. It should stretch you but also have some chance of success! Make it actionable and measurable, so you’ll know when you’re winning. For example think about ‘how much’ or ‘how soon’ you would like to achieve something.
If you’re goal is to feel healthier and you want to do more exercise, think about how much you would like to do, for example running for half an hour each day. If you would like to achieve a certain level of fitness, think about how soon, for example running 5km by the summer or running the Dublin City Marathon in October.
Once your target is set, plan your progress towards it. If your goal is a popular one, the chances are there are already lots of sample plans out there. Use these as a source of inspiration but make sure to make your plan your own. It should fit with your lifestyle. For example, if your target is to be able to run 5km, check out www.irishheart.ie where the Irish Heart Foundation has developed a Couch to 5k Jogging Plan complete with handy tips to help you get there, step by step, within 6 weeks.
The phrase ‘carrots and sticks’ comes from an old story about the most effective way to get a donkey to move along: dangling a carrot in front of its nose or prodding it with a stick from behind. The carrot has come to represent reward, and the stick punishment. Both rewards and punishments act as incentives to keep us motivated. For some rewards will work better, for others punishment, and for many a blend of the two. You will know what works best for you! Choose your carrots and sticks, reward yourself for making progress or deny yourself when you don’t.
If you feel you might struggle to stick to your plan, ask friends or family for moral support. Consider signing up to www.stickk.com, an online forum designed to help people stick to their goals. Users define their goal, make a commitment to achieve it, and set their own incentives. There are communities within the forum focused on different areas, such as exercise and fitness, diet and healthy eating, money and finance or green initiatives. Browse for ideas and inspiration or join up for support. Whatever your goal, there are people out there who share it.
We can be hard on ourselves. Don’t let setbacks set you back, keep focused on your goal. Remind yourself why you wanted to achieve it in the first place. Any progress is progress, and even if you don’t get there as quickly as you might have hoped, every step closer to your goal is an achievement.
The content of this blog does not constitute advice and is for general information purposes only. Readers should always seek professional advice before relying on anything stated in the blog. Some of the links above bring you to external websites. Your use of an external website is subject to the terms of that site.