2020 has been hard and tough, so the usual fatigue is evermore present. However, as we hope to see a glimmer of the light at the end of the tunnel in 2021, maybe we need to pause and reflect on what good has come from it to take into the new year, rather than just slamming the diary with goals and challenges.
Personally, I’ve never set New Year’s resolutions. They’ve just never appealed to me. As a coach, I am of course in the business of setting goals, but how, why and when we set them is just as important as the goal itself.
By incorporating goal setting into our lives all year round, we can make more meaningful, achievable and positive steps towards change. When I think back to the goals that I have met and sustained, such as stopping drinking or training for a marathon, they weren’t linked to New Year or a specific campaign. I made those decisions because they were right for me, I had a real desire to make the change and I therefore implemented that change when it was right for me to do so.
There’s this big pressure to start a whole new year with a clean slate and, let’s be honest, there won’t be many of us looking back on 2020 fondly. But if we focus solely on clearing away the negatives we’ll be constantly reinforcing that negativity, rather than focusing on the positives – which is a much better way to embrace change.
So, here are a few tips to get you started if you do feel like now is the right time to make change…
Celebrate your positive habits
Reflect on the positive habits you’ve grown during 2020. It’s been a year of change for so many reasons and, while we don’t have to look far to find the negatives, there will no doubt be plenty of positives if we look for them. For example, have you spent more time calling friends or family because you’ve not been able to meet up in person? Have you learnt a new form of exercise to replace your usual team sports? Has working from home enabled you to spend more time with your children or your partner, for example?
All of these small habits you can start to build into your routine going forward – even once the restrictions have eased. Throw new forms of exercise into the mix. Set yourself reminders for a family WhatsApp call. And try implementing stronger boundaries around your work and home life.
If you don’t usually exercise and then sign your life away with an annual gym membership on January 1st, do you really think that, come February, you’ll still be going in at 6am every weekday morning? Let’s face it, it’s highly unlikely. However, you could start making gradual changes that grow into habits, rather than panic-committing to unreasonable and, often, gruelling challenges.
If you’re an all or nothing person who sets high targets and you don’t manage to complete them, you could end up feeling as though you’ve failed and feel less motivated to keep going. Small steps and trying new activities are much more positive ways to embedding new habits into your daily life for the longer-term.
Start by promising yourself that you’ll try out some different forms of exercise – perhaps a regular walk in the park and an online resistance class. Find out what it is that you enjoy and only then, if you really believe the gym is the way forward, should you make that commitment.
Consider the multiple benefits of your goals
We focus so much on the negative reasons to do something. For example, the idea that you need to be a certain weight, or that you need to lose so many inches from your waist – and these really aren’t great motivators because they reinforce negative views of yourself.
However, if, for example, you wanted to start experimenting with cooking and learning new cookery skills, you will automatically reduce your fast food intake as a by-product of this positive activity. And, as mentioned before, don’t be all or nothing about it. Is the occasional takeaway really going to make a big difference?
New Year’s resolutions are all too often about detox, punishing yourself or training hard at the gym. But there should also be an element of self-care in setting your goals. We know that we need a whole raft of different tools and techniques to pool from to balance our self-care and we need to start prioritising things like rest, relaxation and fun. In fact, make these your top priority.
Ditch the resolutions – make a manifesto instead
In summary, we’ve learned so much this year about our need for re-charging and re-focusing and this should absolutely be part of a new mantra. Resolutions are all too often absolute, all or nothing, gruelling commitments. Why not set yourself a manifesto instead? Make sure its driven by you and your values – not what you think the world expects of you. And do it in a way that works on many different marginal gains and incorporates rest. This way, you’ll develop lots of habits that you can cultivate, grow and sustain.
To find out more about managing your Mental Wealth, check out my online coaching course.