Here we go again! It’s resolution time. What will it be this year? More exercise, less food, more meditating, less social media? But let’s make this year different from all the others. This year, stick to your goals!
Here are twelve ways to make 2016 the year you keep your promises.
1. Keep it simple. You’re not going to change everything at once, so don’t try. Choose two or three changes you want to make and go for it. Write your targets down and either keep them visible – fridge door, front door, bathroom mirror visible – or share them on social media and get your friends to be your motivators when you find you’re flagging.
2. Know the science. Instead of keeping your changes as decisions, which use your prefrontal cortex, make them into habits, automatic routines. You do this by moving the decision into the pattern-recognition part of the brain, the basal ganglia, which takes a behaviour and turns it into an automatic routine.
Of course this takes some. Some say it takes 21 days to form a habit, others say up to 77 days, so there is a fair amount of commitment in getting that decision into your basal ganglia, but when it’s there, it’s there.
3. Set a deadline. Deciding you’re going to run, for example, every day from now until forever is pretty daunting and will put you off immediately. Give yourself a period of time to run every day, say, and you’re more likely to stick to your goal. Two or three months of daily running is attainable, isn’t it? And it takes you much closer to habit than you are at the moment.
4. Sign up. If running a certain distance or period is your goal, you could sign up for a race like Wings for Life World Run 2016, giving you a concrete reason to train. Get friends to sign up as well to give you a double reason to run and train together. Working towards a common goal with friends is a great way of sticking to your resolutions.
5. Get an app. Habit-forming apps are easy to come by – try HabitBull or Rewire, which are well rated by users – and have helped millions break bad habits and build healthier, happier lives.
6. Keep consistent. In his book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg shows how automatic behaviours, like tying our shoes, cleaning our teeth, become habit because we do them in exactly the same way every time we do them. If you’re trying to get a daily run or yoga session into your day, allocate a time of day to do it and stick to it.
7. Smile. By smiling, you convince yourself that you enjoy what you’re doing. Your body and brain far prefer doing something they like than doing something they find hard-going. Trick yourself into believing you enjoy fulfilling your promise, and you will fulfil your promise, happily.
8. Rewards galore. Some believe that rewards are the key to keeping a promise to yourself. You could have a stash of marbles, and for every day you fulfil your goal, you award yourself a marble. Collect the marbles in a lined-off vase that names a reward whenever the marble pile crosses the line.
You could write a chart that details what you will win if you keep your promise. For example, run three times this week, then splash out on a steak and chips at the weekend; eat your seven pieces of fruit or veg a day every day this week and spoil yourself with a trip to the cinema. Whatever appeals to you, use it as a reward for what your find challenging at the moment.
9. Post it. Posting motivational comments – positive ones like Go for a run NOW, or Run for XX on May 8, or Eat fruit, or 10 pushups before you sit in this chair – will push you to achieve your goal when you’re feeling less motivated. Move the notes, write news ones, don’t let your eyes stop seeing them because they’re always there!
10. Digital reminders. What good is all this digi-tech if we can’t use it? Set yourself a daily reminder or alarm on your phone, laptop or pc to work on your resolution. Work out when in your day your run, yoga, meditation or volunteering will best fit, then allocate that time as your resolution time.
11. Join a group. Run with others from work or school. Join a yoga or mediation circle. Join a book club. If you want to improve something, there will be a group of other like-minded people near you wanting to do the same – you just need to find them. Working together is a far more pleasant experience than going out there alone.
12. Share! Share your promise, your deadline and the reasons you have set it. The more people, family and friends, who know about your personal mission, the better. You will have their support and will feel you are letting others down if you miss a day or fall back into your old routine. Letting others down is a far stronger trigger to drive good behaviours than letting yourself down. As you know, social media shaming is a thing.
So get out there and commit to your new lifestyle. You'll love it when you're living it. Have a great 2016!
Pauly Plewa, Niagara Falls, 2015
Catcher Car driver, Adolfo Aguilar in Lima, Peru
Lemawork Ketema, Global Champion 2014 and 2015
Daniel Ricciardo, Race number 1 and Formula 1 driver
Mike Shaw, Canadian ski coach