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How to stick to your New Year's resolutions
January 3rd 2013
In an extract from her new book 'Latte or Cappuccino?', Hilly Janes explains how to stick to those good intentions in 2013
The first step is to set a clear goal for yourself. If you are trying to break a bad habit, like drinking too much in the evenings or never getting around to tidying up, a clear, specific goal is more likely to work than ‘I really will go easy on the wine’.
For example, ‘I’ll have two alcohol-free days a week, and plan in advance when they will be’, or ‘I’ll set aside Saturday mornings to clean the house’. Choose one goal, as it is much easier to focus on achieving one thing at a time than several things at once.
If you’re having trouble deciding on your goal for 2013, think about the upsides of achieving it. If you have already set a target, thinking positively will reinforce it in your mind as the right thing to do. You might be saving money by not buying cigarettes or that morning latte, so work out how much you’ll save a week, a month, a year and plan a treat with the money. Write down the list of benefits and keep it somewhere obvious, like your bedside table or on the fridge as a daily reminder of why you’re making the effort.
It’s important to keep track of your progress. This could be by using your diary or a calendar, plus there are loads of apps and websites you can use to set, monitor and share your goals, and if you have a smartphone it’s easy to keep track of your progress on the move.
To keep you on track, enlist support from friends, colleagues or a family member, who can motivate you when you’re having an off day. They can remind you of the reasons why you’re undertaking the challenge, even if it’s not always what you want to hear.
Everyone has a bad day now and then, so if you slip up, don’t make it a reason to give up altogether. Odds are that you won’t stick to the plan 100% of the time, sometimes it’s just not possible. Impromptu drinks or dinner, a last minute meeting that will scupper your after-work plans, a surprise bill or expense that you haven’t budgeted for, can throw us all slightly off course. Don’t feel guilty for too long otherwise you won’t be able to face slipping up again. In the grand scheme of how much you’ve already achieved, one bad day isn’t a big deal.
Sticking to a New Year’s resolution isn’t meant to be easy. If it was, we wouldn’t all be dreading trying to tackle them. But you can make things easier for yourself. If you’re dieting or trying to feel healthier, don’t get caught out by misleading nutritional information. Learn a bit more about the foods you think are healthy - you might be surprised. For example, cereal is thought of as a good breakfast option, but many contain the kind of carbs that don’t keep you going for long and lots of added sugar. Swap it for a boiled egg with soldiers instead.
And finally, sometimes it seems like that goal is a very long way off, so occasionally you need a reward that motivates you to be good. Maybe that means a weekend away from the gym or a night in front of the TV with your partner instead of doing the ironing. But don’t go too far and make that three slices of cake or a new handbag. Sometimes all it takes is a little treat to make it all worthwhile.
Latte or Cappuccino? 125 Decisions That Will Change Your Life by Hilly Janes (Michael O'Mara Books, £9.99) is available at all good bookstores.