Wednesday 27 December 2006

New Year Resolutions

Its that time of year again, when many of us contemplate making changes in our life. For some, these will be minor alterations, whilst others may be considering more major changes. Commonly these changes involve shifts in behaviour (such as deciding to lose weight, to stop smoking, to take more exercise or to change direction in our careers or relationships). Often these changes have been germinating in our conscious or unconscious mind for some time, and a New Year offers us the opportunity psychologically to make a new start.

Research suggests there are three groups which people belong to when considering changing their behaviour, which broadly speaking can be categorised as:

  • non-contemplators: this group are generally happy with their lot, and see no need to change. This may be due to lack of insight, lack of motivation or being genuinely satisfied with their life and lifestyle at this time
  • pre-contemplators: this group have occasional (and perhaps increasing) pangs of guilt or dissatisfaction with their current situation, and would like certain things to be different. However, these insights are fleeting and have not yet become sufficiently irritating or disturbing to convert into the action required to change
  • contemplators: This group have reached the point where they are ready to take positive action to change. They are sufficiently dissatisfied with their current situation to make positive behavioural changes. This group are the prime focus of campaigns aimed at Smoking cessation etc at this time of year.

If you have reached the point where you are motivated to change, how might you improve your chances of success?

The pointers outlined below may be useful to you at this time.

  • Plan: Think through the change you wish to make in a rational way. Consider the implications of what you need to do in practical terms. What impact will this change have on your 'significant others'? What action will you take to replace the existing behaviour with a more positive alternative?
  • Be Practical: In most cases, the behaviour or habit you are trying to break has taken years to evolve, and become embedded as a significant part of your life over a long period of time. Don't expect that it will be easy to change overnight.
  • Be Positive: Start out with a positive determination to succeed.
  • Start Small: Whilst for some, the 'big bang' approach is appropriate, for many others setting small, short term targets that are achievable is more effective. Starting with a number of small successes can be the building blocks necessary to maintain and sustain the change in behaviour you are trying to make. Think Evolution rather than Revolution!!
  • Reward Yourself: Celebrate success and openly acknowledge the progress you are making. Obviously the rewards should be genuinely earned, and appropriate - opting for a chocolate cake 'reward' in the midst of a weight loss regime might be best avoided!
  • Lapses: Accept that there will inevitably be setbacks along the way, and plan for these. Don't allow these to be the excuse to fall back into old, established patterns of behaviour. When lapses happen - and they will happen - start again with renewed vigour. View lapses as diversions on your road to success, and don't get derailed from your ultimate goal.
  • Involving Others: No man is an island. Consider involving family, friends and/or colleagues in your quest for success. Others can provide support and encouragement when your willpower is wavering. Knowing others are aware of your goals may provide you with the extra impetus to succeed, if only to prove to them you can do it!

Finally, be clear that all change is difficult, and requires patience and perserverance (as are all things that are worth having). Remember, the Price of Persistence is always less than the Pain of Regret . Why not make that your motto for the weeks and months ahead?

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