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Don’t Let New Year’s Resolution Syndrome Strike!

With the New Year just about here, that familiar question will have been bouncing around living rooms across the country: What’s your New Year’s resolution?

Let’s face it 2020 was a tough one, but hopefully now things are on the up, and our attention turns to what we have learned and what we want to achieve in 2021.

It’s a beautiful and important time to start making changes to your life. But there is a thing about New Year’s resolutions. You ask some people what they are resolving to change in the year to come, and the answer is as long as a kid’s Christmas list. And there they are on New Year’s Eve, with their preparatory glass of wine, ready to sprint into the New Year and the new person that they want to be.

However, this is what I call ‘New Year’s resolution syndrome’: the belief that we can wake up on 1 January and implement a hundred and one different changes, all in one go.

Unfortunately, this is a myth. Your psychology can’t handle it and you just hit overwhelm, that condition in which you just feel harassed, stressed, and struggling to keep up with the changes. The result is that that Christmas list of resolutions gets shorter and shorter as each item gets forgotten.

So, if you really want to make change happen in your life in the New Year, piling change on change is not the way to do it. Rather, your strategy should be focus, consistency, and integration.

Let’s have a look in more detail. Here are seven ways to beat New Year’s resolution syndrome.

Your New Year’s Resolutions

Start Small and Scale Up.

Accountability is powerful in all aspects of life, not just working out. And the same applies to starting small. You wouldn’t strut into the gym on your first day to squat two hundred kilos, would you?

If you set tasks that are too ambitious, you set yourself up for failure.

One Change at a Time.

Whilst the New Year is the perfect time for change, you’re not going to become a new person overnight. So, don’t expect to.

The chances are you won’t even remember all of the things you want to change, if you are looking at more than a handful. Your brain simply can’t hold onto all of these things.

New Year’s resolution syndrome comes with juggling too many balls at once. You’re doomed to fail. Focusing on the key changes is a much more effective strategy.

Remember that the most radical changes are often the smallest!

Remember the Importance of Habit.

Take a different strategy and integrate just one change at a time. This is what I call consistency – and the benefit of this is that each little change becomes habitual. It becomes automatic.

Habit allows you to reduce the cognitive burden of change – by making the change unthought. Overtime, you just integrate the change into your life, without even thinking.

Bring Other People onto Your Side.

The most important factor that influences the success of change is accountability: the fact that you have someone who can support you in your change.

You want to go to the gym more? Then take someone with you. It will be more fun that way. And on those days that you just can’t be bothered – there’ll be someone to pull you out of the house.

Leverage the Power of Routine.

Routines are larger chains and accumulations of habits. And whilst routine in some circles is a dirty word, this structure just makes your life easier.

If your New Year’s resolution is to see friends more, make a routine out of this. Make Wednesday, say, your socialising evening. By fixing a day each week in your routine, you make it much more likely to happen.

The alternative is to scrabble about trying to find a moment.

Don’t Forget Your Rewards.

Whilst people instinctively recognise the importance of habit, what they can forget is the rewards. It is the anticipation of the reward that drives the majority of our behaviour!

Habit depends on reward. And whilst exercise has in-built rewards, this often isn’t enough. If you work out, or quit smoking, treat yourself – with something that is actually rewarding.

Be Strategic and Prioritise.

If you are choosing a handful of changes with which to start, pick them wisely. Read my articles on keystone habits and impact and influence – the two key elements to effective prioritisation.

Willpower alone isn’t enough to make change happen. So be smart about how you change – and which changes you make first.

Impact and Influence: HOW to Prioritise Your Tasks and Habits.

HOW to Be Consistent and Make Change Happen.