It's coming up to that time of the year again, where we reflect on the past 12 months, what we've achieve, what we wished we'd achieved, and what we would like to accomplish in 2018. Like most people, you've probably created a New Year's resolution at some point in your life. Whether it was to get fit, eat better, give up cigarettes, drink less, see family more and so on. And like most people, you've possibly started with a bang in January, only for the resolution to slowly peter-out in February and to be forgotten by March. In fact, the stats are against you - according to some polls about 80% of New Year's resolutions failed by February and only 8% of people who make a New Year's resolution succeed in sustaining it. There are two parts to the New Year's resolution that I am going to suggest, with the second part being a whole lot easier than the first. But, not doing the first step will likely lead to you joining the 92% of people who don't succeed at maintaining a New Year's resolution.
Step 1: Reverse engineer your goal
The second step that I will suggest is to make your resolution achievable, which is very important, but not achievable if we don't complete the first step - and that is to reverse-engineer your resolution. What I mean by that is, take the end point of what you want to achieve (the resolution), and then work backwards to figure out all the stumbling blocks. Let me give you an example, which came up in a recent session with a client. My client said he really wanted to work on not spending so much money when he goes out with friends. Now, if we had left it there and worked on that goal, we would have come up with some strategies for managing his spending while he was out at an event. And maybe we would have had some success. But more likely, my client would have returned and said he continued to experience difficulties with controlling his spending once he was at an event. Instead, we started with the goal and then worked our way backwards. What we found out was that he was highly socially anxious in large crowds and drank alcohol to calm his nerves, so he wouldn't be so self-conscious. We also discovered that once he had a few drinks, he was likely to spend more money, for example on food and drinks, or other items. This was because the alcohol worked on one level as an anxiety calmer, but on another level it made him disinhibited so that he no longer put any brakes on spending money or drinking more alcohol. Our plan then became to address his social anxiety, and our secondary goal was to reduce his spending and alcohol consumption.
So, how can you apply this to your resolution? Let's start with the resolution itself and then ask yourself these 3 questions:
1. What has stopped me from achieving this goal so far?
2. What other roadblocks can I think of that might stop me from achieving my goal?
3. What do I need to put in place to address these roadblocks?
Let's assume you want to eat more healthy in 2018.
What's stopped you from achieving this goal in 2017? Think of the times when you've chosen to get takeaway or eaten unhealthy foods. Are there any common themes?
What other roadblocks are there from achieving this goal in 2018? Perhaps you tend to get takeaway food when you are stressed from work or tired?
What do you need to do to address these roadblock? Perhaps you need to address the stress you feel from your work by doing meditation or being more organised in your day so that your meal preparation is not overwhelming.
Now we have a new goal - I want to eat more healthy in 2018 and to do that I will address my stress at work, which is my trigger to eat unhealthy.
Step 2: Make SMART goals
This is the easy bit, because you've already done the heavy lifting by reverse-engineering your goal. SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant (realistic) and Time bound.
Instead of "I want to lose weight" which is vague, "I want to lose 5 kilos by June, by losing 1kg per month [SMART goal]. I will achieve this goal by addressing the stress I have at work, which leads me to overeat, by doing meditation daily [reverse-engineered goal]".
Take the time between now and New Years Eve to go through the reverse-engineering process of your goal. Be really honest with yourself - what is holding you back? If you follow these 2 steps you'll be ahead of the pack that forgets about their New Years resolution by February.
Sometimes, however, you may have recognised through reverse-engineering your goal that you may need more professional help and assistance. If that is the case, please click on the 'book now' button to organise a time to meet with one of our experienced psychologists.