Don’t fear relapses on New Year resolutions

The year’s start is the perfect time to turn a new page, which is probably why so many people make New Year’s resolutions. It feels like a fresh start, and a great opportunity to change bad habits and establish new routines that will help spiritual, emotional, physical and intellectual growth.

Resolutions are, of course, much easier to make than to keep and, usually by the end of March, many may have abandoned their pledges and have settled back into old patterns despite good intentions.

Why we make resolutions

The New Year sometimes leads people to bite off more than they can chew, causing perceptions of success to vary when it comes to achieving these resolutions. Some of the most common resolutions include: Weight loss; a healthier diet; exercising regularly; better financial choices; quitting smoking; attending church more often; and spending more time with family. During the first few days, you will probably feel confident and highly motivated simply because you have not faced any discomfort as yet. However, if you do, remind yourself exactly why you are doing this.

Choose a realistic goal

Be sure to make your goals realistic rather than drastic. Choosing an achievable goal also gives you the opportunity to plan exactly how you are going to meet it. Select just one and focus your energies on that rather than spreading yourself too thinly. Taking on too much, too quickly, is a common reason why so many New Year’s resolutions fail.

If you start working towards a goal without a plan, you may quickly find yourself giving up when faced with obstacles. For example, if your goal is to run three times per week, what will you do if you have missed four days in a row because of an injury? How will you proceed? Likewise, starting an unsustainably restrictive diet, overdoing it at the gym or radically altering your normal behaviour are proven ways to derail your ambitions. Small, incremental changes will ultimately help you reach your larger goal quicker.

Avoid repeating past failures

If you try to attain the same goals you have set in the past, spend some time evaluating your previous results. Which strategies were the most or least effective? What obstacles did you face? Consider changing the approach, or make slight alterations to make it more feasible.

Be patient with yourself. Remember that those unhealthy habits you are trying to change probably took years to develop. Therefore, do not expect to change them in a matter of days, weeks or months. Understand that working towards your resolutions is a process. Even if you suffer a misstep or two, it is OK. You can simply restart and continue onwards. Remember that this is not a race to the finish; it is a journey.

Keep working on your goal

Keep that inspiration alive by continuing to work on your goals, even after suffering setbacks. Doing a little of something is better than doing nothing. If your current approach is not working, reevaluate your strategies and think about what is causing you to falter (such as stress from work or home life) and devise a plan to cope with it effectively.

Do not view relapses as a failure, as the path towards your goal will not always be a straight one, and relapses are learning opportunities. By understanding the challenges you face on this journey, you will be better prepared to deal with them in the future. Until we meet again, fill your life with memories rather than regrets. Enjoy life and stay on top of your game.

NB: Columnist welcomes feedback at deedee21bastian@gmail.com

ABOUT COLUMNIST: Deidre M. Bastian is a professionally-trained graphic designer/brand marketing analyst, author and certified life coach

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