"2012 will be different," "I'll stop smoking," "this is the year that I'll get fit," or "I will make an effort to write to friends". Sound familiar? Here are a few tips to ensure that you won't end up with a feeling of déjà vu this time next year.
"Changing habits is extremely difficult to do, and just because it's the New Year doesn't mean that it's any easier to do than any other time. One should take a look at where those bad habits are coming from and what function they have in your life. Unless you deal with these issues, there is no hope of success," says psychologist Ilse Terblanche.
"A lifestyle change entails a behavioural change – you cannot expect a different result from doing things in the same way."
"Recognising unrealistic New Year's Resolutions is easy – they're the ones that entail drastic behavioural changes over a very short space of time. If you've never managed to go to the gym more than once a week, you are not now going to be in the front row of the 6 a.m. aerobics class six days a week. Get real."
Give yourself the best chance of succeeding next year
Terblanche recommends that the first step is to take a look at what your past resolutions have been and why they didn't materialise. Was it that your goals were unrealistic? Would it have been better if you had more support or information? Or were you trying to solve problems such as being overweight the wrong way? For example, did you only focus on dieting and not on the underlying psychological causes of the problem?
"Remember that you can just as much from your successes as from your failures," says Terblanche.
Have a look at what you have achieved. What were your major accomplishments during 2004? What made it possible for you to succeed? These answers might help you when you tackle your new goals next year.
Do some homework
If you are trying to change unhealthy habits, keep records of situations, moods or triggers that lead to these behaviours. For example, do you overeat when you are bored, frustrated or stressed? When do you really need your nicotine fix – when you socialise with friends, wake up in the morning or are working? If you know the answers, you'll be able to pre-empt temptation and learn to avoid them.
Making your list
Once you've done your homework, it is time to draw up your list of resolutions.
Goals should give you direction, long-term vision and short-term motivation. If you know precisely what you want to achieve, it is easier to focus and achieve those goals. If we achieve goals, it helps to boost our self-esteem.
Tips for goal setting
Goals should be:
Specific: Don't set vague goals such as: "I'm going to be a better parent," or "I'm going to get fit. Be specific and write your goals down in a positive manner, e.g. “I can run 10 km in 1hour 20 minutes” or "I will set one afternoon a week aside for a family outing or activity".
Measurable: You must be able to plot progress.
Achievable and realistic: "I want to run the 10 km in 45 min" is a bit out of reach if one has never run 10 km. "I want to run 10 km without stopping" is better and achievable.
It is important to set a time limit: a specific date, i.e. a race or birthday, and work your goal from that day backwards to where you are today. Re-evaluate your goals when you reach your target date.
Reward yourself for reaching a goal. Rewards could include a trip to the movies or a desired purchase. Review your progress every few months and repeat the above steps to set new goals for yourself.
Here's to a happy, successful 2012!