New year’s resolutions give us an opportunity to set some goals for the coming months that we would like to achieve. Although this ‘fresh start’ can be exciting and full of opportunity, it can also be daunting and can make us feel like we don’t know where to start!
By breaking down our general aims and goals into tiny, manageable steps, we can help to give ourselves the best foot forward. Part of this is realising that when we ‘slip up’ or ‘fall off the wagon’, this is not a failure but simply an opportunity to learn why our resolution didn’t work, and where we can tweak our routine to make it more likely that it will be successful in the future.
This is why we call it ‘running the experiment’, because there is no right or wrong; it is all about finding what works best for you. In order to do that, it is completely normal to ‘fail’ at your experiment the first few times – but every time that happens, you will get a valuable insight into why it may not be working; that’s the gold dust. Only then can you amend your plan to take that into consideration.
Instead of a broad goal such as ‘get fitter’ or ‘do more exercise’; why not break it down further and get into the nitty-gritty of what this may actually look like. Otherwise, how will you know if you’ve actually achieved what you wanted to?
For example, “I would like to go for a walk every day”. When doing this, keep in mind that there will be things that won’t work. This is to be expected and helps to take the pressure off.
It is also useful to think about WHY you want to do this – why would you like to get fitter or lose weight? What would it help you achieve? For example, setting aside time for walking will increase your step count, but more importantly, it may make you feel stronger, calmer and happier. It may give you time to blow off some steam and clear your mind. This may then mean you feel more productive!
Make this as specific as you can! Try to be realistic; when do you think you could fit this into your day, bearing in mind other jobs you have to get done? For example, I will go for a walk after work each weekday at 5:30pm for 20 mins.
We are much more likely to do something if we don’t have to put too much effort into planning and travelling to/from somewhere. For example, if the gym is a long drive and you would prefer fresh air, you may decide you want to be outdoors, and go for a walk around the block (maybe you have a dog you could take!)
It’s all well and good having these great intentions, but is there anybody who needs to be involved in your plans? Perhaps you need to tell your partner/kids so that they are aware of where you are and may want to come with you. Also, telling other people what we aim to do helps to keep us accountable and can motivate us.
Before we embark on this experiment, is there anything we can put in place to help make this habit even easier for ourselves? Can we predict what may get in the way and then accommodate for this? For example, you may realise that you want to get changed before you go on this walk after work. If so, could you put your workout clothes/trainers somewhere obvious the night before, to remind you of your goal and also save you time in the moment?
After running your experiment for the week, take time to reflect on what went well and what didn’t go so well. This is the MOST IMPORTANT BIT.
You can then keep in place any elements that went well, and think about how you can change any elements that didn’t go so well. What could you do differently next time?
For example, maybe you realise that you’re always really hungry when you get home from work, so you end up going for a walk but rush to get home and make dinner so you only go for 10 minutes. Maybe some days you don’t go at all. You may therefore decide to experiment with walking in the morning, before work.
Writing this out on a piece of paper or on your phone can help you visualise your goals and help you keep track of your experiments and all the bits you have updated. Think of these resolutions less as goals that are set in stone and more as a work in progress!