Using resolutions to improve the quality of your life.
By Myrna Sachs, head of Alexforbes Health Management Solutions.
Reflecting on our lives helps us put matters into perspective. We can then create room for improvements that make us grow and feel there is meaning in what we do.
While new year is the most common trigger for resolutions, these are notorious for being short-lived. You can choose to change your life at any time, not just on the first of January.
How to stick to your resolutions
Making a resolution means that you are clear and firm about what you want. However, there are steps you can take to turn that clear image in your mind into reality:
A resolution requires that you take time to think about what is important to you. Reserve time to identify the things you want to focus on.
- Journaling is a habit you can create where you note your thoughts, emotions, concerns, and promises that you make to yourself. Looking through your journal can help you identify the areas that require more of your attention and personalise your resolutions to things that you most care about.
- Alone time is a routine time that you invest in, which you find safe and nurturing. During this time (it can be as little as 15 minutes), you do what makes you happy and refreshed – walk or hike outside in nature, sit in a quiet room or in a bath, and so on. A habit of doing things that nurture you is good for identifying those things that occupy your mind the most and make for good areas of resolution.
- Relationships with friends, family or with people in our communities allow us to have conversations that can build us, give us feedback and encourage us to take up resolutions. These must always be things that matter to you in particular.
A reflection seeks to provide clarity about things that you think about. Making a resolution without reflecting on what it means to you sets you up for failure. Reflection sharpens the desire to change and do things differently.
Decisions will stick if we solidify the drive to achieve them. This will come through reflection and choosing the behaviours that are most relevant to you in achieving those goals.
An additional area of your reflection must include separating the outcome from the actions required to achieve that outcome. A goal such as better mental wellbeing requires several activities such as downloading an app that teaches you how to be mindful, consulting a therapist to help you with anxiety or a coach to help you to cope better with stress, adopting the courage to ask for feedback on your performance, and so on. These little activities altogether are the behaviours needed to achieve one goal.
- Take action
- Reduce conflict
If there is a clash in the time needed to take on a new behaviour and an old activity, this will create conflict and you are more likely to stick to old activities. If the new activity is far away compared to an old activity that was close by, you may lose the battle here too. Create ease of access by being close by or freeing your schedule ahead of time to reduce the likelihood of choosing the easy way out.
- Have a plan
Create a detailed plan in your mind – a clear one – about how you are going to see through that gym time or healthy diet. This might start with short-term chunks such as rearranging your after-work schedule for the first month only. Once you commit to a short period such as a month, your mind helps you with this short-term sacrifice.
- Make it easy
Remove the unhealthy snacks and fill up your desk with healthier ones, pack the gym bag the night before instead of scrambling in the morning, or close the office door for the first 15 minutes after arriving at work to have that quiet time to plan your day. Whatever it is, find ways to make it easy to tackle.
- Measure your success
This might require you to be flexible in the milestones that you set for yourself. Often our goals are quite tough and having little or no flexibility will backfire in that you feel discouraged that your progress is not as steep as you would have liked. Accept that you only managed to cycle twice a week instead of five times, for instance.
- Be kind to yourself
Allow yourself breaks and take on one commitment at a time where feasible. Too much might not be best.
- Find a support system
Having like-minded people walk any new journey with you is one of the essential success factors. As human beings, we thrive on social connections. These connections help us not to feel alone – they give us tips on how to cope and make us feel good about our choices overall. Make use of employee assistance programmes offered through your work which offer tools to help you deal with life’s challenges such as financial difficulties, stress and substance abuse.
'Stop – Reflect – Take Action' is a good model for everyday life. Used more frequently, you will find yourself taking resolutions to change your behaviour more frequently, spurring you on to bring positive change to your life.