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Episode 201: Resolutions

It's July!
We're exactly half way through the year and how are your New Years resolutions going?
I ask because enough time has gone by for any resolutions you might have made in January to have fallen by the wayside.
If the exercise bike you bought at Christmas has now turned into a clothes rail or the list of books you said you were going to read has turned into cat videos on youtube instead then I'm here to remind you of what you said you wanted only 6 months ago. So here are a few tips at getting yourself back in the game.

Firstly we need to look at what type of resolution you have.
Resolutions tend to fall into 1 of 3 different categories.

Result resolutions.
Habit resolutions.
Holistic resolutions.

Result resolutions are when you're trying to reach a specific goal, such as lose half a stone, drop a dress size, run 5k without collapsing. It's something that's obvious when it's been completed and obvious when it's not. These have actually been shown to be the easiest to stick to because seeing your progress is quite motivating.

Habit resolutions on the other hand never really seem to have a specific goal, they don't come to an end. The satisfaction is in the action itself, like reading, meditation or playing the clarinet. These don't really have significant steps along the way that show you any progress so these sorts of habits are harder to stick to. The good news though is that even though it might be harder to keep these habits going once they've got going for a while they kind of run themselves and dont need as much effort further down the line. Anything that you repeat again and again soon becomes second nature, even habits. If you play the clarinet every Monday, Wednesday and Friday straight after work for 30 minutes then given time it just happens, you just do it. It takes far less effort and no stress at all to have it integrated it into your life.

The Third one, holistic resolutions, are usually the first sort of resolution to get lost. Holistic resolutions are a very broad, vague concept, such as "Be more social" or "Save money." They sound great but they're too vague. If something can't be defined, then it can't be measured and probably can't be achieved either. So we need to be specific.
If you have a holistic resolution find the steps that make it happen. "Be more social" can then become "Catch up with a friend once a week" or "Join an amateur dramatics society."
"Save money" isn't specific enough, but "Transfer £150 to savings account every pay day" or "Get £10 cash back every time you go to the supermarket and put it in an envelope for Christmas" is.
By turning a holistic resolution into either a habit resolution or a result resolution you can see that you're doing it, It's measurable, noticeable, and really useful.

Next is what is sometimes called "The Fresh Start Effect." The reason why people make New Years resolutions on the first of January is because it's a starting line, a fresh start that gives us permission to start acting in a different way. But we don't need a new year to do that. And we know this, in fact we already do this.
Google searches for the word "diet" go up every Monday, but they also go up at the beginning of every month too. And that's the same for actual in-person visits to the gym too. With an extra increase on September too. Children going back to school seems to be a line in the sand for a lot of people. In fact the researchers at Harvard Business School that studied this found that these increases peaked immediately after Christmas and Easter too. We do see these breaks in the year as a fresh start.
So I know it sounds cliché to restart your healthy eating on a Monday, but it might help you, especially if it's every Monday. But be modest, it's not always important to go crazy and try and reinvent yourself overnight, you can probably kid other people that but you won't kid yourself and so your goals would feels unrealistic.
Break your big goals down into small goals instead.
"Drop 2 dress sizes" becomes "Lose an inch off your waist."
"Benchpress 200kgs" becomes "Benchpress 5kgs extra."
I know it's hard to be patient if the end result means a lot to you, but patience is important. Smaller goals are more realistic they feel reachable, attainable. Doing these things in realistic increments, even if its clearing out your garage, makes it feel way less overwhelming.

Don't expect immediate perfection though, part of any change does involve some sort of relapse of behaviour, that's normal. If you want to become vegetarian for a year to see how better you feel, don't be surprised if you have a BLT every now and again at first.
Relapsing, on its own, does no harm. But beating yourself up about it and calling yourself a failure does. It turns what is simply part of the process into a setback.
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