The Willpower Challenge: How to Succeed with your New Years Resolution

The Willpower Challenge: How to Succeed with your New Years Resolution

Its that time of year again. Fat and unfit and returning to work not quite rested. Maybe you ate a little too much or partied a little too hard over the Christmas break. You haven’t been to the gym in 3 weeks. You are highly motivated to atone for the sins of the silly season. According to Anthony Grant, the head of the coaching psychology unit at the University of Sydney, 50% of Australians make new year resolutions however 88% of those fail to achieve their goals.

Why is it so hard? In short, because it is hard. Its not because you lack willpower or you are lazy. Most Sydney-siders are at capacity coping with day to day life without adding a large demand to resources, like a 5 day per week gym routine in to the mix. All because its January doesn’t mean you suddenly have spare emotional, physical or mental resources to apply to your new endeavor.

So here are a couple of strategies to consider, remembering that a new habit takes on average 66 days to form and up to 1 year (boo).

Which statement do you agree with more? “Go hard or go home” or “slow and steady wins the race”? Your resolution strategy should be consistent with your personality type.

Go hard or go home. If you are an all-or-nothing thinker (everything is either awesome or awful, you do something 100% or not at all) then your new years resolution is probably a complete 180 on your current routine. For example, after months of eating takeout you are going to start with a detox then do meal replacement shakes for 3 weeks before a non-carb diet.

The bad news is that the largest changes are the hardest to sustain. In order to improve your success make sure you have a massively tangible goal that is publically declared and monitored. You are not just going to get fit but you are going to dominate at Tough Mudder or complete the Commando Tough 24 hour endurance event. Then make a public declaration of your commitment and plan. Whether that be Facebook posts and updates of progress or telling people at work and inviting them to the final event. You will need the added motivation of perceived public criticism for not following through with your goals to be compliant with your new training program or diet.

Slow and steady wins the race. If you tend to be a pacer, not a galloper then your new year’s resolution is probably a refinement of a behaviour that you already do a little but want to a lot of. My experience with clients has been that small regular changes are sustained in the long run. Think 5% changes each week. If you want to eat cleaner, what is one food you will eat more of (or less of) this week. If you are quitting smoking, smoke 1 cigarette less per day that you did last week.

Personally I want to improve my strength so have asked my personal trainer for a program which involves three sessions of 15 minutes per week. I think that’s an achievable increase in my physical training given all my other competing demands. Last year my successful resolution was to complain less (more about that in a later blog). Small regular changes certainly works for me.


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