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New Years Resolutions - Teach yourself to take control!

Happy New Year all.

We are at that time of year where everybody starts talking about resolutions. However most people these days, 61% to be accurate (source:, 2013), will raise their eyebrows at the idea or claim it is pointless.

In fact I would bet that upon reading the title and first sentence of this article most readers will either be sceptical or have stopped already.

This is completely understandable as we all will have previously, on multiple occasions, set New Year’s goals and failed. Research strongly supports this with most sites/blogs quoting a depressing 8% success rate (University of Scranton, 2014).

I am not going to write another of these articles or tell you that you should be making resolutions. Instead I plan to share a slightly different way of approaching resolutions this year.

I believe resolutions can be a good tool to start habit change and get you on the path to reaching personal goals. However I like to think of this as a task for the coming twelve months as this gives me a more realistic time frame to achieve something worthwhile.

By making these long term goals, it will allow you to break the process down into smaller manageable chunks/targets. Hence why not use the traditional and often derided ‘New Year’s resolution’ as the first baby step to achieving your long term success?

I have made New Year’s resolutions several times in the past, but the most memorable and successful one was a few years ago when I managed to go all of January without drinking alcohol! Even I will admit that sounds boring.

Every single person who knew about my little venture obviously asked why would you do that? They then promptly took it upon themselves to try and convince me to have a drink. To be honest I did ask myself why I was doing it several times, as my social calendar in January filled up.

I had no health or fitness reason to give up alcohol so what was I getting out of it?

Well, I spend most of my working life advising people what is best for them to eat, what to avoid and encourage them to become more active. I wanted to see how it felt to try to stick to something like that and be disciplined with myself. We have all said at some point: ‘I could stop if I wanted, but I enjoy it…’,whether this is in relation to alcohol, or chocolates, or even smoking. But I wanted to prove to myself I was mentally strong enough to see it through.

So through that January I learnt to say no (nicely) to friends, not give in to pressure, and the hardest of all say no to myself. This is what kept me going through the whole month (I’m stubborn) and it became nothing to do with not drinking alcohol and completely to do with me learning how to take control and change something in my life, however small.

This, although small and insignificant to many would have a far greater effect on the rest of my year than the health benefits of cutting out alcohol for a month.

So what is my point?

Success depends on several things. I believe willpower, self-belief, self-confidence and motivation will get you to your goals. In my experience most people have motivation (and I will not go into goal setting today), and in many cases have the tools already. Achieving our goals, especially in health and fitness revolves around long term habit change.

We can all say no to the chocolate once, especially if we are full already or feeling particularly fat on that occasion, it’s easy. It requires much more mental strength to say no to the chocolate when you are tired after work and you just want to put your feet up with a pack of Malteasers and watch a film. This is where your willpower comes into play….

"The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack in will" Vince Lombardi.

I read a good article recently saying that people are not born mentally strong but we develop the trait through practice/training.

There are plenty of examples in society of the mentally strong being those who have had to deal with the most in their lives. The article went on to suggest that we don’t walk into a gym and start benching the heaviest weight there (although plenty of idiots do try). Neither do we just get up and run a marathon without training (the aforementioned idiots wouldn’t last 5 minutes). Your body needs to build up to this, it needs training to adapt and get stronger. Our willpower/mental strength is the same in this regard.

If we can’t say no to ourselves, or our friends when pressured into eating chocolate/drinking alcohol, when there are plenty of good health reasons not to. How do we expect to have the will power to get up and go for a run or go to the gym on a cold and rainy day?

Therefore this January I challenge you to set a good old fashioned New Year’s resolution!

Try and change something simple that will improve your health and that you will find a challenge. This has to be realistic, don’t go saying all carbs, wheat dairy and gluten.

Start with one of the typical subjects; Alcohol, Chocolate, Sweets, Crisps, Fizzy drinks etc.

Yes there will be health benefits to doing this and I want you to use them when you have that inevitable battle in your head as to whether to carry on or have just one chocolate instead of two.

HOWEVER I want you to concentrate on the decision process and take pride in yourself when you do make the healthy choice, take control and feel good about it!

Remember it is only a month! That really isn’t a long time. After the month (if you stick it out) you will subconsciously choose when you eat/drink your resolution food and you will have started making the healthy choices without realising. Well done, you have started your habit change.

Coming back to how you feel, you will have proven to yourself that you can control urges and you can see something through. This (however cheesy it may sound) will give you more self-confidence and in turn will lead to bigger changes and much better results.

‘Confidence doesn’t come out of nowhere. It is a result of something…hours and days and weeks and years of constant hard work and dedication’ Roger Staubach.

Come February, bigger changes to your diet, or even joining the gym will seem a lot less intimidating and a lot more achievable.

Remember you will still have 4 months to get the beach body and another 11 months to achieve your Resolution, so don’t rush.

Train your mind first (deep stuff) and once you are mentally in control you can achieve a lot very quickly.

If you have got this far, WELL DONE and Happy New year!!


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