New Year Resolutions and Willpower

Elizabeth Payne

We’re half way through January. So…. how are your New Year Resolutions faring? It’s common knowledge that most of us by now are struggling to maintain the positive changes we wanted to make, so why is it so difficult? There are a number of reasons which I’d like to share with you today.

  • Timing – It’s mid-Winter, we’ve just got over Christmas and New Year, our energy is low. Not the greatest place to be in to start making positive changes is it?
  • Self-belief – What’s happened every other year? There’s a belief that the same thing will happen again, as we listen to that negative voice of our ego, instead of our inner voice who knows we can succeed.
  • Being ready to let go – It can be hard to let go of the past, the old ways of being, the old patterns of thoughts and behaviours, and the old parts of ourselves that have held us back in the past – again the voice of our ego.
  • Planning – Key to every positive change we make and something that very few people actually do. What is it we actually want to change and why? If you fail to plan, you plan to fail….
  • Support – It’s always easier if we have someone ‘in our corner’, supporting and encouraging us.
  • WILLPOWER – Last but not by any means the least. We rely on willpower to sustain change, so for the first few weeks, we’re excited and engaged. But then suddenly, it all seems too much and gradually all our New Year resolutions go out of the window, as we start to rely completely on willpower. We only have a finite amount of willpower in any one day; it’s like a rechargeable battery. When our willpower is depleted, making right choices or decisions becomes more difficult. All our daily activities are tapping into that finite resource e.g. regulating our emotions, doing tasks, making decisions, resisting temptation. No wonder there’s not much left by the end of the day.

So what practical steps can be taken to ensure success this year?

  • Timing – Use January and into February as a time to recharge your batteries and plan the changes you want to make, you may even start to implement some easy ones. As your energy levels begin to rise with thoughts of the imminent arrival of Spring, longer daylight hours and warmer weather, you have a more stable foundation for greater change. When you’ve planned and feel ready to make that positive change – GO FOR IT!
  • Self-belief – Accept the negative voice of your ego as a part of you, then set about reversing that negative energy, by replacing it with your positive inner voice, using positive statements and affirmations to bring in positive energy. Know that you can achieve anything you want to and use these positive statements every morning and night as well as at the time you hear that negative voice of your ego, to reinforce your self-belief. This year you’re doing it differently, so of course you will succeed.
  • Being ready to let go – Take time to stop and think about what you really want to change and why. Explore any resistance and begin to picture the changes you want to make as if they are already there, so that you become more comfortable with letting go. It’s like trying on different hats, which one do you want to be wearing for the future? Moving out of your comfort zone is not a bad thing, it allows you to achieve so much more. So don’t rush into things that you can’t sustain, think about what is manageable and sustainable. By reducing stress, you will ensure a better chance of success.
  • Planning – What practical changes need to be made to stop the reinforcement of your old patterns? Good preparation now to support the new desired behaviours, before you make the changes, will create the right conditions for future success. You may wish to talk to someone who’s already done it, read about it, or find a mentor/support group. Write down the specific tactics and actions that you’re going to use and put everything in place ready for day 1 of your positive change. Then… GO FOR IT!
  • Support – Choose who you want ‘in your corner’, get them on board, be clear what you want from them and use that support. Is there anyone who is likely to try and sabotage what you are doing? Putting it bluntly – DITCH THEM! They have their own agenda and don’t have your best interests at heart. Surround yourself with those people who only want what’s best for you.
  • WILLPOWER – You are at your most vulnerable when you have to make a choice/decision, when your willpower is at its lowest. So how do you stop your willpower becoming depleted? Consider all the things you do without thinking, like brushing your teeth or driving a car perhaps – they have become automated. None of these things depletes your willpower, because there is no decision to be made, you just do it. So you need to become more automated using good planning and preparation to reduce the number of times you have to make choices/decisions. This will already have been done before actually making your positive change. Good planning becomes your long term new habits and rituals, thus ensuring your success.

So what happens in the early days when you’re not quite fully automated, what do you need to support you?

  • As part of your planning process, set up an emergency action plan that you can use if you start to wobble. Again, write this down, it will be more effective.
  • Gratitude and appreciation for what you actually have, will keep you in the positive mindset, rather than feeling a failure.
    Learn from any ‘mistakes’ when you wobble and NEVER give up. Believe in yourself and carry on. NO BEATING YOURSELF UP!