New Year… New You…

21st January 2011

Given up on your resolutions already?

asks Life Coach Isabel Walker…

…don’t worry, you’re in good company. Recent research from the University of Hertfordshire found that more than three quarters of those who vow to transform their lives as the clock strikes midnight on 31 December abandon their efforts – often in the first week of January.

Then, on top of feeling bad about their excess weight, their furtive smoking habit, their dead-end job or their lousy relationship, they feel even worse about their feeble willpower.

But maybe it’s willpower that’s the real problem. All the self-help gurus agree that to make a fundamental change in your life you’ve got to really want to do it. And however strong your willpower you can’t will yourself to want something.

To feed the desire for change you need to focus on the positive benefits that will flow from your efforts. Far too many New Year’s Resolutions are framed in the negative: I must give up smoking / must stop eating chocolate / get out of this damaging relationship.

But these kinds of goals aren’t inspiring: worse, they encourage you to think obsessively about the things you are giving up, so making them even more desirable.

Far better to frame your resolutions in the positive – I want to be healthy / be slim / find a great new partner – and focus your thoughts on how you will look and feel when you have achieved your goal, how people will congratulate you and how you will reward yourself.

Negative thinking is not the only reason that resolutions fall by the wayside; they may also fail for the following reasons:

o You sign up to them impulsively in a state of champagne-fuelled recklessness;

o You seek to change one or more of the habits of a lifetime overnight;

o You try to do it alone, without support or encouragement.

As a life coach, I work with people over weeks or months to help them achieve their goals in every sphere – from health and fitness to career development, from relationships to money management. While I encourage my clients to think big, though – to articulate the dream, to stand in that imagined future and feel the thrill of achievement – I urge them to start small, tracing their journey towards the final goal in bite-sized incremental steps that take account of the complex realities of their lives.

Equally importantly, the coaching process makes them accountable to me. Each session starts with a ‘mini goal’ designed to take them a few steps further towards the end goal, and concludes with an agreed action plan, on which they have to report progress in the following session.

The very fact of having to account to someone else for your actions makes progress more likely. Not that my clients have to beat themselves up if they don’t follow through. We simply look at what went wrong and why, tweak the goal or the action plan if necessary – and move on.

If this article has inspired you to have another crack at your 2011 resolutions, here are my tips for making them stick:

o Target just one aspect of your life for change

o Set yourself a SMART goal – one that is Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic and Time-based. So, for example, if you want to improve your fitness, your goal might be ‘to be fit enough by April to complete the local 5k fun run in 30 minutes’;

o List all the benefits of achieving that level of fitness – the increased energy, the healthy glow, the enhanced self-esteem, the incidental weight loss, etc;

o Make a detailed week-by-week plan that will take you to where you want to be by April and note it all down in your diary;

o Tell all the important people in your life about your resolution and ask them to encourage you to stay motivated;

o Don’t be too hard on yourself if you slip up occasionally. Think about why it happened, learn from it – and move on;

o Plan for the most fantastic celebration after you cross that finishing line….then crack on with your next goal!

Isabel Walker is a life coach based in Abbots Langley.

Contact her for a FREE initial consultation
on 07958 424421 or

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