Moving on from failed New Year’s resolutions?

Posted by Karen in Benefits of Life Coaching | Life Coaching tips

It can be tough changing ingrained habits

January – the month that fills us with great hope that we will do all the things we really want to do.

Why then is it, come mid-January, that our New Year’s resolutions – all the things we’ve wanted to change so wholeheartedly, start dropping off our agenda so quickly leaving us with a sense of disappointment and failure?

Why is it that we often find it so difficult to follow through on our New Year’s resolutions, to do what we really want to do, to make the changes we’ve long wanted to make?

The main reason is that often our New Year resolutions involve changing some of our most engrained habits such as eating too much biscuits, chocolate, cake, drinking too much alcohol, spending money on cloths, smoking, not doing any exercise, watching TV every day, surfing the internet, Facebook or Twitter…

Changing our most engrained habits requires more than just deciding in our head that we are going to eat less biscuits or stop smoking, drink less alcohol or start doing exercise.

The thing about habits is that we do them without having to think about them. Habits allow us to function and to lead busy lives. They help us get ready in the morning, drive the car or ride the bicycle while planning our day ahead, they allow us to multi task at work or home etc.

Habits are positive as long as they help us and feel positive. When they become unhelpful, out of date, when they make us unhappy – eating too much, spending too much money, watching too much television – that’s when habits become tricky and sticky – that’s when we start to feel that something in our life needs to change.

In other words, habits are run by our unconscious. New Year resolutions often fail because we only make them at the conscious level, in our head. But it is crucial that we also get in touch with the part inside of us that runs the habit we want to change, e.g. eating less. To put it more simply, the head and heart need to work together.

We need to work with both our conscious and unconscious to undo old habits and to form new ones, i.e. to make New Year’s resolutions work, to bring about long-lasting change.

Here is how it can work in practice:

1. Take some quiet time and identify something you want to change in your life, for example eating less.

2. Make contact with the part of you that likes to eat. You can do this by acknowledging that part of you, i.e. it’s okay that a part of me likes to eat, it ‘s okay that this is present.

3. We always do things for a good reason, otherwise we wouldn’t do them. Ask the part of you that likes to eat what it is trying to do for you positively. This could be about making you feel comfortable, to nourish you, to give you pleasure. When you have identified its positive intention it is important to appreciate that too.

4. Then see whether you can come up with three other things that fulfill the same needs, in this example: comfort, nourishment and pleasure. This could be connecting with trusted friends, spending more time with them, having a hot bath once a week or a massage once in a while.

Once a day eat without doing anything else, just eating  your meal, enjoying the food and noticing how it feels in the body.

5. Check whether these new things resonate with you. This is also important because if they don’t then it means that the part of you that likes eating will continue to eat too much. So check that the new things you want to do feel right inside and also whether you can see yourself doing them.

Always remember, if we can form habits we can un-do them. Change is possible albeit slow sometimes. It takes some effort but the pay-off can be huge.

Change is at the heart of life-coaching. Get in touch if you’d like to find out more about my work. I offer a 30-minute taster session in Victoria Park, East London, over the phone or Skype.

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