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How do we get our New Year's resolutions to stick?

January is the busiest time of the year for gyms. Fresh off the back of Christmas indulgences, and with a renewed sense of determination to do things differently in the new year, subscriptions and attendance soar at gyms around the world in January. Unfortunately, the staying power of these individuals generally starts to wayne in February, and by March it's back to business as usual... many broken dreams later.

How do we get our new year's resolutions to stick?

Personally, one of the things I've chosen to change in 2020 is the amount of television I watch. I don't watch a huge amount of TV, and we actually didn't have a TV in our house until late 2018, but towards the end of last year I found myself spending more time than I'd like watching series. They're enjoyable, but whenever I watch television, I feel this strange sense of hollowness afterwards, and a very faint feeling of self loathing, like I know I could use the time more productively and purposefully. My inner compass is sending me a message, and it's time to listen.

When changing a habit or introducing a new discipline, the first thing I want to do is make sure it's realistic. If you haven't been to the gym in a few years, it's probably not sustainable to set a new goal to go 7 days a week. In my case, I'm going to allow myself to watch one movie per week with my wife, on a Sunday evening, and only after we have done our weekly planning. This seems realistic, and it's not so extreme that some part of my psyche will feel the need to rebel against it.

It's also really important to turn your resolution into an action plan, ideally with a target. If you want to get fit, then ideally you would quantify this in some relevant way. You might want to lose 5kgs by a certain date. When you set a date, it's best for these dates to be no longer than 3 months out, otherwise the goal becomes too ethereal. Perhaps you want to run a 21km race towards the end of the year. In that case, it's best to make your first target to run a 10km race in the next two months. Having a goal with a date allows you to work backwards from that goal and set the incremental steps (i.e. a weekly plan) to get there. The weekly plan is critical, and that means scheduling time in your diary. I try to do the most important things in my day first thing in the morning. Afternoons have a sneaky way of taking their own direction, but in my experience, your mornings are a more reliable time to get things done. Our remote first culture allows you the flexibility to craft your day as you want it, and I encourage you to make use of the opportunity.

As humans, we're generally pretty bad at holding ourselves accountable, so you need to bring in support and introduce some healthy peer pressure from those around you. I suggest you tell as many people as you can about your goals, and ideally, ask someone you trust to check in with you on a weekly or fortnightly basis. In my case, I've asked my wife to keep my accountable – if she finds me watching TV any time other than Sunday evening after we've done our weekly planning, she has full permission to call me out on it and kick my ass. Not that she needs permission quite frankly :)

Finally, I've found that change can be hard, so it's important not to try and change too many things at once. Our psyches seem to only be able to handle a certain amount of change, so instead of trying to do a full makeover, rather pick 1 or 2 things to shift the needle on, and then dedicate yourself to changing those wholeheartedly. The good news is that these items will soon become entrenched habits, and won't require the same intensity of will power to continue doing.


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