If you really want to make some positive changes in your life during 2014 you need commitment and single-minded determination!
We always get told that change isn't easy – but do we really take this fact on board?
At this time of year we invariably think about the New Year ahead and promise ourselves that we will finally make those changes we have had in mind for so long – maybe to give up a bad habit or to lose weight and to get fit. It all sounds to wonderfully positive and optimistic, and we tend to feel better immediately, asif we have already succeeded!
However, as we also know, New Year's resolutions rarely survive until the end of January. They are extremely difficult to maintain. Why is that?
We are all stuck in our comfort-zones, to a greater or lesser degree. Our lives are governed by rituals and habits, which work for us on some level, otherwise we would not have incorporated them into our lives along the way. Making changes to these patterns is equivalent to swimming upstream against a strong current – you need to have sufficient energy and staying power for the long marathon swim!
So what can you do to improve your chances of success when it comes to positive behaviour change?
First, it is important to think through the change/changes you want to make very carefully. What are your goals? Why do you wish to change this behaviour? What are your reasons for wanting to change? What will it involve? How motivated are you to make these changes? What are your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to self-control? Are you sufficiently committed and determined?
If we try to change our behaviour often and constantly fail for whatever reason, this can seriously affect our self-esteem. So before embarking on a programme of self-improvement, thorough preparation is key.
Second, identify people in your life who will be supportive and who will encourage you, particularly when your motivation falters. Sometimes the people in our lives actually undermine our efforts at self-improvement, either consciously or unconsciously. It is important that we confront this behaviour if at all possible as it can easily undermine our behaviour change efforts. Let the poeple in your life know what you need from them in order to help you succeed.
In my psychology practice I advise clients who wish to change some aspect of their behaviour to get an exercise book or a journal and write down their goals and the steps they need to take, (short, medium and long-term) in order to successfully achieve these. It is a good idea to use columns for this purpose, and to have a column in which time frames are noted. A "comments" column is also useful, where insights or problems can be recorded.
And when your goals have been successfully achieved, be very aware that you will need to maintain, and practice the new behaviours for at least four to six months consistently for these to be incorporated into your life as an unconscious, self-sustaining behaviour.
Best wishes with all your endeavours in 2014!