It’s about that time in January when resolutions start to fall by the wayside. The first flush of enthusiasm has faded and people begin to revert back to their old habits. We’ve probably all done this – it’s so easy to trip yourself up, despite your best intentions.
Here are 3 unusual ways that you can prevent these slip ups.
Be honest with yourself
Lots of self-help books effectively encourage you to lie to yourself. In order to form new habits and overcome resistance to them, you are often encouraged to tell yourself that it isn’t a problem and that you can do this.
The trouble is that you end up lying to yourself about how much of challenge you are facing and this leads to frustration, uncertainty and then regret when you lapse and fail to keep your promises to yourself.
I’m absolutely in favour of being positive and having strong self-belief, but you also need to be honest. If you are quitting smoking, for example, this isn’t a breeze by any means, so you do need to acknowledge the challenge you are up against.
You can still believe you can succeed, but appreciating the extent of the change you have in mind will help you take it seriously as well as feel truly positive for every day you succeed.
Change your associations
I don’t mean the people you associate with – although that can certainly make a difference! I’m talking about the feelings and meanings you have attached to your negative habits.
For example, if you tend to over-eat then this is because you have a strong association between eating (to excess) and pleasure. This could be for a number of reasons – security, comfort, avoidance etc. The important thing is that you have a powerful association between eating food and pleasure.
Most people who over-indulge will also have formed a strong association between not eating (dieting) and pain. This could be the pain of failure on previous diets, a feeling of denial and loss.
So, the big idea is to switch your associations. You need to see dieting as fun, nourishing and positive as it leads you to a much fitter, sexier, happier you. At the same time, you also need to see overeating and unhelpful food-choices (high fat and sugar meals, drinks and snacks etc) as causing pain and misery, by focusing on the negative impact they have.
Now, this is not easy, but that is what you need to do. You can reprogramme yourself to build these new associations. You need to attach strong feelings to your desired new outcomes and that will help you stick to the path.
Understand that you can’t be perfect all the time
No-one can! If you want to change along held negative habit – one that has been ingrained for a long time and has caused powerful associations to be formed in your mind, then you need to realise that you can’t do this perfectly forever.
You will slip up. It’s natural – resistance will pull at you and try to drag you back to your old habits, no matter how strong your resolve. Just remember that, for example, one cake did not make you fat and nor will it stop you getting slim.
If you realise that we all make mistakes, and get back on track while it’s only a minor slip-up, then you will still be able to make big changes. It’s the long-term habits we adopt over weeks, months and years that enable us to change our lives, so you need to see occasional one-off fails as just blips. Don’t let them derail you.
These 3 points are not about will-power, determination and self-control, but they are important. If you can be honest with yourself, change the things you link up in your mind and accept that you aren’t perfect, then you can make progress and not get too disheartened and give up altogether.