New season, new start
Start a new season with an optimistic approach and a fresh set of resolutions.
Summer is always a big thing. During the summer build-up we go on diets, attempt to shape up, try on last year's clothes and decide we still need a little more work. Now that summer's coming to an end, we tend to lose steam. But why give up the optimism?
Resolutions are usually made at New Year's or before the summer, but in some ways the chances of sticking to them are stacked against you. Why? Because you'll only compare yourself with others, whether you like it or not, and when your mates start to fail it's too easy to justify following in their footsteps. And New Year's is so loaded with expectation that one slip-up feels like an earth-shattering disaster.
So what about post-summer resolutions you can make and work towards on your own terms? For a lot of us winter means greyness and the overwhelming temptation to stay in bed. The idea of giving your life an overhaul seems out of the question. But think about it, there's a lot less pressure and plenty of time to decide on things you really think you can achieve.
The fact is, human beings are creatures of habit, and even though making big changes can ultimately be very positive, doing something different is always scary. Changing set patterns and routines means that you have to step out of your comfort zone. What's important to remember is that change is sometimes necessary, as long as it's not just on a whim.
Write down a list of all the things you'd like to do or change, even if some are impossible. Now pick the task that's most important to you, and possible to achieve. Break it down into smaller tasks and set some deadlines for it. For example, if you've decided that you want to go travelling around the world for a year you'll need to work out how long it'll take you to save up, who you want to go with, what areas you want to visit, and what vaccinations and insurance you need.
Dealing with changes
Deciding to do something different can give you a big boost. But sooner or later, the hard work sets in, and you might feel that you just can't be bothered. If you've broken down your tasks into smaller sections, you can aim for certain milestones and reward yourself accordingly. If you're the type of person who loses motivation easily, make your rewards bigger at the beginning to get your enthusiasm going. Or if you are too easily satisfied, save the better rewards for the end.
- Don't try to do everything at once: too many people decide that they want to go on a diet, join a gym, give up smoking, change their job, and find a new partner all in one go. That just isn't going to happen all at once, and you're only making your goals more difficult to achieve. Big changes take time, and quick fixes can backfire, leaving you feeling disheartened or even like a failure.
- Prepare yourself: there's no point deciding to quit smoking if you're hoarding just-in-case ciggies under the mattress. The greater the temptation, the quicker you'll screw up. And you don't want to keep reminding yourself of what you've given up!
- Focus on the immediate: think about getting through the next minute, hour or day. Imagining a lifetime without alcohol/cigarettes/chocolate just won't help. And the further you get, the easier it will become!
Giving things up
Giving up anything that's played an important part in your life is going to be hard. There are bound to be times when your resolve threatens to cave in, even once you think the worst is over. If you're giving up something tangible, like smoking, save the money you would otherwise have spent. It soon builds up, and after the first tough month you can treat yourself to something with all the money you've kept back.
Don't lose sight of the fact that masses of people have been in your position, and gone on to conquer their bad habits. The key is to set yourself up with strategies for overcoming those inevitable moments of weakness, from talking things through with a mate to taking up an activity that'll keep you occupied.
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