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What makes resolutions work?

What makes resolutions work?

Psychologist Rachel Ward Lilley tells us what she has learned when it comes to New Year's resolutions.

So, how did your dry January go? Did you find it hard to refuse a drink when those around you were lapping it up? Did your resolution crumble on that Friday evening, after a tough working week? Or did you sail through your self-imposed challenge without faltering?

Now that we are well into February, it could be useful to take stock of where we’re up to with those resolutions we made, publicly or privately. There’s no use setting targets without measuring results, as they say. So, how did you do? Ten out of ten? Gold star and tick? Or was it more a case of good intentions slipping through the cracks in your resolve? Whatever the results, it’s a good time to remind ourselves that we are just human, after all and there are many reasons why we fall off the wagon. I’ve had more than a few failures over the years and here are some things I learned from them. Let’s be kind to ourselves and consider some of them.

Sometimes, we make the mistake of setting too rigid a goal. “All or nothing” is a pretty unforgiving maxim and it may be neither necessary nor appropriate for our purposes. If you’ve vowed to have a ‘dry January’ and are invited to a birthday party, where you refuse the offer of a drink, the situation presents challenges you may not have intended. You look like a spoilsport, and it becomes about you, not the host. How about introducing flexibility into your regime by making exceptions for social events? You’ve made your point to yourself and don’t need to hammer it home publicly. In another example, you may have decided to make a habit of walking to the supermarket instead of driving, but you would probably be relaxed about making an exception when you have an exceptionally heavy or bulky purchase to haul home.