Achieving your New Years resolutions

Well the first three months of 2013 are almost over and some of you may have experienced that temporary but wonderful feeling that you could do almost anything and that ‘this year things will be different’! Not that there is necessarily anything terribly wrong with your life the year before but why not trim the fat, shape up, start those piano lessons  and just become the person you know you can be?  If One Direction can break America then surely you can break a few more sweats at the gym?

It’s quite likely that this surge of hopeful energy which accompanies the New Year can definitely provide the momentum for change but if you were to see a long list of your previous resolutions and a tick next to the ones you had achieved, well, you might just have some cutting words to say to the next person who mentions the word ‘resolution’.

The problem with resolutions is that it is extremely difficult to focus for more than a few weeks (let alone months) on more than one thing. Admittedly I’m a man and therefore wonderfully inefficient, but I’m sure even the most hardened over-achievers would struggle to become a great cook,  learn the ukele and be a better lover, all in the space of a year.

There are people out there; scary, goal achieving machines who might make you feel inadequate if you let them. But these people know a secret. Not one, all-encompassing secret perhaps, but a clever collection of truths which they harness to achieve success. As a hypnotherapist specializing in performance enhancement for musicians, dancers and actors and a professional jazz singer myself, I have gained an understanding of how these ‘top-achievers’ succeed where others fail or go off the boil:

1) They don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. Probably because the things they plan to do in 2013 had been bubbling under the surface of their minds’ for quite a while BEFORE New Year’s Eve 2012. If you need a particular time of year to fire yourself up enough to achieve important goals, how important can they be? Also, how can anyone be excited, let alone motivated by the word ‘resolution’? Resolution sounds stuffy, formal and smells of mothballs. Why not use your own word or phrase? I have a friend who makes ‘revolutions’ at the beginning of the year. His mistake was to study politics at University but at least this particular word works well for him.

2) They are realistic. These ‘resolutes’ are brutally honest about what they are likely to achieve and be motivated by. The rest of us weave a mist of forgetfulness over whatever happened to our last promises and keep on thinking that things will be different the next time. As Einstein apparently said, ‘the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over, expecting things to be different.

3) They decide if ‘becoming a better lover’ (or any other resolution) is actually worth the time and effort. Guys- Are you prepared to read and make notes on ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’? Or drag yourself to the gym when ‘Dancing on Ice’ is on (that’s still for you guys)? Having a six-pack is something I have liked the idea of for a number of years. But has my desire been strong enough to exercise 4 times a week AND cut out all processed food- for six months? Close. But not quite.

4) They don’t need to tell everyone about it. Because if you need to shout it from the rooftops, then perhaps the reason for your new challenge is to impress other people (or just yourself). You might enjoy the temporary high that comes from the praise and attention you receive from your friends, family and pet rabbit, but doing the ‘work’ is another matter.

5) They DO share their goals, dreams and New Year’s Resolutions on platforms which make them ACCOUNTABLE. They might for example share their plans on business Entrepreneur forums, or with like- minded people with a similar passion to be inspired. And because there are many high-achievers in these groups, everyone feels inspired to act on their ideas. There are even websites now which encourage you to share your short and long-term life goals, as well as thriving Facebook pages offering opportunities for immediate collaboration and support. All very important I think.

6) They break resolutions down into specific manageable parts. So instead of ‘becoming the next Jamie Oliver’ they might scale things down to, ‘attend the best cookery course I can afford’ or work though one recipe from Jamie’s book each week. One technique I have found helpful with weight-loss clients for example has been to stress that they ONLY partake in 5 minutes of exercise per day. For people who would prefer to leap off a cliff rather than hear the word ‘exercise’, most people can easily manage a short period of activity. What usually happens is that after a few weeks they begin to find it difficult to keep to the agreed limit and end up enjoying what was once a chore. Why not try this idea out with all of those daunting goals that you keep putting off?

7) They focus intensely on the things they want rather than what they don’t. If I were to say to you, ‘don’t think of a pink monkey’ you will find this image creeping swiftly into your mind. This is how your devious brain operates. Your subconscious mind ignores the negative ‘don’t’ part of the sentence and reacts instead to the juicy parts, especially strong visual images. Hypnotherapy works essentially by helping your mind create the right words and pictures to inspire a beneficial outcome.

8) They only spend time on goals which align with their core values in life. Sounds a bit New Agey I know, but what this means is that we need to spend a bit of time working out what things really matter in our lives BEFORE giving a thought to New Year’s Resolutions. According to Positive Psychology founder, Martin Seligman, people whose goals are intrinsic and personally meaningful are happier than people who base their goals on meeting other people’s expectations or comparing themselves to others.

8) They can control their ‘spotlight of attention’ to achieve their resolutions. They may love chocolate muffins for example but to lose weight they are able to distract themselves and look at the salad instead. They may even avoid the places which used to tempt them. This process is easier when you have a BIG goal or exciting long term vision for yourself. The more you associate with this new version of yourself, the more easily you can focus on all the good stuff.

9) They have a mentor. This could be a friend who has already done or been through the same experience. If you want to get fit for 2013, why not go to the gym with your hard-core gym friend or hire a personal trainer for a few weeks to give you the knowledge and the motivation. Want to be a better marketer? Why not befriend an expert and learn from them through a webinar. No successful person or company goes it alone. Especially not these days.

10) They are comfortable with an interesting paradox. They are both strongly aware of living each minute to the full and also knowing that life is not just about ‘success’ or the end result. They dream big dreams and set goals BUT realize that the real payoff comes through actually doing the work in between. Quite Zen-like but true for many people.

More and more of us are beginning to understand how important the subconscious (or unconscious) mind is in both helping and sabotaging our efforts to change and be happy. It is widely accepted that most of what we do and what we think is directed by the subconscious. In effect, we spend most of the day on autopilot, our past experiences shaping our responses, moment to moment.

Breaking habits or gaining new, healthier one’s is often tricky when you try and go against the might of the subconscious status quo. Not the status Quo that wears a ponytail and sings about microwave ovens, but the status quo that keeps you safe; doing, saying and being those same things that may have once helped you survive or thrive in the past.

As your doctor may have told you, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Your subconscious mind operates in the same way but with slightly less regard for whether you like it or not. Resident psychiatrist with the British cycling team, Dr Steve Peters, in his book ‘The Chimp Paradox’ talks about learning how to manage your ‘chimp’. I’m sure you can have a good guess as to what he’s referring to. Clue – it’s not your conscious mind.

A good example is the smoker. Behaviour which the subconscious mind accepted as ‘cool’ and a means to make friends, is continued even when, consciously the person knows they should stop the habit. And the longer that person smokes, the more the subconscious sees this behaviour as the normal, ‘default’ behaviour. Understanding this fact can be indispensable, especially considering most resolutions revolve around breaking long-term bad habits and taking up new ones.

As a hypnotherapist I believe I work in a profession which is fantastically placed to help people align with what they really desire in life. Hypnotherapy allows people to take better control of what they focus on – their spotlight of attention. All those pesky, distracting thoughts, all those inner voices tempting you with muffins from Starbucks, can be quieted down with the help of a skilled hypnotherapist.

Want to lose weight but need someone to help you focus on positive thoughts and living healthily? That’s my job. Even habits and addictions which we see as being ‘part’ of ourselves can be dissolved, often as quickly as they began. It’s no magic wand but if you genuinely want to lose weight, stop smoking or enjoy better relationships (without having to re- read ‘Fifty Shades of Grey!) then Hypnotherapy may well be the answer.