December is here and so are the familiar conversations around holiday plans, New Years Eve plans and new years resolutions.

I am quite fond of new years resolutions because I think that it’s always interesting to take stock of one’s life and to reassess one’s personal goals.

However, I am not fond of how we tend to set ourselves a trap with these resolutions as well. The problem with setting specific targets is that the opportunity for failure increases and we end up feeling guilt and shame rather than success and validation.

So to help you avoid this kind of thing happening again I would like to share some tips on how to set manageable and obtaining goals. The greatest thing about a new years resolution is that it is an arrangement with your self. If you can honour and cherish yourself as much as you would anyone dear to you, then you should also be able to set realistic and obtainable resolutions.

  1. Keep it to yourself

This may not work for everyone or every resolution but perhaps you would like to choose at least one resolution that you keep entirely to yourself. Pick something incredibly personal and particularly intimate. It may be about your self-care routine, your sexual health, or your thought patterns. It may be about a certain behaviour you exhibit in your interpersonal relationships. Try to challenge yourself to choose something that you feel strongly about but might sound relatively insignificant to someone else. There is no need to share this with anyone. It shouldn’t feel like something you have to perform for someone, ever. It’s best to choose something that means something to you and you alone.

  1. Divide into categories

Sometimes we write long lists of new years resolutions. I know I have been guilty of this. Writing down goals can be a heady experience and it is easy to get carried away with the excitement of seeing our fantasies on paper. The problem is that we look at this list later on and find it overwhelming. Having one goal that isn’t accomplished is bad enough but seeing a list of things you haven’t yet achieved can be super demoralising. My advice to you is to choose three or four main areas of improvement and select at least one measurable goal for each.

  1. Choose values over vanity

When it comes to your new years resolutions this time, try to avoid the commercial traps of weight loss or anything else that targets your insecurities. Resolutions can sometimes end up making us feel worse about ourselves because we see this list of things we feel we’re lacking. It’s hard enough to foster good self esteem these days; the year shouldn’t begin with a list of things we aren’t.

My advice for you is to choose your resolutions based predominantly on your values and limit the superficial or material. Ask yourself what is important to you and what kind of a person you want to be. Ask yourself what attributes you value and which ones you would like to embody. And then pick a few key behaviours that you think exemplify these values.

  1. Bite size chunks

Our brains remember and learn things much quicker when we break down the learnt material into bite-sized chunks. We also tend to achieve more when set smaller tasks. So if you’re going to choose a resolution that takes a bit of effort, remember to divide this behaviour into smaller chunks. Try to set short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals for each resolution so that making it to level 1 feels like as much of an achievement as completing the challenge. Set check-in dates throughout the year so that you can track your progress rather than decide if you’ve achieved your goal in its entirety. This affords you more opportunities for successes and positive reinforcement and reduces the time between moments of praise and reward.

If ‘success’ and ‘achievement’ are only possible when the task is completed then you are giving yourself a 50% chance of experiencing failure. Breaking the task up into smaller chunks and looking for improvement along the way will mean that you can check-in regularly and increase your feelings of success and achievement. Try not to believe that success is only the difference between 0 and 10. If you go to a 1 and then from a 1 to a 2 you are making significant gains towards your goal and each one of these gains should be acknowledged and celebrated.

  1. Enjoy yourself

Our brains don’t perform well under stress. If you want to achieve your goals and particularly if you want to learn something, then you need to feel comfortable and secure. So try to relax and enjoy yourself. Try to make the task into a game. Get creative and put bells on it. Make it colourful. Our brains respond well when our senses are stimulated. Treat yourself. This means that achieving your goals should start to feel like something you actually want to do. Take pleasure in the process.

I will be on holiday for the next three weeks and will be back with a bang mid-January 2017. Please let me know what your New Years Resolutions are and give me feedback on how these tips work for you. I’ll catch you on the flip side!