Making a change for good

1 January 2016

A simple guide to making resolutions and sticking to them

We recently researched a sample of 2,000 UK adults about their New Year’s resolution intentions - what they are, how likely people think they are to stick to them, and whey their resolutions have failed before. Our survey revealed that an estimated 29.7 million New Year’s resolutions were made at the start of 2016 - of these, 17% were dropped within just a week. But if you can manage it through those crucial first few weeks you’ll be winning, as almost half of resolutions that last until February will still be intact by the end of the year.

And while New Year’s resolutions may seem like a light-hearted tradition, they actually hold the potential to significantly improve quality of life - 37% of people in our research said that succeeding in their resolution would either radically or significantly improve the quality of their lives. So, whether they’re personal or professional, related to lifestyle changes, activity and fitness improvements, or even just general wellbeing, it’s worth wading through those seemingly never-ending January weeks to keep stick to them and make a permanent positive change.

Here at Central YMCA, we’re passionate about empowering people to make positive changes in their lives - our core mission is to help people make these changes and create happier, healthier and more fulfilled lives. So, to help make that change easier this year, we’ve pulled together six top tips to making achievable resolutions and sticking to them:

  • Ridding the label: First, stop thinking about what you’re doing as ‘resolutions’ - psychologically this makes them feel transient and almost doomed to failure. Instead, start thinking about making subtle changes in how you go about your days – aim to walk 1,000 extra steps a day, or only eat chocolate once a week, for example. It’s the small changes the often lead to the biggest life improvements.
  • Have a clear plan: A third of people fail in their resolutions because they failed to make a clear plan, with 1 in 5 failing because they tried to make too many changes. Take small steps and make the first goal something that is easily reachable - other goals can come afterwards. One of the reasons people often fail is that they want a complete overhaul of everything (fitness, nutrition, sleep, stress etc.). The best start might be simply to get off the bus, train, or tube a stop early and walk into work twice a week.
  • Become accountable: One in ten people we surveyed failed their resolutions as they kept their plan a secret, or didn’t receive adequate support from family and friends. Pick a couple of close friends or relations and let them know your intended changes. And ensure to keep them updated by chatting to them regularly about what you’ve been doing to make that change and how you think it’s going.
  • Focus on the journey rather than the outcome: It’s common to focus on the outcome, rather than the process of actually getting there, which is often the wrong way to go about things. It would be great to have a goal of ‘lose three stone by July’ but actually having the goal of ‘get to the gym twice a week’ - which is more process driven - is much more realistic. Ultimately, you might only lose 2.5 stone but you’re far more likely to keep at it.
  • Self-awareness is key: It’s useful to ask yourself a number of questions - What have been the barriers to you not making this change before now? How can you remove them or at least circumvent them? For example, if you keep snack food in the house and can’t resist it if it’s there, maybe don’t but it at all, or at least don’t buy in multi-packs, to avoid temptation. Knowing yourself and how you respond to certain changes and restrictions is a great place to start.
  • Pace yourself: Finally, and perhaps most crucially, don’t worry if you don’t hit a target, get to that gym class, or eat the right meal one day. We all have off days and there’s always tomorrow. Get back up the next day and start again, rather than scrapping your plans all together.

Rosi Prescott

Central YMCA’s Chief Executive

Rosi Prescott is responsible for running the world's first YMCA – Central YMCA – which operates locally, nationally and internationally. Rosi joined the organisation in 2004 and has played a huge part in the revolution which has taken place within Central YMCA over the past decade. In particular, she has spearheaded a number of high profile campaigns addressing issues such as body image, peer-to-peer health, apprenticeships and youth unemployment.