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Creating lasting habits by moving towards what you love rather than away from what you fear.

Each New Year begins the same for most people – a resolution to eat healthier, exercise more, drink less and a host of other endeavours for success. For most of us these resolutions are quickly forgotten with a sense of guilt and failure by the time January has come to an end. Life continues, we are stuck in our routines and we wonder why, yet again, we have failed to stick to our resolutions for success and happiness.

Perhaps part of the problem is that we believe these steps will bring us happiness. “If I am skinnier I will be happy”, “If I get that promotion and make more money then I will be happier”. Sound familiar? These sorts of statements generally come from a place of fear and negativity – a belief that you are not good enough already – “I am too fat”, “I don’t have enough” are statements that are repetitively made and indicate that you are not happy with yourself. Making resolutions around such fear based beliefs only set us up to fail. We are so afraid of ourselves that our resolutions include goals that are mostly unattainable, such as resolving to eat only lettuce for lunch and to run 5 kms every day when we haven’t done a stitch of exercise for the past six months. Who is going to be able to stick to eating only lettuce??? Likewise, a person who doesn’t exercise regularly will likely keel over or be injured attempting to run 5 kilometres as a first run. The goals we set for ourselves can actually set us up to fail and result in us feeling even worse about ourselves – guilty and hopeless.

What if we started focussing on ourselves in healthy and enjoyable ways and stopped making New Year’s resolutions altogether? What would that look like for you?  How would it feel to set yourself up for success?  Instead of setting goals that move us away from our fears, why not establish habits that take us towards the things we love? Perhaps find a physical activity that you really enjoy doing rather than setting a goal for unrealistic exercise. Choosing something that is enjoyable for you is far easier to continue doing than forcing yourself to do something you dislike.

Move yourself towards activities and hobbies that interest you and give you enjoyment. In this way you get out, exercise and possibly meet new people. You will find that you will want to do these activities and sticking to it is not a chore. Before you know it you may find yourself taking on more strenuous activities, enjoying exercise and looking better for it. In the same way, instead of resolving to eat only lettuce, why not work at creating healthy and enjoyable eating habits. Work towards things like stopping eating when you are satisfied, not going back for seconds and enjoying a dessert once in a while or in a lesser portion instead of routinely.

Focus on your positive attributes and work at enhancing these. Let go of the things you perceive to be your limitations. You may be quite surprised at how often your inner voice and thoughts currently emphasize your limitations rather than your strengths. Look at the areas of your life that are working and invest energy in those areas, instead of focussing on negative aspects and finding ways to run away from them. For example, if you are dissatisfied with your current weight, focus on the strengths you have that can help you make a positive change in your weight.  These might be traits like you are good at research and so can find the necessary apps, tools and people to help you achieve your weight goals.  Or, perhaps you are strong as a project manager for others and using those skills on yourself, where you and your weight goals are the project, will result in positive change for your.  Whatever your unique strengths are, acknowledge them and, most important, harness them to allow yourself to flourish.

By focussing your energy on the positive, you minimize the negative. So, this year let your resolution be not to make resolutions but to do more of what you love.  Focus on yourself and your strengths and let the rest flow naturally.  The psychologists and executive coaches at the Centre for Human Potential  are available to assist you with achieving your goals.