I stopped making new year’s resolutions a long time ago and felt liberated.

Are you sat there thinking, ‘Yes, why am I not where I want to be with mine?’

Many people say exactly that, just a month into any new year.

I know this from experience and from what I read and hear from others. I know this because gym attendance falls by February each year!

The general despondency and amazing excuses people use: ‘Diets just don’t work for me’ and ‘That flu bout has left me with no energy to even start training for my half marathon.’

By early Spring there is total apathy and so many people have reverted to old habits and have put that new year’s resolution to the back of their minds with the thought that they’ll think about it again in December.

So why does this happen?

A new year brings different things for different people: new beginnings and enthusiasm for some, but a little sadness following the Christmas hype for others, and oh-so-often, January can seem very flat, with Spring a long way off.

I remember the more negative tendencies taking hold at earlier points in my life so that is why, in more recent times, I have abandoned those new year’s resolutions for more positive approaches and thinking.

It has resulted in a happier and more fulfilling life.

Every day is the first day of your life ahead so why wait for the start of a new year to make a change or to work towards something that you want to achieve, whatever it may be? Think about starting each day with renewed enthusiasm and motivation, despite any setbacks from the day before.

Don’t be vague regarding what you want – read on and you will get the gist!

People say it is good to plan. I am a planner; however, there is a ‘BUT’. I have learnt to be responsive to changing situations and look afresh at these when necessary.

Set yourself a goal: something you want to achieve, to have, or aspire to be. I now think about this every day.

Others say, ‘live in the moment’. I try to do this too – take opportunities when they present themselves, never say ‘I can’t do that’. Instead, suggest that you may be able to: ‘I might struggle with that, but I’ll give it a go’. Be brave, if only a little.

For me changing the mindset has been key to taking myself forward with plans and dreams – try it!

When I reflect on some of my biggest challenges in life, and they probably started in my early teens when I was shy and lacked confidence, I realise that I dreamed ‘big’.

I might not have shared my thoughts openly or even confided in friends or family at that time, but I knew then that whatever I did, I wanted to do it to the best of my ability.

We tell our children when they are worried about a challenge in their lives: ‘Just do your best’ but how often as adults do we shy away from those biggest challenges?

So often our history and experiences: our upbringing, the parenting we receive, school life and friendship circles, have an impact on how we are as adults.

Research and theorists talk about this too. Sometimes we take the easy option and give up rather than be seen to fail, or we make excuses for not achieving.

Change your mindset now. Think of those new year’s resolutions or even last year’s goals and consider these top tips for success;

Start each day afresh

Yesterday may have gone badly. You did not achieve what you set out to do. Too many interruptions. New and unpredicted, unexpected or unanticipated issues and problems arising which needed your urgent attention. You cannot change that. Forget it and look to the day ahead. Be positive.

Set yourself a SMART goal

This is key. Consider what you want to achieve longer term: I want to pass my qualification by the end of the year; I want to be able to run 5 miles without stopping by the end of June; I want to drop a dress size or suit size by my sister’s wedding in mid-July. Make it specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timebound. Then break it down into smaller steps to get you there.

Prioritise

Things change. Each day consider your wider responsibilities, tasks or jobs. Firstly, list what is important to move you forward to achieve these and mark on a scale of 1 – 10. Then list separately what is urgent. These are often things that others need of you. Then prioritise and decide what you can do first and what you can do last: this may drop off today’s ‘to do’ list.

Start doing things which make a difference and move you forward in life

Stop focusing on the ‘quick wins’, the small tasks that you think need doing but get you nowhere, apart from reducing your job list. They can wait if they have little impact. As a visual aid, write yourself a short list of the things that you want to start doing because they WILL make a difference to your progress; the things that you will stop doing because they have little impact on your goal in general, and also the things that you want to do more of, as they provide positive outcomes, and those things that you want to do less of as they have negative outcomes. Refer to your list as a regular reminder of your commitments.

See setbacks as a challenge to rise to

You have a low coursework mark, this could result in an overall ‘fail’ when you take your written test paper, if this is also low. Can you do a revision paper to improve your chances of the outcome being a ‘pass’?

You pull a muscle which means you cannot train for your half marathon for at least two weeks. What else can you do to build your strength and stamina?

You know you ate and drank too much on holiday and you have put on 5lb in weight. What are you going to do now to get back on track with your diet?

These are setbacks, but they are not insurmountable. Forget about them and move forward with your goal, setting new, small steps if need be.

Take pride in your progress, however small

Small steps set you on your way to that longer-term goal and mean progress. Consider which small step you need to take to get things going faster or more efficiently: set yourself a clear date and time to do that revision paper, research strength and stamina building exercises that you can do from your living room and start them tonight. Decide that you will eat only fruit, vegetables and high protein foods and no carbs for the next fortnight to give your weight loss a ‘kick start’.

Give yourself a pat on the back when you achieve something and use positive affirmation: ‘I did what I said I would do and I have made progress’. Look at what you HAVE achieved and be proud.

Bounce your ideas off positive, forward-thinking people

Whether it’s jealousy of your success or people prone to pessimism, we all know people who will put us off our dreams, our plans or our goals in life. Don’t let this happen. Talk with positive-thinking people who have a zest for life and who will encourage and motivate you.

Use strategies from previous successes and apply them to your new goals

Consider what you have achieved in the past, how you got there, what really made a difference? Is there scope to apply the same strategies to your current goal? It may be something simple like setting aside at least 2 hours per week to research, instead of using social media.

There may be a realisation that you will need to do something totally out of character if you are to move forward with your goal. Perhaps something that you have never done before and that means stretching out of your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to fail. Why are some people even afraid to use that word?

Seek learning from failure

Once you realise that you cannot always get things right first time, or that something you have done could or should, have been done differently, you will become much more open to learning.

The word ‘failure’, which often sounds so negative, will become a ‘learning opportunity’ instead, and that is a positive. Turn it into such by saying to yourself: ‘That was tough, but it was character building and I will apply a different strategy next time’.

How often have you heard the expression ‘we all learn from our mistakes’? Use failure to reflect. ‘Next time I will . . . . . .’ and expect a positive outcome.

Next steps:

If you have set yourself a new year’s resolution and are struggling to move things forward, or if you have a goal to achieve and you could do with a little help, a good idea may be to consider using a qualified and experienced coach.

I am reminded of one of my favourite quotes from John C. Maxwell (leadership and management guru):

“When you see success as a journey, then you never have the problem of trying to arrive at an elusive destination. You’ll never find yourself in a position where you’ve accomplished some final goal only to discover that you’re still unfulfilled and searching for something else to do”.

See my personal development coaching page which includes links to client success stories covering the journeys that they took.

You can also find out more about the current introductory offer and read some questions and answers about coaching.

Contact Debra McAndrew, Early Years Advocacy via email; debra.mcandrew@earlyyearsadvocacy.co.uk or telephone 07470 235 250