How to make changes that stick

Coach Judith Wardell says the beginning of the year is the time we usually reserve for new year’s resolutions and changing our lives, but there is no need to rush in. Lasting change comes through a period of quiet reflection.

Planning ahead for retirement


Judith Wardell is the founder of The Time of Your Life, a coaching company which is aimed at older people who are looking for a new challenge or ways to reinvent themselves, are proud of their past achievements but feel they do not necessarily define who they are today and who are too young to retire in the traditional way but want to change their work life balance. Here she outlines how the most important change comes from taking time to think things through.

It’s just over a month into 2020. The start of a new year is often the time to set new goals, to commit to changing bad habits and promise that this year will be different and that you will make that change. So how are you getting on? Do you still feel you have not made real progress? Have you reverted back to old habits now that you’ve survived January? If not, how can you make change that really sticks?

The usual trap we fall into is to rush into making rash promises. December is usually a very busy time. The push to meet year end work deadlines takes priority. Then the frantic Christmas circus takes over. And before you have had a chance to stop and think about what you really want to achieve in the coming year, you make a public declaration of your new year resolutions.

January should be the time to reflect and plan, not to set goals in a moment of panic. So why not invest some time now and revisit your new year resolutions. Making change happen takes time. The most valuable time you will spend is in the planning.

Here are my three top tips for making new year resolutions that last all year:

1. Consider your ‘why’

When people tell me they want to make a change in their life, they will often describe what it is they want to do. ‘I need to get a new job’ ‘I’m going to learn to play the piano’ ‘I want to lose weight’.

It’s an obvious place to start. Logically you then move on to setting SMART goals and creating a step by step plan. But when your motivation starts to falter, it’s easy to let the plan slip and the goal becomes a distant dream.

Spending more time understanding why you want to make this change and what it really means to you will make a big difference.

The things we want to do are usually not an end in themselves. There is a bigger picture. A reason why we want to make the change. What it will enable us to be, to feel, to achieve.

Why do you want to be fitter? You might live longer, but what is it about being fit that is important to you. Being fit will not necessarily make you happy, but it may be a means to enabling you to do something that brings you joy and purpose.

Being clear about your ‘why’ means you can create a vision of how life will be when you achieve your goal. A picture of how things will be different that engages all your senses. A vision you can conjure up easily when you find yourself flagging.

2. Choose your own style

Change comes more easily if you use your unique talents to help you get there.

I’m not going to offer a simple solution to how you can achieve your goals and beware the self help books that do!

The key is to know yourself and follow your own path.  Appreciate your strengths. What skills can you rely on to make change happen?

Understand your personality. What motivates you and will get you going?

Acknowledge your weaknesses. Who might you need to help you?

There is more than one way to achieve your goal – find what works for you and you will enjoy the journey as well as reaching your destination.

3. Put your whole self in…

New year resolutions are often like the Okey Cokey – you put one arm in then take it out again. In, out, in, out etc.

You work on one specific thing for a month and then stop. And then try something else.

Stoptober. Movember. Veganuary. Days for stopping or starting almost anything.

For change to make a real difference to your life you need to consider the whole and not the parts.

The human body is a complex and connected being. Our physical health is intrinsically linked to our mental health. If you want to lose weight or get fitter, consider how your mental health contributes to overeating or failing to exercise. The thing you most need to focus on may not be the most obvious.

Our lifestyle choices are interconnected too. You may want to change jobs or stop working in order to spend more time with your loved ones. What else may be preventing you from spending quality time with them? The root cause of the issue you are trying to fix may be something very different.

Reflect on your life as a whole. How do you spend your time? What choices do you make and how do these interact with other aspects of your life?

Work out what it is that you really need to change.

It’s not too late!


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