New Year Resolutions: tips to avoid trips

Set aside your Christmas lists for a few moments because  now is also the time for thinking about and planning out how you are going to accomplish your New Year Resolutions.      Do you sigh, or hear alarm bells, or look look upon this with dread?  Instead embrace it, or at the very least, start to tentatively consider in more depth a few of the plans that you have been mulling over for the last few weeks, months, or longer even.

January is a great time for new beginnings.  We are in the frame of mind for making changes, others around us are doing the same  – we’re in the mood for doing things a little bit differently.  However,  if you want to succeed with your behaviour change then you need to start early and follow a few simple steps.

The picture below summarises a stepwise process to follow for sucessful behaviour change.    It is a diagramatic representation of the “Transtheoretical Model” or Stages of Change model first put forward  by  the Psychologists Prochaska, Norcross and Di Clemente in 1994.   It is widely used by practitioners helping to bring about behaviour change in the their clients.  It is straightforward and quietly helpful and the good news is that we can use it to think through New Year Resolutions.

 (downloaded from Wikipaedia)

Pre Contemplation Stage

If you are here,  then surprise surprise, you’re at the beginning of the process.  You’re not thinking about change, or maybe you are actively resisting making changes, giving excuses for not doing anything:

  “I haven’t got time to exercise” for example, or “I can’t eat my 5 a day because I hate eating anything green”.

From a Pilates perspective:

 “I haven’t got time to do Pilates” or  “my Dr has recommended it for my back but it will be too hard for me” or “maybe I’ll do it some other time”

In other words, change is not absent – it is  lurking in the background and it is reassuring to think that pre contemplation  is the first stage of a process rather than being somehow separate from the process of change.

Contemplation Stage

If you haven’t reached the contemplation stage,  then now is the time.  It provides an opportunity to  think about change, to think about the idea of New Year Resolutions.

Now we might hear ourselves say

“My back hurts,  I really need to start doing Pilates”

 “I want to stay away from the booze more often”              

 “I want to start walking to work instead of driving”  

“Maybe it is time I joined the book group”

“I really should write letters for Amnesty  International”               

“I should cook healthy meals more often”

When it comes to New Year Resolutions,  at this time of year we are often at this stage, asking questions around what change or changes we want to make and why?   Weighing up the pros and cons of change.  How important is it?

Procrastination can sabotage our plans though –  it’s easy to get stuck  just thinking about what to do.

The road to some day leads to the town of nowhere

(That’s not one of mine alas, that is Anthony Robbins, Life Coach and author of many Self Help books.)

However,  if you really know that  behaviour change is important and the time is right, head to :

Preparation Stage

This is really important!  

What often happens is that come January 1st or 2nd we leap into action, jumping in at the metaphorical deep end of behaviour change – dieting, gym membership, eating better, drinking more water, jogging once a week, giving up smoking, drinking less, watching less TV or  joining that book group.      We jump from contemplation to action with no planning.  However, planning matters –  a lot.

For starters it may be that you need to prioritise your resolutions, pick  just one or two and plan to really stick to them.

This is a Pilates website so lets suppose you’re going to start doing Pilates.

Ask youself : What it is that you really want to achieve?

What is the intention behind doing Pilates? Is it to lessen pain and discomfort?  Help a back problem? Learn to relax more?  To tone up?  To move more, in contrast to time spent doing a sedentary job?  Pilates is what you are going to do in order to accomplish one of these possible outcomes.

Pilates might not be the only intervention that can help   Have a really good think about what else you could do to reach your desired outcome.     You might want to change something quite significant.    Fixing a back problem is  a big deal, for example.    It may be that Pilates alone isn’t enough.   What else needs consideration?  (Don’t forget though, Pilates alone might not cure the problem but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a valid part of the solution!)

Ask yourself plenty of questions:

  • Do you know anyone else that does it regularly.  Do they have any input or useful info to help you?
  • Do you like exercise that is fast and vigorous?  If so, then Pilates could seem very slow; boring even.  Might it  be better for you to do a couple of 1 to 1 sessions,  equip yourself with some Pilates based exercises for home and then embark upon a  jogging/zumba/bootcamp regime.
  • Do you have a day of the week or a particular time slot in mind?  Do your research – find what’s around in your local area.
  • Have you got the cash spare to pay for it?  How about doing a class once every  other week and practicing at home in the meantime.
  • Are you a bit scared of going to a class? What info might help allay your anxieties?.  Could you phone the instructor and ask questions?
  • Would it help to try and persuade a friend or relative to accompany you?
  • Do you need to co-opt family or work colleagues into this?  Does a partner or parent need to help with childcare?  Could a colleague hold the fort at work for an hour? Could you get up early and do a class first thing?   Would it work for you to do different classes on different weeks?
  • Have you got time? It could be a case of needing to plan to have enough time.    Come back to your reason for doing Pilates in the first place.  If it is important enough, then make time.      Time is a really tricky issue – as we all know.  It may be that an occasional class supplemented by ten minutes Pilates at home every other day is what works for you.   Instructors will always be able to recommend useful exercises for you to do at home.

Action Stage

The time has come to commit to the change.

You know what you want to achieve – more toned muscles, better posture, fewer back aches etc   Whatever that is, try to describe your goals using positive vocabularly.     To be successful you need your conscious mind and your unconscious mind to be working harmoniously towards the same end.  However, the unconscious part of our brain doesn’t distinguish between positive and negative.  It processes everything as a positive thought, so it will interpret the following

“I mustn’t miss my class” and “miss my class” in the same way and work on your behalf so that miss your class.

So re-imagine your goal as “I will attend my Pilates class every week”

“I mustn’t slouch at the dinner table” becomes “Remember to rest on the sit bones and sit tall when sitting at the dinner table.”

With your unconscious onside and ready to help,  how might you commit further?

  • Tell other people of your plans.
  • Make joint plans with a friend.  Then you have the added incentive of not wanting to let anyone else down.
  • Block book classes/sessions

You have planned out what you want to do.  In addition though,  think about rewarding yourself.

  • Leave the house and go into the cold, dark evening to do Pilates knowing that you can look forward to hot chocolate and a biscuit after getting home
  • Plan to chill out post class with a TV programme on catch up.
  • Buy new exercise clothes. After all, you can never have too many pairs of leg warmers!

Make a list of the potential benefits of your behaviour change.  With Pilates it is not simply a matter of seeing the benefits, you want to feel them as well.  Think about how you actually feel – take the time to notice and maybe even acknowledge your body.  Ask those close to you if they can see any changes.   What about taking “Before and After” pictures?  (Just a suggestion…)   Pain can be massively significant when it is there but its absence can go unnoticed so you might need to register it’s absence.

Maintenance Stage

Taking action isn’t the end of the process.   Even to reach the maintenance stage takes quite a few months of sustained effort.    Lasting change needs to be worked at.  Do remember that as the saying goes,

 A stumble may  prevent a fall.

A slip up or a temporary cessation needn’t lead to giving up. Be aware of what is happening – a slip up and just that.  Right yourself and keep going.

Don’t be too hard on yourself.   If something goes awry with your plans, then you need encouragement not criticism.   Be supportive of yourself in just the same way that you’d want a trusted friend to behave.     Whilst you are being good to yourself though,  beware of thinking that you can ease up with the effort of your behaviour change.   Keep your focus – that change can melt away all too easily.

In the illustration below there is another stage in the process:


Is is far more likely that you will relapse without adequate planning, but it is always a possibility so:

Believe in the wisdom of your resolution – plan it carefully

Believe in the path to reach your outcome  – set yourself an achieveable task

Look out for, feel, notice changes, and benefits in your body.   If there aren’t any, then do you need to do something else?

 Belive in what you are doing – so you stick at it

Reward yourself.  Dare I say because you’re worth it?  Yes.  Why should L’Oréal have the monopoly

Maybe just one more little quote:

the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

(Chinese Proverb from the 6th Century BC attributed to Lao Tzu, the founding father of Taosim)

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