Ever set a NYs resolution only to find that by the second week in January it’s long forgotten because you are back to work and other things just seem to take over.
I know I have. When you’re on holiday over the Christmas period all sorts of things can seem like a great idea - I’m going to go to the gym, sign up for pilates, read more, give up caffeine etc…
Perhaps you’ve just set a NYs resolution and maybe you were even bold enough to tell a few people in the hope that it will keep you accountable. But here’s the thing, unless your idea is just part of a detox programme to get over a little overindulgence during the Christmas break, the idea is that it will last a long time and ideally become a new habit. You might give up alcohol or caffeine for a month - this is deliberately only short term. But taking up pilates might be because you have been told by several medical professionals that it will help you long term with lower back problems, so this is not a do it for a month fix - you’re aiming for a long term new habit.
Why do the good habits seem so hard to form?
A lot of us have a ‘...when…’ mentality. Myself included. “When the weathers better I’ll start running”, “When I’ve got more money, I’ll start saving”, “When I’ve got more time, I’ll take up the guitar” etc. You get the picture. You know how it works. There is always some elusive time in the future when everything will line up and make the circumstances perfect to take up this thing or that, or give up something you know you should. This 'time', may of course never arrive, so this is the one great thing about New Year’s resolutions. The time is now! You’ve made the decision and it is a prompt to get your ass in gear and create a good habit.
Have you made any New Year’s Resolutions this year?
If you have, I’d like you to consider implementing these steps to make them so much more likely to last. It turns out that we need motivation and harsh realism in a perfect mix to make goals reality and psychologist Gabrielle Oettingen has developed a strategy to achieve just this. For those of you who love research, there is extensive evidence to highlight how this has helped people develop new habits in all areas of live and across a wide age range. But for those of you ready to make your NYs resolutions work - here are the steps to take:
The strategy is called - WOOP
It’s an acronym for Wish, Outcome, Obstacles, Plan.
How it works:
What would you like to achieve or accomplish - state it in a few words and imagine it.
E.g - I would like to go for a run tonight when I get back from work
What is the best outcome you would like to get if you fulfill your wish? How would you feel, what would be the best thing about this outcome? State it in a few words and imagine it happening.
E.g - I will feel energised and a sense of achievement for going for a run
What might hold you back from achieving your wish? Think about what in you might hold you back, feelings or beliefs you might have. There may be a few things that crop up, but be honest with yourself and pick the one main obstacle. Now really imagine this obstacle occurring and affecting your wish and outcome.
E.g - I am prone to giving in to a feeling of tiredness when I walk in the door and sitting on the sofa
What can you do to overcome your obstacle? What one action could you take to make sure this obstacle does not stop you from achieving your wish
E.g - I could remind myself how good I’ll feel after going out for a run
Now - Create an 'if...then...' statement.
If (insert Obstacle) occurs, then I will (insert Plan).
E.g - If I feel tired when I walk in the door then I will remind myself how good I’ll feel after the run.
Repeat this to yourself three times
This is like pressing 'go' on your new programmed habit. Try it first thing in the morning to get something done that day, or use it for your bigger more long term goals like NY Resolutions. I hope the first week back to school goes well for everyone. You can use WOOP even for how you plan to deal with difficult situations that might arise. Play around with it and comment below on your experiences :-)
Clare Martin is a the founder of the Positive Teacher Network who specialises in helping teachers to find the ultimate Work Life Balance and supports them with many of the difficulties teachers face today.
The Positive Teacher Network provides practical tips and strategies to busy, tired teachers to help them improve their lives allowing them to focus on being great teachers.