This year it's going to be different. No, really...
The New Year resolution. An exercise that started off with the most wide-eyed innocent belief that, this time, things can be better, and sadly often ends with the crushing acceptance that recalibrating our selves can be a nigh-on impossible challenge.
But plenty of people do manage to stick to the resolutions each year. How do they do it? The key is often in how they approach the whole ordeal from the very start.
The NHS have offered some handy tips for keeping your resolutions, from Professor Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire. He studied 5000 people’s attempts to keep their resolutions and found some trends that point towards what can give you that edge in making a wishful pledge, sworn in a haze of champagne bubbles, into a permanent life change.
1: Don’t be greedy, just pick one
By focusing on a solitary goal you hugely increase your chances of success. Pick the thing you really want to achieve and channel all of your energy into realising it.
2: Give it some thought
While not be able to fit into your favourite dancing pants at 8pm on December 31st might be the greatest impetus known to humanity to resolve to hit the gym come January 2nd, if you haven’t seriously considered a new fitness regime before now you might be tweaking that hamstring for no good reason.
Plan ahead and work out your goal, and then break it into concrete, manageable segments that you can achieve on the way to the ultimate goal.
3: Avoid repeated mistakes
To brutally paraphrase Samuel Beckett – if you’ve already failed, you can only fail better. In this context that means don’t even try.
Pick a new goal, not a retreading of your 2014 promise – one that will only fill you with memories of failure.
4: Utilise the power of shame
Shame is an incredible motivator that philosophers and sociologists have pondered for decades as a driving force behind human life. We build ourselves and our societies on what other people think of us - whether we realise it or not. So you should use this genetically-unavoidable clamour for praise to kick you off the couch, or drag you away from the fridge.
Tell your family and friends what you’re doing, really make a big deal, possibly stand on a chair and punch the air as you describe the new you that is a mere six months around the corner. Feel free to disparagingly compare New You with Current Them. Forge a memory for the crowd.
Make such a scene that there is no way they won’t notice if you’re still getting out of breath after reaching for the biscuits on Paddy’s day.
On the far more positive side you’ll have a network of support as you pursue your goal. It’s most likely going to be a trial at times and taking it all on without having an outlet to vent every now and then, or anyone around to offer encouragement or a word of advice, is only amplifying the challenge you face.
5: Accept you’re human and you, and your efforts, can never be perfect (even if you do finish that marathon)
You will slip up, you will fall back into old habits from time to time – but don’t let them derail your overall project. It’s about making permanent changes, not living like a prize fighter preparing for a world title fight for eight weeks and then parking your newly toned torso on the couch for safekeeping until the end of time.