The ringing in of the new year is often considered the "fresh start" or the time of transition, when in fact it's not. For it to be the time of change, we'd have to suddenly alter our ways on the strike of midnight without any struggle or further planning. But in truth, this cannot happen as humanity doesn't work that way. We are not machines to suddenly accept a new programming within seconds. We need to have our reflection and game plan ready to go before the 12 is struck.

     The preparation phase is when we reflect on our lives, consider what changes we could make, and begin mapping out what must happen for us to be more satisfied. This is normally what we do on New Years Eve. We might sit wistfully with the coming 365 days in mind, imagining what we want to happen. We have not planned how we can achieve our new goals, or plot how our internal or external resources will persist or resist our intended changes, only fantasised what we'd like to construct.

     Is it any wonder New Years resolutions are normally dropped in the first few weeks? You cannot build a brick house without mortar.

     Some people will find themselves teetering around the second week of January, avoiding the new action they brainstormed, blaming their lack of willpower, strength or commitment for the failure, when there are other reasons the new actions have not been impregnated into your lifestyle. I wanted to talk about the model of change in regards to how it should be implemented for the best results - with the person you are, not the person you could be.


     What are the reasons we fail at goals?

     1. The change isn't supported by proper planning. Let's say you want to quit smoking for your New Years goal. What's the first thing you need to do? Curb your craving. What would you need to do to support this? Rid the house of cigarette lighters? Buy nicotine gum or patches? Have an external place smoking friends can convene that won't tempt you?

     Change needs to be supported with tools and helpers. If you want to quit smoking and you start on New Years Eve, but go home to a home full of cigarettes and no nicotine alternatives, what is the first thing you're going to do first thing next morning? Smoke! "I'll just have one more before I start." The phrase that can bury our best intentions.


     2. Goals aren't realistic. It's common for people who are unhappy with their body to make unrealistic demands. Examples are, "I'm going to the gym for 3 hours a day!" or "I'm never eating chocolate again!"

     If goals aren't realistic, they aren't going to be easily followed. There's more chance you'll give in once, feel like you're a failure, then lose motivation to keep trying. We've all had that feeling where you think, "I've failed the last week. . . what's the point in trying? I'm just going to keep failing!"

     Instead, select goals that are possible. For example, "I will allow myself to eat chocolate once a week if I've attended the gym on Tuesday and Friday."


     3. The changes work against our personality. Bridget Jones was an English literature character, known for speaking out of turn and being clumsy. Many readers loved her worldwide for that simple fact. She was surely tempted at times to become a mute so she wouldn't embarrass herself. But would it be possible? No!

     Find solutions that complement your idiosyncrasies. If you are someone compelled to say the wrong thing at the wrong time, your goal might instead be, 'follow up awkward comments with a joke or jovial way to detract from the awkwardness' rather than a complete vow of silence. You might choose to give an honest "disclaimer" after, such as, "Gosh, that came out very wrong. I phrase things so badly when I'm nervous/distracted/busy." Let people join you in noticing your blunder.


     4. Goals aren't timely. Deadlines motivate us to act, to proceed on what we want to complete. Same goes when we are looking at New Years resolutions. If we say, "I want to move out of my parent's house," then where is the drive to hurry it up? We might find ourselves getting up each day, preparing to look at the apartment ads, only to say, "Eh, I'll do it tomorrow." A month might seem like a lot of "I'll do it tomorrow," but time can travel fast in procrastination.

     Goals that are marked by a time measurement are more likely to happen. "I want to move out of my parent's house by June." It gives us some urgency as straight away we begin to consider the time left and what needs to be done. Write down part-way goals, such as "I want to be signed to a new apartment by May" or "I want to have my clutter in storage ready for moving by April."


     5. We expect ourselves to get it right the first time. New endeavours are never smooth sailing. Think of the explorers who discovered land masses and declared them. They had to weather whatever came their way. They got lost, they went backwards, but they always came back for more. To make change, we have to be the same.

     Expect set-backs. If your goals is to learn to play the Ocarina, then it's not fair to expect yourself to learn it perfectly in a week. Some weeks you might learn five new notes, but other weeks you might only learn one. Is it really a failure if some parts take longer? It takes generally 3-6 months to learn and adopt a new behaviour to make it part of your future routine. Give yourself time. Even the world's most accomplished musicians have their days where they just can't hit that awe-inspiring note.


     6. We believe the hard part is the beginning. For some, the hard part is after a month, or two months. At the start we are motivated by our endorphins or excitement. When this wears off, we have to work hard to keep motivated. Every day is a new commitment to the change for at least a few months. Choose any business person who starts their journey excitedly drawing up their logos, posting their marketing materials to their colleagues, or answer the phone in a cheery voice. Ask them how the business is treating them in a few months and they'll report their successes and failures more honestly. The "everything is going swimmingly" bubble has probably burst.


     7. We don't deal with a failure correctly. Reprimanding yourself for a bad day isn't healthy. Instead, ask yourself why it didn't go to plan and consider if there was something you could change to further support your goal. Was the "failure" avoidable, and if so, what could you do differently to help cover if it happens again?

     Were there unfair reasons you're blaming yourself. For example, if your goal was to finish your studies early, only for your favourite aunty to pass away at the same time, is it really your fault? Or if you were going to bake some cakes to donate to a sick member of your family, but your stove breaks down on the day you freed up the time? Put the blame where it belongs - the events, not yourself.


     It's now a month into 2017. Hands up if you have a failed resolution already. Did you give up? Remember, we don't need a particular day to tell us when it's time to transition, only a decision we want to commit to it and put energy into it. This February 1st, live New Years again, making your goals more solid, using the tips above. Restart your goals with enthusiasm, with the knowledge that relapses mean a time of re-defining, not regression.