I recently sat down for lunch and a natter with my friend Sarah Leach, who is a brilliant Life and Career Coach. It was more of an interview really, as I wanted to write about my own experience with coaching. But I also used the opportunity to pick her brain about the best way to make successful changes in your life this year.
I’m reluctant to say that we are talking about New Year’s resolutions here, because I know that for a lot of people that phrase is enough to make the shutters come down. However, thinking about ‘what I’m going to do differently’ looms large in January. Would anyone reading this say they have nothing they want to change or work on?
It is Sarah’s job to help people discover what they really want out of their lives, and then plan how to make it happen. No surprise then that (in my humble opinion) she’s also really good at making change happen for herself.
Here is her advice for making your resolutions stick in 2018, with the odd thought from me mixed in.
Do you really want it?
“On a scale of 1 to 10, how badly do you really want to make this change?”
Sarah says this is the first question you need to ask yourself, and be really, really honest about what the answer is. Do you truly want to lose weight, or start going to the gym, or give up sugar and caffeine? Or is it something that you think you ought to be doing? Or that other people think you should be doing?
If you are close to ten, then you’ve got a chance of making it happen.
12 is the magic number
If you want to make a change permanent, then you need to make it habit. There’s evidence to suggest that in order for something to become habit, you need to do it at least 12 times. So that’s 12 spin classes, or 12 packed lunches, or 5k runs, or days without wine! Apparently this is the point at which the behaviour starts to happen unconsciously, and so it becomes part of your Brilliant New Life.
This is about ‘accountability’, a very coach-y word I reckon. Basically, if you tell someone about what you are planning to change or achieve, then you are more likely to see it through. It keeps you focused, if only because you don’t want to let them down. This could seem a bit daunting, because no one likes the prospect of failing in front of others, so I would add; choose your friend wisely.
I have subconsciously made this a part this new blogging project. I kept writing about it on Instagram, or telling friends, even when I feel like a fool. It is just a strategy to stop myself from giving up. If I’ve told everyone, I’d better just bloody well get on and do it.
Put it in your diary and commit
Sarah’s a pretty fit chick and healthy chick. She says that one way she makes sure she shows up and sticks to her fitness goals, is by committing to sessions in advance and putting them in the diary. That can also mean paying for a course of classes up front. Just another little way you can help to keep your resolve, part with some money…
To make even more of a binding contract with yourself, personalise these commitments. So make yourself accountable (that word again) to someone else. So perhaps arrange to meet a friend for a run, or pay a personal trainer to help you get fit? If you are going to let someone down if you don’t turn up, you are that bit more likely to get on with it.
Stick it on the fridge
Sarah believes that it is powerful to put visual reminders of your goals and resolutions up around your home or work. So if you want to travel three times this year, put up pictures of the places that you want to visit. If you are saving up for a new house, or sofa, then stick a photo of it somewhere you will be reminded of it all the time. On the fridge or anywhere in the kitchen seems like the obvious place, or at on your desk if the goal is work related.
It works with children, why shouldn’t it work for us? We’re just big kids. Give yourself a treat for getting through the week without online shopping, or having a gin. Seriously, it could be a sticker chart. Or a favourite biscuit, or slice of cake. Give yourself a pat on the back.
Don’t make it a New Year’s thing
Oh. But isn’t this exactly when we tend to be setting these new goals?
Sarah says the point of this one is simply “don’t wait for a date, or month, or deadline to make changes in your life. If you want something, wake up and do it today”.
Not About the Kids explained
Not too much at once
If you are trying to make twenty wholesale changes to your life all in one go, how do we think that’s going to work out? ‘I’m going to get thin, fit, save for a new house, learn French, make new friends, and find a better job this year’. Lottery winning odds that you’ll achieve it all. Sarah says that the brain can only hold on to a certain number of tasks at any time. So the advice is to pick the one thing that you want most, and tackle that. Three at the most.
The notepad trick
To keep your chin up through the whole thing, it can be useful try and end the day in a positive frame of mind. So before lights out, write down 3 things that you have done well. It can be really mundane stuff, like getting everyone out of the house on time, or, cooking a proper dinner that includes veg.
We can tend to lie down at night and start to beat ourselves up about the things we haven’t managed to achieve. This little practice turns that thinking on its head. If you can wake up and do the same thing again in the morning, then double win!
Thanks to Sarah at Stride coaching for these gems, hopefully you’ll find one or two useful. I reckon that’s all it takes.
What do you think? What’s helped you make proper changes in the past? What do you want to achieve this year? Comment away, I would love it.