The second Friday of January is traditionally the typical day when people quit their New Year’s resolutions. It’s such a common habit that it’s even been dubbed ‘Quitter’s Day’. That’s the day when millions of us will give up on our good intentions – but one of Britain’s top ‘Mind-Over-Matter’ experts Howard Cooper can help. Start getting your brain into gear right away, urges Cooper, as he offers us his top 10 tips on how to stick to your 2019 New Year’s Resolutions.
Over the past 15 years, he’s built up a reputation as one of the country’s leading experts in helping people to change their lives for the better.Cooper has worked with thousands of clients to support them overcome their fears and phobias. He has helped them conquer fear of flying, phobias about animals and dogs, and has worked with others bringing about transformational changes to their lives, helping them to quit smoking and lose weight. He’s even used his own practical tips and lost 4 stone himself.
One of Britain’s leading ‘Rapid Change’ experts, Cooper is a qualified hypnotherapist and Master Practitioner in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), who has assisted at Paul McKenna workshops and has also co-hosted Virgin Atlantic’s ‘Flying Without Fear’ courses.
So to strengthen your resolve and beat Quitters’ Day, here are Howard Cooper’s ten 10 tips on how to stick to your 2019 New Year’s Resolutions.
Unleash the power of your imagination – it is stronger than your willpower
Most people try losing weight using willpower alone. But did you know, imagination can be more powerful? When I lost 4 stone four years ago, instead of resisting doughnuts using willpower, I imagined they were stale and mouldy. How much willpower would you need not to eat a mouldy cake from the bin? Harnessing the power of your imagination will help you beat Quitters’ Day.
Picture yourself as a Steady Eddie: Start small and plan smart
Don’t psych yourself up to race into January going to the gym seven days a week. You’ll be a prime candidate for Quitters’ Day because you are never going to keep it up. Tell yourself it’s better to start with an easy win and build on a cycle of success than fall at the first hurdle and feel like you’ve failed. Make robust mental preparations, but prepare physically, too. Make your first steps easy. Think ahead: lay gym clothes out the night before, have the presence of mind to prepare healthy breakfasts the night before. Focus mentally on that first step and momentum sometimes does the rest. Celebrate the little wins and give yourself plenty of praise for every step in the right direction.
Don’t demotivate yourself with ‘premature achievement’
Instead of imagining yourself having achieved your success, imaging yourself taking the steps to succeed. Let’s consider your New Year’s Resolution to lose weight, for example. Often people try to motivate themselves by imagining already being at their ideal weight. However, this can backfire. Connecting with the feeling of having achieved this, without actually doing so, nudges your brain to think you don’t actually have to do it to feel good. This can prove demotivating. It’s better to imagine feeling good ‘taking the steps’ to achieve rather than imagining the goal.
Planning to fail will help you to deal with any setbacks
Think about possible setbacks you may encounter. Imagine you’re trying to lose weight and you stick to a strict diet for three weeks and then eat one chocolate bar. You can either tell yourself: ‘That’s it. I’ve blown it!’ and then binge eat for the next five years, or you can get right back on track. Mentally preparing for if/when you fail increases your chances of handling these setbacks.
Develop a mindset based on discipline, not motivation
Now’s the time to develop a mindset that is all about discipline, not just ‘finding the motivation’. The best writers don’t suffer from so-called writer’s block, they just get on with it. Often just doing it comes first. Motivation comes second. Some people believe: ‘I need motivation to stop drinking.’ But, for one reason or another, the conditions aren’t quite right for them. They are looking to start an initiative based on a feeling. But what if you never felt ready? Develop the discipline to start regardless and, more often than not, the feeling of motivation will follow on naturally.
Think of your New Year Resolution as something you enjoy
Make a mental image of something you enjoy doing. Go ahead and do that now. When you picture this thing you enjoy, notice how you represent it. Is it a colour mental image or is it in black and white? Large mental image or a small one? Moving or still? Bright or dim and dark? Notice all its characteristics. These distinctions will help you develop the feeling of enjoyment. Now picture taking the steps to achieve your New Year’s Resolution but practise picturing it with these same characteristics. e.g. bright, as a movie, etc.
‘Chunk up’ your thoughts in an easy-to-handle bundle
Condense the detail of your internal dialogue. Try ‘chunking up’ and giving yourself just headlines of what you are trying to do. Contemplating the minutiae of every detail is demotivating. I asked someone recently: ‘What’s something you look forward to doing?’ They replied: ‘I would love to go to Glastonbury.’ So, I said: ‘Imagine it’s the day before you go to Glastonbury, how would you motivate yourself to get there?’ They replied: ‘I’d get my bags, catch a train and bingo, I’m there!’ I took our conversation further. ‘You’ve also told me you want to exercise every morning but are struggling. Why?’ They explained: ‘Well, I have to get out of bed. I take out my gym kit. Then I put it on. Next, I have to go downstairs. I’d open the front door. Then lock it behind me, and so on.’ They were breaking their task down into so many tiny aspects (the minutiae) they were freaking themselves out with the sheer number of steps involved. Chunk up your thoughts in easier-to-handle bundles.
Identify your emotional triggers, then work round them
Millions of us will be trying to lose weight in January, which can be challenging if we have been pre-conditioned mentally about food and its role in our life. Many of us learn when we are in our childhood that food can be used to make us feel better. For example, your Mum might have said to you for years: ‘Behave and you can have some chocolate when we get home.’ This endorses the notion that food makes you feel good. Skip forward 20 years. You’ve had a tough day. The feel-good food craving pops up again as an antidote to your current state. Picking yourself up without needing food can be a useful skill to develop. Work at developing alternative options.
Ask yourself the question: ‘Am I closer?’, not ‘Am I there yet?’
When you start your new regime, be mindful of the progress you are making in the correct way. Some people feel frustrated if they’re not losing weight fast enough. The problem is often that they’re focusing too much on the end result. They ask themselves: ‘Am I there yet?’. Instead, just ask yourself: ‘Am I closer to my goals today than I was yesterday?’
Grab a carrot and stick, and seek help if you wish
Give yourself something to move towards and something to move away from. It’s a carrot-and-stick approach. Imagine what your future holds if you carry on eating junk food, don’t drink less, don’t hit the gym and don’t focus on your health. Now imagine what your future looks like if you do focus on your health and nutritional wellbeing. Keeping the stark contrast between these futures in mind can help you make better choices. And don’t be afraid to seek outside help. Despite our best efforts to make life changes, sometimes simply seeking outside help is the best course of action. A hypnotherapist or NLP expert can help.
Howard Cooper is one of Britain’s leading ‘Rapid Change’ experts. A qualified hypnotherapist and Master Practitioner in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), he specialises in helping people create rapid shifts in their thinking. For more details of his work, visit www.rapidchange.works