It’s not easy making (and keeping) a new year resolution. An American study found that over 50% of resolutions were to do with exercise and weight loss. Other people will make resolutions more to do with improving their quality of life, such as spending more time in green spaces, or starting on a new activity. Even simple things like walking to the shops or school instead of driving are great Spring Resolution goals.
But other research has shown that after six months, less than half the people that made resolutions were keeping them.
So how can you make a resolution, and stick to it?
Make it positive, not negative
It’s easier to specifically do something that avoid doing something. So instead of making the resolution “I am not going to eat biscuits” try “I will have healthier snacks”. Instead of “I will watch less TV” try “I will walk the dog for 30 minutes every evening”.
Positive changes feel better to do, which means you are more likely to stick with them.
This is taken from the world of work, but SMART planning also works for personal goals too. Your Spring resolution should be:
- Specific: it’s for a specific defined action. Instead of “I will get fitter”, it should be “I will do 7000 steps a day” or “I will go to the gym twice a week” or “I will cycle to work at least once a week”. Lots of people like to write it down somewhere to make it clearer.
- Measurable: It’s something you can measure, like ‘walks per week’, ‘kilometres covered’, ‘cycle rides done’. You may wish to log it, such as by using the ‘Activities’ feature in OS Maps, or by writing in in the OS Adventure Journal so you can measure your progress
- Achievable: There’s no point setting a goal that’s impossible due to time constraints, lifestyle or ability. Set a goal that is practical for you, remembering that even a small change is much better than none at all.
- Relevant: Make the goal relevant to what you want to achieve and have an idea of how this will help get you towards it. If your big goal is to complete one of the long distance walking paths, planning to walk a few miles every day will help you reach it.
- Time-bound: Set a time limit for yourself. I don’t know about you, but when a task has a specific date it needs done by, I’m more likely to start doing it and nor procrastinate. So, plan your Spring Resolution to complete something in three months, or walk 100km in 2022. It’s also a good idea to set a goal you can start almost immediately. Why not start today – or even right now?
One other suggestion from the study above was setting interim goals. Split a bigger challenge into several smaller steps, then apply the SMART planning to each one individually. This means the first part will appear much more achievable, and once you get going… just don’t stop!
Get some backup
You’ll be more likely to achieve your goals with some help! A study looking at the motivation of students found that motivational support from friends and family boosted performance by 18%.
What does this mean for you? Get your family involved to encourage you to take part in your chosen activity, even when you really do not feel like it. Even younger children can be a great reminder system. Lots of people even use pets – especially dogs – who will absolutely demand they get their daily exercise on schedule, or where their care can be part of a mindfulness routine.
You could also find a friend or a group interested in joining you, and have a regular schedule for walking, going to the gym or something else. You’ll find walking, running and cycling groups all over the country, and clubs for all sorts of outdoor and indoor activities.
Make it easy on yourself
You don't have to set goals that are really difficult (although you can if you want to). At least to start, pick a goal that's relatively achievable - and then remember to congratulate yourself when you do it. Setting too difficult a target can be demotivational, so pick something you can do, even as simple as spending 10 minutes outside every day. Then set another... and another.
To make getting to your goal easier, you should also work on removing barriers. David Halpern, famously head of the 'Nudge Unit', described how removing small barriers and making something the default option can make it much easier to do. So if you join a gym, join one on the route between your work and home, and keep your gym stuff in the car. Find walking routes from your front door, so you don't have to drive first. Keep your walking gear all ready in a rucksack so you can pick it up and go. Make your goal activity the default option that happens if you don't make a choice.
“You are never too old to set a new goal or to dream a new dream.”
C.S. Lewis, Writer
Find some ideas
But what sort of goals should you set? You might already
have one in mind, but if you are looking for some inspiration, here's some
places to start...
- OS GetOutside Beginner’s Guides: Our huge collection of articles on everything from walking to using a compass, geocaching to wild swimming.
- OS Maps: There’s a huge collection of routes for walking, running, cycling, horse riding and more, created both by professional writers and the general public. You can search by location, distance and difficulty to find one to suit you, and with millions available you are unlikely to run out any time soon.
- Guidebooks: Covering all the most popular parts of the country, the Pathfinder Guidebooks, Short Walk guides and OS Short Walks Made Easy [links] guides can help you find interesting places to go, and help you make the most of your time with notes and tips. Even for your local area, you can discover new places.
- Walking and Cycling festivals: There’s hundreds of walking and cycling festivals around Great Britain in 2022 – they are a great way to explore a new area, and even meet new friends. We’ve compiled a list of all the ones we know about here.
Get the Gear
Depending on what you plan to do, you might need some equipment. The OS Shop has a wide range of gear for outdoor activities, including walking, camping, outdoor games and even portable coffee filters so you don’t have to skip the little luxuries. Explore the shop to find what you need
How can I sustain my resolution?
We’ve probably all done the thing where we start some new resolution, only to find it drops by the wayside after a few days or weeks.
"Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going."
Jim Rohn, Businessman and Motivational Speaker
Using some of the techniques to set achievable goals and get support, you can start to create a sustainable habit. Research into habits shows it generally takes around 10 weeks to create one, after which it becomes a part of your normal routine.
Tips from the study include having a trigger that makes you start the activity. This might be getting home from work, when you get up, or a Saturday morning after a leisurely breakfast. If you consistently link the activity to some regular event, before too long it will become automatic.
So what are you waiting for? Create your Spring Resolution today!