New Year's resolutions are easy to make -- and even easier to break. Year after year, as Jan. 1 hits, millions of Americans vow to lose weight, but a recent study shows that under 10 percent of people who make resolutions are successful in achieving their resolution. Why such dismal numbers? And what can be done to turn this trend around?
This year, it's all about focus. If you truly want to achieve the goals you set for yourself in the beginning of the year, follow these simple strategies, stay on track and super charge your life in 2014.
1. WRITE IT DOWN
Write down what it is you want to achieve. I'm a big fan of putting it down in writing as you can refer back to this when your willpower is flagging. You have to write what you DO want, not what you don't. So, don't write that you don't want to be overweight; you should write that you want to be healthy and slim. It's like saying, "Don't think of an elephant." Of course, you're immediately going to think of an elephant. If you write that you don't want to be overweight, you will immediately see yourself as overweight. It's really important to train your mind to focus on your positive outcomes.
2. IMAGINE YOU HAVE ACHIEVED YOUR GOAL
Imagine you have achieved the goal that you have in mind. It might be that you now go to the gym, or that you've had a promotion at work. You have to vividly imagine that you have already achieved it -- what will you see, hear and feel -- and then you need to figure out how you got there. It might be that you signed up to be a gym member. It might be that you had to show your boss that you are a really exceptional employee.
3. FIGURE OUT HOW YOU DID IT
Then you have to work backwards to realize how you got what you achieved. When you know the five things that happened before you achieved your goal, then you can take small steps forward. We call this "chunking." You can achieve a lot, if you break things down into enough small steps. A lot of people who join a gym will have stopped going by week three, because they try to go every day and they burn out. I have a friend who teaches people to shoot. He doesn't start them off with the 100-foot target -- he starts off with a target 10 feet away, then 20 feet, and he works them up to their goal.
4. KNOW THE PROS AND CONS
You have to ask yourself what are the consequences of you NOT doing this, what are the downsides? And you should compile a list. Then ask yourself about the benefits. If you get a promotion, you will have more money, you might be able to go out more or take a holiday. If you don't lose weight, you might be at risk of heart disease, or diabetes. Look at this list as often as you can. Eventually, this will make an important shift in your brain -- it will give you something to move away from and something to move towards.
5. DO AT LEAST ONE THING TO MOVE TOWARDS YOUR GOAL EVERY DAY
Do something every day that will move you a step closer towards your goal. It might literally mean taking a few extra steps each day if you want to lose weight. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Instead of driving around the supermarket car park looking for a space near the door, just walk the extra 10 yards. It also helps to imagine every day what happens when you achieve your goal and think of all the positive things you have already achieved.
Four of the biggest New Year's resolutions are to lose weight, give up smoking, boost confidence and get better quality sleep. Here are the secrets to keeping each one.
EASY WEIGHT LOSS
The single most important piece of advice I can give is that people who are overweight think about food all the time, except when they are eating it. They then shovel food down their mouths as fast as they possibly can. If you want to lose weight, you must eat consciously. That means slowing your eating speed down and getting rid of all the distractions. So, if you eat while watching the TV or surfing the Internet, you will eat more. This only takes a couple of days to get the hang of because we have something called "muscle memory." After a while, this will become second nature. If you slow your eating pace down, you are far more likely to hear the message from your stomach to tell you that you are full, so you will find it easy to eat less and not feel like you are missing out.
If you want to get better quality sleep, try setting your alarm for a half an hour earlier every day. So, if you normally get up at 7 a.m., try getting up at 6:30 a.m. instead. This resets your natural sleep cycle. The problem many people have is that they obsess about how much sleep they are not getting. But quality is just as important as quantity. Personally, I would rather have five good quality hours of sleep than eight hours of average sleep. It's also important to stop drinking caffeine after midday, and turn the TV off while in bed. If you watch action movies before bed, you will stimulate the brain with too much adrenaline. It should be a relaxing environment.
BOOST YOUR CONFIDENCE
Close your eyes and imagine someone who you think of as really confident and imagine you are stepping inside their body. See through their eyes and hear through their ears and notice where you feel most confident. Then give that confidence a color and imagine spreading that color up to the top of your head and down to the tips your toes. Once you are feeling that confident feeling, imagine taking this new confidence into situations where you need more confidence. For example, the next time you are about to give a presentation at work, or if you are going into a social situation that normally makes you nervous, then imagine being there while you are surrounded in this color of confidence. This will create a powerful association that will program your brain to feel more confident.
GIVE UP SMOKING
There are lots of different methods that will help you give up smoking such as hypnotherapy and nicotine patches. I encourage people to use a simple psychological technique that will make it much easier. It works on the principle that makes your brain think "enough is enough." Remember the last four times you have really wanted to give up. It might be that you had a health scare, or that you woke up with your mouth tasting like an ashtray. It might be that a partner was really put off by it, or perhaps imagine yourself with an iron lung in the future. Think about these four scenarios over and over again, make them really vivid and until you feel an absolute feeling of disgust. Then think about having a cigarette, and if you have created enough disgust you won't want one.
Paul McKenna shatters the perception of what's possible in personal weight loss, helping people lead healthier, happier lives in the New Year. The international best-selling author and world renowned hypnotherapist, who has sold 7 million books in 35 countries, recently debuted the American version of his top-selling UK title Hypnotic Gastric Band this year, and a revolutionary new coaching app series Change Your Life in 7 Days, designed to help users get thin, get confident and sleep well in 2014.