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Here's the right way to set a New Year's Resolution

Most of us set goals once the new year arrives, but such aspirations disappear once we get to February. So what do you do?

Some may set the goal of running a 5K/10K race later on in the year, or even take part in a marathon as part of their New Year's Resolution.
Some may set the goal of running a 5K/10K race later on in the year, or even take part in a marathon as part of their New Year's Resolution.
Image: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

FOR MOST OF you, you’ve complete your first week back at work and chances are you’ve either started a new year resolution or have thought about it at the very least.

What that is will differ from person to person. For some, it could be exercising more. For others, it could be learning a new skill or developing a new habit.

All of these things require willpower and dedication and while you may start off enthusiastic and upbeat about them, you don’t want to lose interest and revert back to old habits come February.

So what should you keep in mind?

Setting your goals

While making the resolution itself can seem like the easy part, there are a few things to consider first before settling upon that decision.

Performance coach Margaret Mara suggests that you look at what you really want first and to keep it simple so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Most resolutions fail because they’re unrealistic and aren’t achievable.

“You’re better off sticking with one thing [Some people say] I want to do a hundred and one things like ‘I want to take up Irish, I want to take up French, I want to go to the gym’ and what happens is they feel overwhelmed with all of this stuff.”

That simplicity extends to the length of time you’re going to be carrying out said resolution. A year can feel like a long time and Mara recommends that you break it down into three-month segments as they’re “easier and more achievable.”

“Goals have to be specific,” says Mara. “When you write goals down, they become goals. they don’t become a dream… they have got to be specific, they have to be monitored so saying ‘What have I done this week? What do I need to do next week?’ and not beating themselves up if they don’t get them done.”

A lot of habits take a while to develop and that’s down to repetition and sticking at it. Mara says that while some stats say it takes 21 days to develop a habit, in reality it takes much longer (at least a month) before they settle.

“A thing that happens that people don’t realise is this, we have a subconscious mind… there are going to be patterns running so if someone has something they haven’t dealt with [before] and there’s a pattern in their head, they can easily give up on things. The subconscious works on repetition so the best thing to do is to keep at it.”

Ultimately, forming habits take time and if you slip up at any point, you should be kind to yourself. While we look at what we’re going to do for the next year, many of us fail to look back and reflect on what we’ve already achieved, something that can be a great source of inspiration and encouragement.

They keep thinking ‘What will I achieve? How can I do more?’ but they don’t give themselves a pat on the back… and that has to be acknowledged. That’s being nice to yourself, but it’s also being real as we do have a tendency to beat ourselves up and be hard on ourselves.

So the next time you stumble at something, be kind to yourself, acknowledge that these things happen and get back into the routine again. Remember, it’s not about how many time you fall, it’s how many times you get up and keep moving forward.

Taking those first steps

So say you want to take things into your own hands and not want to go to a class or book a personal coach or trainer. Well, it’s possible thanks to the range of apps and services out there. Whatever your aims are, there’s something out there that will either keep you on track or give you a helping hand.

If your goal requires a significant amount of willpower (giving up smoking for example), then it might be better to get help so you stick to it.

Here are a few that may come in useful.

I want to develop a new habit
What can help: Way of Life, HabitBull, or HabitChamp
For: (Way of Life) iOS, (HabitBull) Android, (HabitChamp) Windows Phone
Cost: Free

Depending on the type of device you have, the app, you will use will differ, but Way of Life, HabitBull, and HabitChamp are great for keeping track of your progress and making sure that you stick to your goal because, let’s face it, developing positive habits is hard enough as it is.

HabitBull

I want to start getting fit
What can help: Couch to 5K
For: iOS, Android
Cost: €1.99

For some of us, starting off an exercise routine can be daunting, but Couch to 5K is a great way to get some activity back in your life. It’s simple, has achievable objectives and will set you up for further fitness and exercise goals should you want to advance from there.

Couch to 5K

I want to improve my fitness
What can help: MSN Health and Fitness
For: iOS, Android, Windows Phone
Cost: Free

As far as free tools go, MSN Health and Fitness is a good place to start. Comprehensive, and full of routines and advice, it’s a good place to start. If you want something a little more specific, there are other solutions out there that will suit your needs.

MSN Health

I want to learn a new language
What can help: Duolingo
For: iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Desktop
Cost: Free

Is there anything that can be said about Duolingo that hasn’t been said already? Well, for learning a new language, there are few that can beat it and how it presents lessons in a simple and digestible way. There’s even an Irish course on it should you be interested.

I want to manage my time better
What can help: Rescue Time
For: Android, Desktop
Cost: Free

Developing a work-life balance is difficult at the best of times and procrastination can delay you further. Rescue Time can help you identify the areas that you’re wasting by tracking your schedule and offer suggestions at the end of every week.

I want to improve my diet
What can help: Calorie Counter – MyFitnessPal
For: iOS, Android, Windows Phone
Cost: Free

Usually accompanied with the aim to get fit, if you don’t know what you’re putting into your body, then you won’t have much luck if your aim is to lose weight.

Calorie Counter is part of MyFitnessPal and has a large food database for you to refer to. Alongside that, it has built up a community that will help you out should you have any queries or need some direction.

MyFitnesspal

I want to learn how to code
What can help: CodeAcademy
For: iOSDesktop
Cost: Free

As one of the more popular online coding sites out there, CodeAcademy will help you grasp the basics of all coding languages should you want to learn how to create a site or app from scratch.

A more comprehensive list of sites and services for coding can be found here.

I want to reduce stress
What can help: Headspace
For: iOS, Android, Desktop
Cost: Free (Subscription)

Mindfulness is a big topic and learning how to meditate is one of the best ways of achieving this. Headspace is one service that breaks these moments down into 10, 15 or 20-minute segments, allowing you to get peace of mind. 


I want to budget better
What can help: Spending Tracker or You Need a Budget
For: iOS, Android / PC, Mac
Cost: Free (€2.99 for pro version)/ €49.99

You can’t save if you don’t know where your money is going, and Spending Tracker allows you to keep track of it. By entering in your income and expenses, and developing a budget, you will have a better idea of where your money is going and identify the areas you can improve. There’s also a premium version should you require it.

You Need a Budget is the more expensive version of this (you may have noticed), but if you’re on Steam, it’s usually offered at a reduced price during certain deals and is well worth getting.

Read: Like to start the year feeling more relaxed? These apps can help >

Read: Use Facebook Messenger often? Here are some features that will come in handy >

About the author:

Quinton O'Reilly

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