Christine Webber

There was a study about ten years ago, which showed that vast numbers of us use our time on holiday to think about the future and make life-altering decisions.

Some time back, a relative of mine spent a week in a charming Airbnb, which made a huge impact on her. “It was so clean and tidy,” she told me later, “that I decided I’d had enough of being a chaotic person whose house was always cluttered. And now I’m home, I plan to change my ways”.  

She started with the cupboard-under-the-stairs which was so overstuffed with items that many of them fell out every time she opened its door.

The first day, she spent an hour on the task but then felt quite overwhelmed, so very sensibly made the choice to spread the project over several weeks. She stuck with it. Completed a total declutter of her property and could not have been more delighted.

It’s not always plain sailing though, especially when we decide to make changes to habits we’ve had for a long time.    

Many people, for example, eye up other men and women on a beach, compare themselves unfavourably, then come home vowing to eat less and exercise more.

Others reflect that their drinking has been out of control for a while and decide to cut down.  And a sizeable proportion of adults take a long, cool look at the financial cost of their way of life and resolve to spend less going forwards.  

These are all great intentions. However, and I don’t want to be a killjoy, we all have ways of sabotaging our aims, and we need to look out for those if we want to succeed.

Remember, that though your mind has come up with a good idea to make things better, it also has dark crevices where a range of negative thoughts and beliefs can lurk.

This is true of everyone. We all have negativity in us that gets triggered just when we want to do better. But we need to recognize that it’s based on thinking which is generally untrue, irrational and unhelpful.

So, we must halt it in its tracks if we’re to persevere with our goals. Here are some of the common thoughts that hinder us.

I’m hopeless at sticking to my goals

Lots of us are affected by this one because we have an annoying, inner commentary telling us we are useless and bound to fail. But don’t be so hard on yourself. Examine the evidence for your negative thought. Is it true?

My guess is that when you look back through your life you’ll realise you’ve achieved a great deal, and are not hopeless at all.

So, is there anything you can learn from your successes that will help you now? If so, use it. And remind yourself daily that you have plenty of life-experience that can prove useful with this challenge.

Take your proposed change a step at a time. Congratulate yourself when you make progress. And keep going.   

I find change harder than other people do

This is another common belief, but one which you definitely need to question. Do you honestly think that you are so uniquely different from other men and women that they can always succeed where you don’t? Have you any evidence that you are more helpless or frail than them? Probably not. The truth is that making improvements is hard for everyone.

We just don’t know what others go through. You need to divide your goal into bitesize chunks, decide what is feasible to achieve this week, then do it. And keep querying the thoughts that normally hold you back.

You might also want to confide in a friend – perhaps someone who is keen to make similar self-improvements. Then you can support each other.  

I’ve messed up today, so might as well give up

Lots of us have this thought and it typifies what psychologists call All or Nothing

Thinking. We want change to happen immediately. And we want to be perfect. When this doesn’t happen, we decide we’re an abject failure. But we’re human, and we will slip up.

So, if you have a day when it all goes wrong, accept that it’s just a blip, and not the end of the world. Then, renew your efforts tomorrow.  

People will laugh at me if I try to get fitter

Many folk are ashamed of their size, shape or lack of fitness and this shame often results in the belief that that other people will find them revolting or might laugh at any attempts they make to become fitter.

But actually, it’s pointless trying to guess what others are thinking. Usually, we get it wrong.

There are spiteful and horrid people, of course. But do you really want to bother with what they think? Most individuals are remarkably kind and decent – and indeed many of them witnessing your efforts will think how courageous and inspiring you are. So, hold your head up high and go for the “new you”.

Personal change is never easy. But this is a very good time of year to make a start.

Good luck with it!