With new year’s resolutions increasingly focused on wellbeing, Gifty Enright FCCA explains how to avoid the all too common fate of giving up on them within weeks
This article was first published in the January 2020 UK edition of Accounting and Business magazine.
Exercising more, losing weight, eating more healthily, spending more time with family and friends – of all the resolutions made on New Year’s Eve, those that promote wellbeing will account for the lion’s share.
People are increasingly prioritising their wellbeing above possessions for very good reason – accumulating stuff loses its attractions if you’re not well enough to enjoy the benefits.
Employers too are beginning to realise that wellbeing should be the front and centre of employees’ lives. A growing number of companies offer staff wellbeing incentives such as mental health wardens rather than just first-aiders, and healthy menu options in the canteen rather than just a gym membership. The rise of national days dedicated to mental health, stress awareness, kindness, etc, is another sign we may finally be pivoting away from materialism to a more holistic way of living. So what can you do this year to prioritise your wellbeing?
New year’s resolutions should embrace all four forms of wellbeing – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual (examples of each are given in the box opposite). The advantage of having at least one resolution in each of the four domains is that if you are performing badly in one area but brilliantly in another, on balance you can still feel that you are doing all right and so are more likely to carry on than give up.
Only 20% of people stick to their resolutions for the whole year. You stand a better chance of being in that 20% if you use four key tools: accountability, measurement, support and reward.
Much as you might have a mentor to help you keep on track in your career, an individual that can support you through your wellbeing resolutions is an asset. For example, consider getting a personal trainer if you’re focusing on the gym, or a life coach for other lifestyle resolutions. Or find someone who has set the same resolution as you, as you will be able to encourage each other.
Tracking your progress will help keep you motivated. There are apps for nearly every lifestyle activity you can imagine. These not only show your progress, but can also set milestones and flag up a ‘winning streak’, encouraging you to keep the activity up. In our personal lives as in our professional activities, measurement and reporting can be a strong incentive to make helpful adjustments to behaviour.
As accountants we are comfortable with forecasts and variances. Treat your resolutions as your forecast and set quarterly review dates in your diary to see how your actuals are tracking against the forecast. Then decide on the adjustments to make to hit your forecast.
Closely tied to accountability is the need for support. People who are going in the same direction as you and share your motivation will help pull you along. Check out interest groups on social media, or find actual groups, such as a book club, running club or meditation group. Joining a group teaches a powerful lesson that the challenges in achieving your resolutions or goals are not unique to you, and that there is nothing wrong in not feeling motivated to sit cross-legged at the crack of dawn to meditate. When you know everyone else is in the same boat, you are more inclined to soldier on. Other people’s successes can also be motivational and make your own success more accessible.
Consider how you might reward yourself for your effort (the reward needs to be appropriate – a bar of chocolate after a run is not), and have a treat every time you hit a milestone. This should motivate you to do the activity even if you don’t relish the activity itself.
The results of a research study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology show that it takes anything from 18 to 254 days to embed a habit. By using the techniques listed here, you are more likely to turn your resolutions into habits. Good luck!
Gifty Enright FCCA is an author, speaker and specialist on workplace wellbeing.
"Treat your resolutions as your forecast, track your actuals against that forecast, and make the necessary adjustments to hit it"