why New Year's resolutions don't work

For many the New Year creates an opportunity to reflect on the year that’s passed and plan the year ahead.

When it comes to trying to conceive it’s a great time to put the past year behind you and to look forward with renewed hope and focus.

Many people launch themselves into January with the best of intentions along with big plans about what they’d like to achieve. What often happens though is old habits sneak back in and within a few weeks the novelty has worn off, motivation is dwindling and you’re back to square one.

So how can you make the most of this fresh start and ensure that your good intentions are going to create meaningful change and truly help your fertility?

Whether it’s for the New Year or any other time you want to make a positive health change these hints and tricks will make a huge difference in helping you improve your health and fertility long term.

Why don’t New Year’s resolutions work?

The reason most people fail with resolutions, or any significant lifestyle change, is usually because the goal is too big and they have no plan on how to get there. Couple that with a lack of support and it’s all too easy to give up!

There’s nothing wrong with aiming high but the problem comes when progress is slow. With such a big target and no clear plan it’s only a matter of time until motivation wanes, the target seems out of reach and self-sabotage patterns kick in. Of course, there are those who will stick to their target and achieve amazing things but for many they need a bit of help.

How to make lasting change – just 1% does it!

There are several keys to success when it comes to making change.

One of the best ways to really create long lasting change is to make small changes over a longer period of time. These small changes accumulate over time to create a bigger change that is more likely to stick and will having a longer lasting effect (the compound effect).

To really create a worthwhile change in your health and wellbeing, the compound effect is the way to go. Making small consistent changes over a long period of time will have a far greater impact than going at something full steam ahead for a short period of time.  

No matter how small it is, it will have an effect so just get started.

A simple example might be that you decide you need to move more because you have a sedentary job (something that isn’t good for your sperm). A simple change could be that you get off the Tube or bus 1 stop sooner and walk the rest of the way to work. If you work at home you may choose to go for a walk around the block before starting your day.

Whatever it is you choose to add in, make it small, manageable and consistent and build from there. Even 1 extra walk every other day is going to mean you’re moving considerably more than if you were doing nothing! Do that for a few months and all of a sudden your step count is huge compared to what you were doing before.

Be realistic with your targets

Most people set themselves an overly ambitious target. If you’ve never run and decide to run a marathon that's great but understand it’s going to take time and preparation.

The best thing is to break your goal down into smaller manageable chunks. If you want to run a marathon then great go for it but start with the smallest of goals that you can achieve and then move on from there.

What’s also important is to allow for some flexibility in your targets. It’s all too easy to set yourself a pass or fail target. This is a fast track to becoming demotivated and quitting.

For example. Let’s say you want to get back to exercise. Most people say something like “I want to go to the gym 5 times a week”.

This is great, but what happens when you get held up at work or the cat needs taking to the vet. Life will always happen and you will miss days. Does that mean you’ve failed? Our natural instinct and mental pattern is usually to say “yes, I’ve failed” and give up. You didn’t reach the target so you must have failed. But what about the 3 times you did go to the gym?

When setting targets it’s good to not only set a target but to also set a minimum and a mind blower.

So with the exercise example it could be as follows:

Target = 5 x a week

Minimum = 3 x a week

Mindblower = 6 x a week

This way you know that as long as you hit between 3 and 6 workouts a week you’re on track. 3 is better than none and you can still feel pleased with yourself that you’re making progress.

Equally you can turn this one on its head if you want to reduce something in your life that isn’t helping your health and fertility. Let’s use caffeine in the form of coffee as an example.

Currently you drink 6 coffees a day but you want to reduce it to 3. Going straight to 3 seems like too much of a step so you set yourself a range of 4 (in this case your new maximum) down to 1 (your mindblower). You give yourself a month to achieve this by and then the next month you adjust it down again.

That way you’ve got control and don’t feel like it’s a game of all or nothing.

Reward yourself – don’t criticise yourself

We’ve all been there right? You get to the end of the week and you think “oh I didn’t achieve that” or “I could have done better”.

By having flexible goals / targets you can look back over your week and say “great, I achieved that” and maybe ask yourself “how can I improve on that?

It’s all too easy to focus on the negatives so give yourself credit for what you’ve achieved and then reward yourself.

That doesn’t mean cake, that’s not how it works! Have some rewards in mind as to what you’ll do when you hit certain targets. Or if you’re more “stick” than “carrot” motivated what’s your penalty for not reaching the target? As a couple this could be a great way of supporting each other. If you both reach your targets, then you do something nice together. If one of you doesn’t achieve your target what’s the penalty? Whatever works for you as an individual or as a couple, it can be a great way to support each other.

Don’t take on too much at once!

Typically when people try and kick habits or change their lifestyle they do too many things at once. Again this leads to overwhelm and loss of motivation.

Certainly have a focus and by all means choose several things to work on over a period of time but start small and easy.

As a starting point it’s usually best to choose the 1 thing that’s going to make the biggest difference and focus on that for a few weeks. It takes around 3 weeks to change a habit so give yourself the time to work on something properly before taking on something new.

Get a buddy!

We all know things like this are easier if you’re working with someone else. Accountability is so valuable when it comes to making change in your life. Find someone you can work with; a friend, colleague, your partner or a professional who will keep you motivated, focussed and on track with your goals and ambitions.

So, how to put change into action?

Get clear on what you want to achieve, set sensible achievable targets, buddy up and celebrate your successes.