Next year we’re all going to get ourselves together, read a novel a week, and become incredibly wealthy. Not all of this year’s resolutions, however, worked out quite as successfully.

What is it about the turning of the calendar that compels us to reassess and, in theory at least, redirect our lives? And how can we ensure our newfound commitment to health and wealth sticks in 2016?

Career coach Kate James, who regularly helps people change direction both professionally and creatively, thinks December 31 gives people the impression they’re turning over a new leaf.

“Metaphorically, that can be really valuable,” she said. “I think it’s a great time of year to reflect on what you’re doing. I do it at the beginning of every year myself.”

Man working on laptop
“Let’s say you want to focus on career – make that a focal point, but don’t make it a focal point just for one day. Think about that as your focus for the first few months of the year.” - Kate James

Setting realistic goals

At the same time, Kate believes that placing too much emphasis on conventional resolutions can be counterproductive. “I’m a little bit sceptical about the traditional idea of a new year’s resolution,” she admitted.

“For most people, the minute they think ‘new year’s resolution’, they feel like it needs to be a significant change. In many cases, those changes aren’t sustained. People can end up having a bit of a negative experience.”

Instead, Kate believes self-improvers should be realistic about their goals. Rather than doing a total identity renovation, it’s more productive to concentrate on one area that’s genuinely important to you.

“I think one of the mistakes people often make is to try to overhaul their entire life,” Kate said. “It can be a huge disruption, and the sort of change that isn’t sustainable. Rather than trying to change your entire life dramatically, concentrate on one area of your life you want to change. Let’s say you want to focus on career – make that a focal point, but don’t make it a focal point just for one day. Think about that as your focus for the first few months of the year.”

Woman exercising at the gym
“If you say to yourself, ‘I’m going to exercise three mornings a week without fail’, spend a bit of time writing down the excuses you’re going to do." - Kate James

Find the time

Ultimately, you will need to offset any change in lifestyle by sacrificing some other behaviour: for example, running more often will probably mean less time playing video games.

“If, say, you want to live a more creative life, that might be in conflict with the creation of huge amounts of money,” Kate explained. “You’re trading off a little bit. You can’t necessarily align with every one of your values – they’ve got to fit with your really deep desires, not just what other people expect of you.”

For exercise-based resolutions, Kate recommends tallying up all the excuses you’re likely to use. “If, for example, you say to yourself, ‘I’m going to exercise three mornings a week without fail’, spend a bit of time writing down the excuses you’re going to do,” she said.

“When you say to yourself ‘I’ve had a bad nights sleep and can’t do it this morning’, you recognise that one and do it anyway.”

So what’s on Kate’s to-do list for 2016? “My life is at a pretty amazing point and I don't want to make the mistake of rushing into a new set of challenges,” she said.

“My top goal for the first few months of 2016 is to be mindful of appreciating the moment.”

That’s why she’s the coach.

Kate James

For more information on Kate James, visit totalbalance.com.au or check out her new book, Believe in Yourself and Do What you Love.
 

For inspiration, here are the New Years Resolutions of Susie Crumpton, Public Affairs Manager, Coca-Cola South Pacific and Editor of Journey Australia.

  1. To achieve a balanced lifestyle in 2016 – finding the right blend of work and family.
  2. Squeeze in more time for laps at the local pool.
  3. Enjoying the little moments with family - often it’s the everyday memories we look back on, realising they were just as important as the big stuff!

What are yours?