How to keep your resolutions any time of year

What to do when willpower fails

Have you given up yet? I think they say it's somewhere around mid-January that many people throw in the towel. Maybe after years of not succeeding, you decided not to even bother this year.

The new year is typically a time of reflection for many people. The iconic striking of Big Ben and the flurry of fireworks that follow can remind us of the passage of time, our own mortality and our life goals still unfulfilled. It's a time when many of us decide to start a fresh, make a new commitment and reach those goals. Whether it be losing weight, stopping smoking, getting fit or changing career, purely using willpower can make it tough to stick to our resolutions any time of year.

Unfortunately, to use willpower alone to change your behaviour you would have to be aware of what you're doing all the time but habits are something you do automatically. I'm sure you wouldn't have eaten that packet of biscuits your colleague left on the table if you weren't on the phone to a troublesome client and it wasn't what you usually do automatically to cheer yourself up. It's as if your hand reached out without you even noticing and it's not until afterwards when you're attempting to hide the empty packet that you realise what happened. Trying to conquer unconscious behaviours with conscious willpower is almost impossible. It can lead to you berating yourself and giving up entirely.

Don't beat yourself up for what your unconscious does. Your unconscious on some level was probably trying to do you a favour by forming the habit so it was one less thing for you to have to think about. It formed an association between comfort and biscuits which it uses to try and sooth you. Instead of getting mad at yourself work with your unconscious so that all parts of your mind are on the same page.

Through hypnosis, you can change habits at the unconscious level so they're not triggered automatically. Your unconscious won't associate a difficult phone call with eating a biscuit so the habit of picking it up won't be triggered. Hypnosis can also help you to maintain motivation. A goal that seems far away can be hard to stick to when temptation is more immediate. Breaking it down into steps you can achieve on the way and hypnotically rehearsing your new behaviour or goal can help it to feel more real and achievable. Which then means you can consciously choose healthier habits to adopt.

But it's worth remembering you don't have to wait until new year to make a change, now is as good a time as any. Plus many resolutions don't need to be so resolute. For most people, a biscuit every now and then won't do them any harm and when it's an occasional treat and we eat it consciously, one biscuit can be a lot more satisfying than ten.

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