Changing New Year’s aspirations into goals then plans – Dr Rosemary Higgins

new year

The New Year can be an opportunity to think about how we would like to be fitter, stronger, sexier, healthier, happier, skinnier, busier, less busy, kinder, more assertive, more relaxed, etc.

Changing these aspirations into goals and then into plans is the first step towards making them happen.

Think about what is important to you.

This is the time to think about what you value and what makes life meaningful for you.

Look at your aspirations for yourself. Ask yourself:

  • Why are you thinking about this change?
  • What might be good about being fitter, stronger, sexier, healthier, happier, skinnier, busier, less busy, kinder, more assertive etc.?
  • How do these aspirations fit into what is important in your life?

The first step in successful change is to understanding what drives your own motivation for change and linking this in with what is important to you.

This can help you maintain the energy and motivation for change and to move from a general aspiration (i.e. to be healthier or happier) into a specific goal.

For example:
Moving from “be healthier” into “cycle for 30 minutes five days a week” or “eat one serve of vegetables every day”.

Another example:
Moving from to “be happier” into “do something that brings me pleasure on a daily basis” or “recognise what I am good at and do more of it” or ‘be a good friend ” or “……….

If this feels like too much too quick take some baby steps towards this and plan for fewer minutes or fewer days per week and let this be your goal.

Once you have decided on your goal, it is important to draw up a plan. This can be on paper or in your head. There is lots of evidence that when people make a plan they are more likely to stick to it.

Not rocket science really!!!

The main thing is that you are clear about what behaviours you are changing and how you think about those behaviours.

To be successful in changing habits you may need to be prepared to be more mindful (more aware) while you are creating new habits. This reduces what we call automaticity – where we just do things because we are running on habit. This does take effort and you need to decide that the change is worth the effort. That is where you need to go back over what is important in your life and how making this change links in with what you see as important.

Once you have steeled yourself for the effort of change and decided that it is important the rest is fun (that was an example of challenging how you think about change!)

1. Make a plan – focus on a behaviour that is within your control. The aim here is to set yourself up for success.
2. Check that the plan is realistic: How confident am I that I can do this? (make sure you hit a 7 out of 10 or above)
3. Adjust the plan so you are confident that you can make the change.
4. Plan for what you will do if barriers arise (Life / the environment/ other people / your own thoughts and feelings etc.). Plan ahead for how you can manage these for the next week
5. Plan for who and what will help you to get through the first week.
6. Revisit this plan at the end of the week and make necessary adjustments:
• What got in the way?
• How would I handle this differently next week?
• What did I do well? What am I proud of?
• What would I say to a friend to encourage them in their change?
• Can I say this to myself so I can be my own best friend?
7. Repeat again – New habits take time to form and they get easier over time


We all use energy to change and adapt or to resist changing and adaptation.

Planning can help us use this change energy in a way that suits us and that fits in with what is important in our life.


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