The Institute of Inertia asks whether goal-setting in the middle of winter really gave us the best shot at making positive life changes for the long term 

Remember those bleak January days, when we reluctantly dragged ourselves back to work after an indulgent break and felt compelled to set goals and good intentions for the year ahead? Whether it was the hope of dropping a dress size, running a marathon or saving money for a dream holiday, many of us won’t have achieved our New Year resolutions. But, as the rest of nature slept through the middle of winter, was it any surprise that our efforts to drive positive change failed?

The Institute of Inertia (a partnership between the University of Sheffield and launched in 2015 and is dedicated to providing real life solutions to help drive change amongst consumer’s, ultimately making them healthier, wealthier and happier in the long run. Dr Thomas Webb, social psychologist and Chair of the Institute of Inertia says;

“In January people have a tendency to jump on the ‘new year, new you’ bandwagon. Many of us follow the crowd and get swept up in the enthusiasm around making New Year’s resolutions. However, often the goals that we set are unrealistic, are not supported by a clear plan of action or an understanding of the task at hand – in short, it’s a recipe for failure.”

In an effort to help those of us who are really committed to making some positive changes to our lifestyle, the Institute of Inertia has shared some top tips for success:

1. Set resolutions in Spring: Quite literally, spring time is the point of new beginnings. With the clocks going forward bringing lighter evenings, nature is blooming, and life awakens. In Spring, our good intentions to get things done and make positive change may be given a welcome boost by, quite literally, a brighter outlook.

2. Don’t bury your head in the sand: Evidence suggests that people often act like the proverbial ostrich and bury their heads in the sand, rather than confront the reality that they are not making the progress toward their goals that they would like, or hoped for. One strategy for success is to keep track of your progress and be honest with yourself regarding what needs to change.

For example, if you want to start saving money, then you need to be realistic about how much is coming in and how much you are spending per day. If you don’t have the full picture, then you are less likely to be able to achieve your goal.

3. Plan ahead: Evidence suggests that planning when, where, and how you will achieve your goals is really important. When we plan how to tackle obstacles in advance we can ensure that we are better prepared giving ourselves a better chance of achieving our goals.

For example, if you are trying to eat healthily, then plan your meals out for the week and get all the necessary ingredients in. You are then less likely to pop to the supermarket after work when you’re tired and hungry and buy a ready meal or snack.

4. Bite size chunks: It can be overwhelming thinking about the end goal. Often what we are trying to achieve feels out of reach leading us to lose the motivation needed to keep going. Breaking the goal down and focusing on small achievable actions can make it feel less daunting.

For example, rather than setting yourself the task of losing a huge amount of weight like a stone or more, try and break it down to one or two pounds a week. When you succeed in the first week you should not only be motivated to keep going but your end goal may feel more achievable.

So, put any January failures behind you and take a cue from nature. At a time of year when life literally gets faster, convert those good intentions into positive actions so that you too can spring forward.