2 reasons why your New Year's resolutions flopped; and what to do instead

By now you may have an inkling as to whether your New Year’s resolutions are progressing well, or if they’ve fallen flat on their face. If you’ve disappointed yourself yet again, don’t worry, you’re not alone!

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We know from science it’s essential to have “resolutions”, or goals, to make the changes you wish for.  So, setting your goals at New Year is a good practice!

The trick is to set the right goals.

There are two reasons why most people don’t reach their goals:

1. They set goals they think they “should do”. The goal becomes more of a gaol!

The classic one for the New Year’s resolution: “I should diet as I put on 2kg over Xmas”.  The “should” makes it a chore and chores notoriously don’t get done.

What to do instead: Convert your “should” goals into “want to” goals.

Convert your “should” goals into “want to” goals

This means connecting to your WHY. If you connect to a value or a bigger picture desire, it fuels your motivation to make the goal super-attractive. You will feel good about doing the work required.  What if instead, you said “I want to lose 2kg over 3 months, to get in shape for the hike I’ve planned” or “I want to lose 2kg by Easter to feel great in my dress I bought for my friend’s wedding”.

Then, on days when you are challenged in sticking to your nutrition or exercise plan, you can reconnect with WHY this is important. This helps you re-engage with the HOW – the things you need to do to get it done. And you are more likely to achieve your goal.  

2. They don’t turn the actions that lead to their goal into habits.

It’s all very well to understand your WHY and feel motivated by your goal. But your motivation will only get you part of the way. Willpower alone is a limited resource that gets depleted. The rubber always hits the road in the doing. We only change if we act.

What to do instead: Entrench your actions in a way that builds a habit.

Entrench your actions in a way that builds a habit

So, for example, if you want to lose 2kg over 3 months, then you could decide to drink a glass of water and eat an apple every day at 3pm, a time when you normally hit your energy slump and reach for the sugar. Or, you could decide to take the stairs to your 6th floor office on the way in and out of work, rather than the lift. Eventually these behaviours become part of “how you do things” and become easier to do with less effort or willpower.  And then all these small steps build your confidence and boost your motivation, helping entrench the actions even more. Making it much more likely to achieve your goal.

To reach your goals you need to take a step back and develop a deep understanding of your values - what’s important for you in your life. Then you need to work out how to make your changes “stick”. If you don’t know how to do this, reach out to us and we’ll guide you to success.

With love from Flourishing Mothers

“Cause we’re all searching for the Holy Grail.....!”

Soon after I started studying Positive Psychology I had the opportunity to hear Martin Seligman (considered the founding father of Positive Psychology) speak.  He started by asking the room of about 300 to think about what we most hoped for our children or other loved ones.  He then asked us to raise our hands if “happiness” was at the top of the list.  A sea of hands went up!  This seems to be the holy grail......

But what does that look like, what’s involved?  How can we help our kids find lasting happiness?

I don’t think there’s a foolproof plan, but I’m excited about the new study of Strengths based parenting which focuses on looking first for what’s going well rather than following our natural human tendency to rush to fix weaknesses. 

We all tend to notice problems faster than we spot what’s going well

When we were cavemen this was extremely useful as a survival tool, but it doesn’t serve us as well in today’s world.  For example, I confess that in the past I’ve read my child’s school report and honed in quickly on the 20% that could be improved rather than celebrating the good comments and grades.  This term I’ll try to focus first on the great stuff to highlight to my daughters what they’re capable of and to build optimism that effort is worth it. 

So, why give Strengths based parenting a go?

Recent studies show that children and adolescents who have strength based parents:

  • Have higher levels of life satisfaction
  • Have a better understanding of their own strengths
  • Cope with conflict in more pro-active ways
  • Use their strengths to help them meet homework deadlines
  • Have lower levels of stress

These are practical outcomes which help create flourishing, high functioning families.

Strengths based parenting involves deliberately identifying and cultivating strengths in our children

It’s about connecting our kids with their inborn strengths such as strengths of character (eg. humour, kindness) as well as their talents such as writing or sporting ability.

flourishing mothers strengths based parenting

To do this we can start with simply keeping our eyes open for the strengths in our kids.  We can train our minds to look out for the moments when our kids are awesome and work out what strengths are being used.  For example, imagine your child asks to take a piece of cake home for their sister from a party; you might be seeing their strength of kindness or fairness in action. 

As we become familiar with strengths we can start talking to our kids about them and let them know that we recognise and appreciate their best qualities.  This is what helps our children flourish.  If you’d like to learn more about character strengths the VIA Institute on Character is a terrific place to start.  http://www.viacharacter.org/www/Character-Strengths

But wait there’s more!

Making an effort to focus on the strengths of our children can also improve our own life satisfaction and confidence in our parenting skills!  The research also shows that parents who completed a course in strengths based parenting reported they were finding parenting more interesting and felt more confident in their role as a parent. They also experienced more positive emotions towards their children.  It all makes a pretty compelling case!

We’ve been inspired by the work of Dr Lea Waters and the stories of parents who are trying to be strengths based.  You can watch some parent stories here: http://www.the-strengths-exchange.com.au/parents.html 

Please contact us if you’d like to discuss how to get started with strengths based parenting and as this is a new and evolving field of study we’ll definitely tell you more about it in the future!

Best wishes

Flourishing Mothers

How to stop overreacting and start taking control in 12 seconds

Have you ever wished you could go back in time a few minutes and do-over your reaction to a situation?  Sometimes it would be fantastic to be able to press the rewind button!  We might then be able to respond calmly and thoughtfully, find the right words or action, and overall feel that we were being our best selves.

How we manage our own attention matters

In recent weeks we’ve been running workshops focused on building resilience and wellbeing, discussing these topics with corporate women, a group of teenage mums and local school parents.  What’s really stood out is that how we manage our own attention matters!  If we can create some mental space for ourselves we can better focus on the moment and react in a more thoughtful and deliberate way.  This focus on the present allows us to:

  • Notice our emotions and the story we’re telling ourselves about the situation
  • Re-frame the story to be more helpful to us
  • Choose how we want to respond
  • Help those around us to do the same

Imagine that you’re working from home, trying to meet a 5pm deadline when a fight erupts between your kids that’s just impossible to ignore.  You might well storm into the room and start yelling, which then likely escalates the situation, adds more to your stress, and makes that deadline harder to meet. 

Creating mental space doesn’t take long but can have a huge impact

What if instead you’d been able to take a moment to assess the situation and plan your reaction and words to the kids?  Stern discipline might be needed but making a deliberate decision to issue a punishment feels more empowering than an emotional reaction. 

4 ways to create mental space

So how can we do it?  Different strategies will work for different people and different situations so here are a few ideas:

  1. Learn to do a rapid reset – you can focus on counting your breaths and deliberately slow your breathing in just 12 seconds.  You could also step outside for a moment and grab a few breaths of fresh air.
  2. Can you relish the chaos? – can you look at the situation and see the funny side?  Our lives are often crazy and messy but there’s fun, humour and inspiration that can be spotted in the chaos.
  3. Find your focus – when we’re stressed our minds are racing and it’s harder to make decisions.  If we can slow our brainwaves and focus on the immediate problem we’ll perform better.
  4. Remain in the present – remind yourself to come back to the present moment.  Try to avoid being distracted by thoughts of what could have been, or worry about the future.  Right now the present is where you can make an impact!

And please remember to be kind to yourselves!  Even with plan and practice our good intentions can get derailed, but we can keep on trying to reduce the number of “re-wind” moments.

With love

Flourishing Mothers

PS.  We’d love to hear your ideas about how to create mental space too!  Please offer your thoughts below.

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