'The road to hell is paved with good intentions," is a saying that's well suited to New Year resolutions, which make it so easy to fall into the good intentions trap.
Like a shiny new coin, the year stretches out before us, bright and welcoming, unspoilt, life waiting to be grabbed and enjoyed.
The over-indulgence of the Christmas season has invariably taken its toll and we have to look for a way out of the lethargy of mind and emptiness of pocket in January.
Traditionally on January 1 we are suddenly fired up, eager to leave the past behind, delighted to brush off the perceived inadequacies of last year and hopeful that this one will be happier, more fulfilled. Sound familiar?
Take a few minutes to look back at previous years - did you make resolutions? Did you keep them, were they realistic, achievable and maintainable?
Learn by your past experiences - don't set yourself up for a fall again this year. Having wonderful intentions of making positive changes in your life is all very well, but if you don't know yourself and what makes you tick you're on the road to nowhere. Accept that you're programmed from infancy. Belief systems are ingrained and have a huge effect on your thought processes. If you've tried to commit to something in the past but given up, what was it that made you lose your focus?
It's so important to study yourself and the kind of person you are. Are you prepared to challenge those self-limiting attitudes that might hold you back from achieving your goals?
Even when an intention or resolution is well-meant, do you really want to follow through on it? "I know what to do, I want to do it, so why don't I?" This all comes down to the power of the subconscious mind.
You are conditioned by the ideas and suggestions put there throughout your life; the subconscious is a computer in your brain that records everything your conscious mind tells it.
However, this computer cannot differentiate between positive or negative, assumption or reality. By working on the thoughts of the conscious mind, whatever thoughts are repeated habitually will eventually impact on the subconscious where emotions and attitudes are formed.
After deciding on a New Year resolution it is key to engender the belief that you can do it. Wishing is not enough - you must direct your mind fully to the specific goal. Humans are goal-orientated creatures - the harder you try, the happier you become.
Drifting and hoping will end in failure. The goal should be written down alongside a list of reasons why it will be worth achieving. This list should be given thought, be detailed, honest and personal. It should be copied, carried and read regularly. Forget past efforts and perceived failures and use the power of repetition (remember the subconscious) to move forward with self-belief.
Start the year armed with this mantra. When things happen that you cannot change, use the magic words of the positive thinker.
Keep saying it, even though your inner voice will argue. If you say it enough you'll believe it. Why? Because it's true.
Whatever was going on that may have seemed catastrophic at the time will soon be forgotten and seem trivial in hindsight. Over-reaction to small matters causes undue distress and upset, which can easily lead to poor eating rituals.
"It doesn't matter" is a simple rational phrase which has a huge effect on making life more harmonious without using a bad habit such as over-eating (or any bad habit) to fill a void.
No matter what you put your mind to, there are times when you need encouragement from like-minded peers.
This is especially true if or when you relapse and feel guilt, this being the most destructive negative emotion, which leads to unnecessary self-punishment.
Slipping is inevitable, but it doesn't equate to failure. The all-or-nothing approach to setting resolutions is the number one reason for people quitting. You are not a machine. You are a human being with ever-changing moods and emotions, so even the most committed will deviate from time to time. This is when a positive, encouraging word is invaluable.
A call or text can make all the difference. Turning to someone to help will rationalise the situation and spur you on. Sometimes you need to be reminded of your own strengths and abilities, then you're likely to utilise the potential within you to succeed and enjoy the rewards of your perseverance.
New Year resolutions are traditionally about giving something up in life, which can evoke a sense of deprivation.
Another approach is to make a vow to add something to your life, something positive, something to enhance your own sense of achievement and self-esteem. Think hard.
What would put more zest into your life, fire you up and make you get up and do it?
Decide who you want to be, how you want to live and what you want to achieve.
Think how far you've come over the past few years, how much you've grown and how truly fortunate you are.
Do you spend enough time and energy on yourself?
Often people who put pressure on themselves to achieve are those who need to reassess their lifestyles and the imbalances these busy lives have caused. Resolutions for the year shouldn't mean pressuring yourself and making the next 52 weeks miserable.
So keep it simple, enjoy the little things and have a happy, healthy year ahead.
Claire Jackson is senior adviser at Motivation Weight Management. There are 35 clinics nationwide. For further information visit www.motivation.ie