I really need your help as I never seem to follow through on my good intentions. Whenever I plan to start a new habit to improve my life in some way, for example getting up earlier so that I can get to my office ahead of everyone else in order to do more work, or even just to exercise regularly, I can’t do it and I feel like a failure. This is really affecting my career, lifestyle, health, relationships – in fact, every aspect of my life. What can I do about it?

First, let me say it sounds like you’re being very tough on yourself. You refer to ‘failure’ with regards to your behaviour, but it seems like you are setting yourself such exacting standards that maybe you are in fact ‘setting yourself up to fail’. When you do this, 
it depletes your reserves of self-belief so you end up feeling like you are no good at anything and this in turn actually prevents you from achieving even minor goals. It’s a vicious circle that you need to break.

Creating new habits takes perseverance. But you are more likely to achieve your goals if you work to change one thing at a time. Instead of trying to achieve all the goals you are aiming at in one go (and then when you don’t, feeling bad about yourself), why not try to do one specific thing every day for a month? Choose the goal you feel might be the easiest to achieve. If you can do this thing every day, it is likely that after a month you will have created a new positive habit in your daily routine that will feel normal to you. Having achieved this one thing will not only make you feel good about yourself, it will leave you with the feeling that if you can do it once, you can do it again and again.

Understanding why you behave in a certain way is at the heart of changing behaviour. Ask yourself, ‘Are there any underlying reasons why I feel and act like this?’ It might be something that has happened in the past or it could be that you are suffering from an overall lack of confidence in your abilities and you need to take time to work on strengthening positive feelings about yourself. Allowing yourself to succeed in myriad small ways will help to bolster that core self-esteem and will eventually allow you to embrace those big changes you desire.

We all have it in us to make positive changes, but it’s important to keep things in perspective and be kind to yourself. Change takes commitment on your part and it’s good to rise to the challenge.