We find out how to stick to your New Year resolutions plans and ask four Northampton figures what their goals are for 2012

Psychologist Richard Alexander at work.
Psychologist Richard Alexander at work.

LOSE weight, get up an hour earlier, write a novel, change career, give up smoking, run a marathon, find love.

When people make New Year resolutions they usually have a dramatic improvement in mind, but they may have the wrong idea when they decide to make such big changes.

According to psychologist Dr Richard Alexander, who has a practice in East Park Parade, Northampton, a good way to succeed is to make small changes.

He said: “Start small. Make small changes to your life in the direction you want it to go. So if you want to get up earlier the first step is to get up five minutes earlier. Stick to that. That’s not too hard, make little changes.”

He said: “What a lot of people do is make a dramatic change and it’s hard to stick to because it has turned life upside down all in one go. You can lose your bearings because the world becomes alien to you.”

The idea is to set yourself an achievable goal but it does not mean that you cannot make a big change in the long run, it just means it needs to happen gradually. So once the small change has become a regular habit, make the next small change and then the next one.

Dr Alexander said another key to keeping resolutions is motivation, you have to want to do it. He said: “It’s no good people saying ‘my husband says I should be doing this’ or ‘my wife thinks I’m too quick tempered.’ They have to recognise they have a problem and be willing to do something about it.”

The other tip is to be realistic. He said: “Make small resolutions you seriously believe you can keep.”

BROADCASTER, writer and Radio Times film editor Andrew Collins, who grew up in Northampton, made such a success of his 2011 New Year’s resolution he is doing it again for 2012. It saved him money and kept him entertained, so why not?

He said: “It may seem to lack imagination, but this year I plan to repeat, or continue, last year’s resolution, which has worked out very well indeed. I vowed not to buy any new books in 2011, but instead to read books that I already own but have not got round to reading.

“I have, in the past, been a voracious buyer of books. I’ve got a lot of them; too many to read in my lifetime. So it seemed to be a practical and painless resolution for the recession – which is clearly with us for a few years yet – to start working my way through books I already have.

“It’s been a resounding success this year. I’ve saved a lot of money, and I’ve read a number of excellent books that were already on my shelves: When The Lights Went Out by Andy Beckett, a history of Britain’s political 1970s that came out in 2009; Scenes From A Revolution by Mark Harris, also 2009, about Hollywood in the late 1960s; The Path To Power, Margaret Thatcher’s second autobiography - I wanted to find out why this country is on its knees and she seemed a good place to start.

“I recommend this resolution to anybody. We live in cash-strapped times, and reading a book you already own is both stimulating and free, or re-read one you already love.”

Progress on the regeneration of the town centre is top of the agenda for Northampton Borough Council leader David Mackintosh.

He said: “My resolution is to work really hard seeing the changes people want to see in the town. The things people want to see happen.

“Christmas is a really good time for people to review what has happened over the last year and think over what we are going to do.

As council leader, members of the public regularly ask him to tackle the town’s issues and many are concerned about the town centre.

He said: “People are concerned about the long-term future of the town. They want to see more jobs created.”

He said he hoped that this time next year we would see progress on plans to develop the Grosvenor Centre, Greyfriars and the new bus station.

He said: “People do get frustrated when they hear about plans in the future, but next year I want to make as much progress as possible.”

MAKING resolutions has worked well for Brian Fortuna.

The Strictly Come Dancing professional dancer and star of the Royal & Derngate’s Christmas panto Aladdin told his dad about seven years ago he was going to get a job on Dancing With The Stars, the US version of Strictly Come Dancing. Through persistence and hard work he made it happen and this led to him coming to the UK to work on Strictly.

Brian, who comes from New Jersey, has been dancing all his life, he said: “I was brought up in a family of dancers.” But last year he set himself the goal of expanding his repertoire to include singing and dancing and has made it happen by taking on roles in Over The Rainbow and in this year’s panto in Northampton.

He said: “I’m in a big transitional phase of my career, adding strings to my bow with acting and singing.”

And his main resolution for 2012 is to focus on his career and gain more experience of acting on stage, but while he is in Northampton for the rest of the panto run he also plans to make time to visit the surrounding area.

He is a great believer in setting goals, especially at this time of year. He said: “New Year is a nice time of year to reflect on where you have been going, what you have done and for setting goals.

“I think any time anybody is setting a goal, a positive goal, I think that’s a very healthy thing.”

WHILE many of us think about cutting back on junk food as a New Year’s resolution, boxer Chantelle Cameron has an important reason for sticking to a healthy diet this year. She is hoping to be in the Olympic team for Great Britain.

Chantelle’s resolutions for this year are entirely focused on getting into the team and succeeding at the games.

The 20-year-old from Standens Barn, Northampton, is concentrating on improving on her strength and speed, maintaining a good diet and tackling the nerves she felt when one of her fights was televised.

She said: “My resolution is to keep to my training, to be a number one fighter, to make sure I do everything my coach tells me, to never slack or switch off.”

She has cut back on the less healthy foods she used to eat such as takeaways, chocolate and ice cream. She said: “I have a diet plan and I have to be more disciplined. I have realised a lot of things make a big difference.”

Last year she lost a fight against rival boxer Amanda Coulson and although she accepts she was beaten fair and square on the day, she was upset with herself about the fact that she got nervous because the fight was televised. Something she vows will not happen again and something she will need to tackle if she makes the Olympic team.

She has watched that fight over and over to understand where she went wrong and how to improve.

She said: “At first I was thinking ‘I shouldn’t have lost’ but I have watched them and analysed them I have watched myself and noticed what I have done wrong.”

She said: “If I want to make 2012, all I’m thinking about is I have got to be the best.”

Chantelle will find out if she has earned a place in the team after the World Championships in China in May.