New Year’s Resolutions. Yes, we have all made them at one point or another but so many people fail to keep them that it’s become a joke that no one takes seriously. So how do we make our resolutions and more importantly, keep to them?
The following is an article I wrote two years ago for a staff newsletter where I used to work. Although it never made the newsletter (that’s a story in itself) , the article got a great response from those who read it. I shared it on another forum way back then but now I have a blog I thought I would share it again. Comments are welcome.
It’s that time of the year when we look back on the achievements of the previous year and reflect on what we’d like to achieve in the coming year. A great many people make New Year Resolutions but sadly, the majority of people do not keep to their resolutions. Some make progress but then fall off the wagon. Check out the gym in January – a huge influx of eager beavers. By February, the number has reduced markedly and by March, the gym usage is back to normal. So what goes wrong? What has happened to all those good intentions?
Based on my experience and research, one of the main problems is not getting the resolution or goal right in the first place. Sure, there are plenty of other factors and saboteurs along the way but if you get it right at the beginning, you’re well on your way to making lasting changes in your life.
Firstly, consider using “positive” language and focus on what you want, not on what you don’t want. Resolutions like “lose weight” or “give up smoking” (two of the most common personal goals by the way) are often doomed to fail because the person is focusing on the behaviour they want to give up rather on what they want to achieve. The subconscious cannot process negatives, so if you keep thinking “don’t smoke, don’t smoke”, your subconscious thinks “smoke, smoke” which can ultimately lead to you falling off the wagon.
It is much better to state your resolution in a positive way. If you want to lose weight, stop and think about what you really want to achieve. Maybe it’s to fit into that bikini or those leather pants that once fitted you so well. Maybe you want to run a marathon, keep up with your kids or get a clean bill of health from your doctor. Maybe your goal could be something really simple like “to weigh xx kg”. Whatever it is, it should be framed in the positive, something to aspire to. You’ll be more likely to achieve it.
Secondly, the resolution does need to be specific and measurable. Another popular goal is to “change jobs” or “change career” but really what does that mean? If you don’t know where you’re going how can you expect to ever get there? Think about the job you want, where you want to work, the hours you want to work and conditions you want to enjoy. Brainstorm with yourself and get specific about what you want – it will be easier to find the ways to get it.
Thirdly, make sure the resolution is something you really want, something that inspires you. A resolution has to be your goal, not someone else’s. Otherwise, you’ll lose interest. Be passionate about what you want to achieve and you will be more likely to achieve it. It should also be challenging, something that will stretch you and give you a feeling of achievement. If it’s too easy, you’ll be more likely to give up or not push yourself hard enough. Besides being challenging, it should be realistic. There is nothing more demotivating than working towards a resolution you can’t achieve.
Fourthly, make it time specific and not too far in the future. If you don’t specify a timeframe then you’ll never get around to it. If you make it too far off, you’re more likely to get distracted. Three months is a good time period – enough time to make lasting changes and get new habits in place but not too far off for you to lose interest.
To summarise, aim for your New Year Resolutions to be:
- Positive. Focus on what you want, not on what you don’t want.
- Specific and measurable. Brainstorm on what you really want out of achieving the resolution.
- Inspirational and challenging. Be passionate about what you want to achieve.
- Time specific. Have a timeframe that’s not too far off.
Tips to get you going once you’ve decided on your resolutions.
- Write them down and display them where you can see them every day.
- Develop a plan with milestones so you can measure how you’re going.
- Don’t do it alone. Tell friends and family so they can support you and motivate you when needed.
- Baby steps. You can’t change everything in one day. Resolve to do something every day, however small, that will bring you closer to your dream.
- It is natural to hit plateaus or have setbacks. Don’t panic. Just establish what’s not working and try something else.
- Celebrate your achievements.
Create yourself a great 2008.