8 Tips for Successful New Year’s Resolutions
Are you going to make any resolutions this year? According to a study cited by the Journal of Clinical Psychology, 46% of people making resolutions were successful at changing behavior, vs. just 4% of those who didn’t. Many people make resolutions at the New Year, do great for a few weeks or months, then lose focus and resume the usual. Sometimes these are a bit over ambitious, or they can start to seem like just more things to add to an already full plate. How can we make New Year’s resolutions that stick…that we’re actually successful with?
Here are 8 tips for successful New Year’s resolutions:
1. No (goal) recycling. Pick a new goal, not the one you chose last year that wasn’t successful. Unless you evaluated the previous year and realize what didn’t work and why, and have a very strong belief that you can be successful if you approach it from a completely different angle, choose something fresh. If you try the same thing, the residue of last year can haunt you. You may start the year with a part of you already assuming failure.
If last year’s resolution is still really pulling you, then refine it. Look at the underlying reasons and feelings for the goal and see if there’s a different way of looking at it. One very common resolution is losing weight. If this is still very important for you, perhaps focus instead on developing a healthier diet and lifestyle, which will have a trickle down effect on your weight. Or maybe it’s a focus on learning to love yourself that’s really the driving force. Be very clear about what needs to change in order to be successful and make sure it’s not the same as what you tried last year.
2. Choose something realistic. You can have grand ideas that sound awesome and motivating at first, then just begin to weigh you down. Setting a moderate goal and leaving room for that to grow as you experience success is more helpful.
If you’re not exercising much or at all, a goal of participating in your first triathalon by fall may be a recipe for frustration after the first few weeks of training. Not that this can’t be done, but something a bit more moderate, like doing a 5K by summer and a 10K by fall might be more successful. You can always do more as you experience success.
3. Create a game plan. When you’re clear on your goals and what you need to do to create change, a daily system helps with both motivating yourself and developing accountability. Doing everything on the fly allows for distraction and excuses and full on derailment.
Make a list each day of the steps you’ll take toward your goal and check them off as you go. If you look at the list frequently you’ll be reminded of what you want to accomplish that day and how close you are to completing those steps. If you don’t have concrete steps to follow each day, write down your larger goal and ask yourself what will help you on your path, and add those to your daily schedule.
4. Put in the effort. Just assuming that things will change because you decided it’s a good idea and your heart’s in it is like enrolling in college and expecting to receive a degree just because you really want it, without going to class. You need to do the work…you have to actually do things differently, to receive a different outcome.
Growing your business is certainly possible, but not if you sit back and do all the same things you’ve always done expecting a different outcome. Identifying what you need to do differently, then deciding how to make those changes sets things into motion in the new direction and shifts the previous momentum which wasn’t effective.
5. Use baby steps. If you break down your ultimate goal into smaller steps, and focus on one at a time, there’s less likelihood of feeling overwhelmed. You are also able to check off those steps and see your progress and experience a sense of gratification.
If you really want to be more organized in your life, create a list of ways you want to be more organized and list them in order of easiest to most challenging to accomplish. Start with the easiest and check off each as you accomplish it, and revel for a bit in your success. As you experience this success you’ll be more motivated to complete the rest of the items on the list and enjoy the growing excitement from meeting your goals.
6. Reward yourself. Choose some healthy rewards that will continue to motivate you. If your goal has many steps, you can reward yourself after completion of each. If it’s more general and ongoing, you can give yourself a reward every month or week, or even every day initially if it’s a really challenging goal.
Rewards don’t have to cost much, or anything at all, and should not be counter to your goal. If your resolution is to eat a healthier diet, a reward of a candy bar might not be the best idea. You can give yourself the gift of time to yourself, a book you’ve been wanting to read (even for free at the library), something you usually don’t make time for but would be beneficial for you, supplies for a new hobby you’ve been interested in. If you want to reward yourself with something bigger once your final goal has been reached…great! Take a trip or splurge on something, take a personal camping retreat, whatever resonates and is healthy.
7. Allow for slips. Two steps forward and one step back still creates progress. If you expect perfection in yourself, the moment you’re human and make that first mistake or slack off one day, it’s easy to then just cash it in, to give it all up. This is the idea of breaking a diet by eating a spoonful of ice cream, then deciding that since you broke the diet you might as well eat the whole quart.
Be patient, compassionate, reasonable and realistic about the process and yourself. If you slip up one day, just acknowledge what happened, give yourself some slack, and focus on the next day. You can’t do this every day and be successful, of course, but once in a while it’s ok…humans make mistakes and fall short of goals at times.
8. Don’t go it alone. We become much more accountable to our goals when we share them with someone else. You can ask for their help by checking in periodically…you can even ask for them to ask you how it’s going each month. Just by putting it out there out loud, you’re likely to feel more motivated so you can eventually report success rather than giving up.
And moral support is extremely powerful. If you’re having a challenging day and your goal seems unreachable, talk with a friend you shared your goal with and ask for suggestions or just vent about your difficulty. Just by sharing we tend to feel better, and those who are supportive are often good at saying just the thing you need to hear. They’re not likely to see it as failure, but as the expected slip or challenge that everyone experiences at some point.
If you have a resolution that’s really driving you, but you have no idea how to proceed, it may help to meet with a coach or counselor. You can gain new insight, understanding and perspective and open new avenues for accomplishing your goals.
So, set a goal for the New Year, make a plan, establish support, and above all…be compassionate toward yourself. You’re making a change, and that is inherently challenging. You’ve got this!