New Year’s resolutions are the time-honored tradition of making promises to ourselves–and then promptly breaking them. Weight loss and exercise are chief among these vows, but other efforts, such getting organized, traveling more, learning a new hobby, or quitting smoking also often wind up on the list. And, let’s face it, soon become fodder for our guilt.
We enter these contracts with ourselves armed with diet books, shiny new exercise bikes, travel guides, or a bunch of containers from Ikea, ready to make good on our promises to ourselves. But many times we don’t even get out of the gate.
Why do so many New Year’s resolutions end up on the scrap pile before they’re realized? Because we lack the proper tools to get the job done.
First and foremost, we don’t know where to start. We lack any real plans outside of knowing what the end goal is to be. We dive in wholeheartedly, only to find a few weeks later that we have no idea where to go from there.
Making a long-term plan isn’t easy. It takes thought. Planning. Patience. And of course, determination. Before you begin any big effort to change your life, you need to have your ducks in a row.
First, create a timeline on paper, beginning with where you are now and ending with where you want to be. Set a realistic end date, and realize that this may need to be flexible in case you run into snags along the way.
Second, create a series of smaller goals, perhaps weekly or monthly checkpoints where you will assess where you are and make adjustments. Know that this will require you to be honest with yourself, and also forgiving. We all slip. We all fail. We all make mistakes. Only the best of us learn how to pick ourselves up and keep going.
Third, answer the question, “why?” This is where self-reflection comes in. Your reasons for this resolution need to be internal as well as external. For example, if you just want to lose weight to fit in a dress for your daughter’s wedding, you may accomplish that easily. But I can almost guarantee you’ll gain it back as soon as the wedding is over, because that external reason can’t sustain long-term results. But if you said you wanted to lose weight in time for the wedding and keep it off to remain healthy enough to run and play with your future grandchildren, now that’s a long-term, internal goal.
If you’ve tried to accomplish a goal in the past but have failed, you need to discover why you failed before you begin again. This also takes honesty and self-reflection.
Have you always wanted to travel but you feel insecure about attempting to speak a different language? Perhaps some language lessons will remove that roadblock. Do you want to get organized, but you have a hard time letting go of sentimental objects? First, determine if it’s nostalgia or guilt causing you to keep them. Maybe you can pass them on to someone you love who would appreciate them as much as you have. Or donate them to someone in need.
Next, make sure you have a support system in place. Surround yourself with people who want to see you succeed, even if this means joining a support group. Make sure your intentions are reinforced often, and your efforts recognized and celebrated. Avoid those who want to keep you from changing for their own reasons. (I’m thinking of a spouse who enjoys going out for ice cream…)
And lastly, mark your progress and reward yourself often. Each victory, no matter how small, is a step in the right direction.
This year don’t just resolve to change. Gather your tools and do it!
Until we meet…