New Year’s resolutions are like that one family member you only see around Christmas time; you get together at the end of the year, have great conversations and promise to talk to each other more often before bidding each other goodbye, only to repeat the process again next Christmas.
Nobody makes resolutions with the intention of leaving them unfulfilled – many of us just feel unmotivated and unequipped to break old habits and do new things when we don’t even know where to start.
I saw this in my own life when I looked back at some of my previous New Year’s resolutions and realized that I had accomplished almost none of them: I am not fluent in Italian, I still don’t know how to draw, and I definitely don’t have the body of a Victoria’s Secret Angel (which my 15 year old self was very upset about, but my 22 year old self has since come to terms with).
Consequently, I wanted things to be different this year. So I put together a plan to prevent my New Year’s resolutions from being left forgotten on the floor of my psyche, dusted under Aunt Hilda’s old rug like the crumbs of Christmas dinner, and mourned by next December 31st.
1. Identify (and limit) your resolutions
The first step in accomplishing your resolutions is to clearly identify what they are. What in your life do you wish could be different? Do you want to be a better singer, learn a new language, or live a healthier lifestyle? Whatever they are, write down all of these ‘wishes’ in descending order of importance. Then pick your top three and shelve the rest for next year. Where having too many resolutions can leave you feeling overwhelmed and scattered, a limited amount will empower your efforts to be focused and more effective.
2. Understand the reason
Understanding the reason behind your resolutions forces you to recognize them as a way to achieve a higher goal rather than as an addition to your already long to do list. Take my resolutions for example; I want to become an excellent piano and guitar player by the end of next year.
The reason behind my desire to be a better instrumentalist is that I want to feel more empowered to perform and less limited in my musical creation. With this reason in mind, I will keep my eyes on the prize and feel more motivated to continue doing my scales and exercises even when I don’t want to. Why? Because the resolution’s purpose makes my efforts to achieve them worth it.
It’s important to note that positive reasons are much more motivating than negative ones. If you’re trying to lose weight, your reason behind your resolution shouldn’t be, “I don’t want to be fat anymore”. That kind of statement is tinged with shame and can do you more harm than good. Instead, your reason could be something like, “I want to have a healthier lifestyle so I can be more active”. Focusing on the positive aspects of who you are and why you’re doing what you’re doing will lead to positive results.
3. Set a destination
Now that you know the reason behind your resolutions, its time to set an achievable end point or destination. If your resolution is to be a better singer by the end of the year, what will be the measure of your success? Will it be the ability to hit a certain note without straining your voice? What about the endurance to be able to sing a set of 10 songs in a row without going hoarse? Whatever the destination is, don’t let there be any ambiguity about what it looks like when you reach it – your end goal has to be quantifiable to be obtainable.
Also make sure that your destination is something that you have the power to achieve without relying on anyone else to get you there. You may not be able to make your boss give you a promotion, but you can control how much effort you put into your job. Basing your resolutions off of your own ability to dictate their success or failure will leave no room for excuses and will empower you to put in your best effort.
4. Monthly goals
It’s imperative to set monthly goals in order to achieve major changes in your life by the end of a year. Without identifying benchmarks of success that incrementally get you closer to your end destination, it’s easy to procrastinate because you feel overwhelmed by how much you have to do. To prevent this from happening, identify criteria you will need to meet each month to keep you motivated and moving forward to your end goal. Start with smaller goals and work your way up to bigger ones as you gain momentum. This will provide positive reinforcement when you exceed your own expectations and will establish a rhythm of success as the months go by.
Now that you’ve established your monthly goals, ask yourself what you need to do on a daily or weekly basis to achieve them. How much time needs to be consistently assigned to fulfilling each goal? What routines do you need to put into place to make success a habit? Understand that consistency is key.
For example, if your resolution is to do a triathlon by the end of next year, you will need to dedicate a certain amount of time at the gym every week to reach set strength and endurance goals. You’ll want to identify what you should be eating on a daily basis to maximize your efforts. Developing a strategy and a routine around how to reach your end destination little by little every month will give you the discipline you need to actually do what you say you want to do.
6. Choose an accountability partner
It’s especially important to have one person in your life who commits to keeping you accountable in reaching your goal. Choose someone who can celebrate your monthly victories or give you a good talking to when you feel ready to give up. Have this person check in with you once in a while, asking you questions about your motivation level, your consistency, your strategy and how you’re doing in your overall efforts. Set a standing coffee date every month that will be dedicated to talking about your challenges and victories in achieving your goal. Wanting to provide a good report to your accountability partner every month can be a great form of motivation to keep you working towards your resolution. It will also prevent your resolutions from just fading into oblivion when things get hard.
7. Set a reward
So what happens if you hit your goals by the end of the year? You have to celebrate! Not only is this good self care, but it’s also a great motivator to get you through that middle-of-the-year slump. Make your reward something you can really look forward to, and start the necessary preparations to obtain it. If the reward is something that costs money, like a vacation, start saving enough every month to be able to pay for the reward by the end of the year. Plan or prepare for the reward little by little, keeping it at the forefront of your mind as you achieve your monthly goals and a form of motivation when when you feel like giving up. If you hit your end destination by the end of the year:
New Year’s resolutions can lead to incredible life change – but only if you follow through with fulfilling them. Without a step by step plan empowering you to reach your end goal, it’s easy to get discouraged when when the initial high of change wears off. But with a strategy and an unwillingness to give up, your success is practically guaranteed. So set your resolutions and your reasons, strategize around your monthly goals, get yourself an accountability partner and start planning your end reward today. You’ll be amazed at how much you can achieve!
Originally published December 26th, 2017 on bevalyouable.com