How to Keep a New Years Resolution

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It’s January and New Years Resolution Season is in full force. Large bucket lists, extreme makeovers, ambitious personal or professional goals. Setting resolutions can be fun and inspiring, and I’m ALL for creating powerful visions that promote positive actions. Many people are with me, about 45 percent of Americans set goals starting in January. But for all the good intentions, only a tiny fraction of us keep our commitments. According to the Journal of Clinical Psychology study 54 percent give up on their resolutions within six months — and only 8 percent ultimately succeed by the end of the year. Setting a goal you don’t plan on keeping actually backfires on your long-term health, happiness, and success. Want to set a goal you can keep and feel good about it in the process? Read on for my suggestions on succeeding with New Years Resolutions and honoring a promise to yourself.

Caroline’s Guide On Keeping a New Years Resolution 

First lets take a look at Common Resolution Pitfalls. Knowing these obstacles will help you create strategies to overcome them and accomplish your goals. 

  1. Being vague about what you want
  2. Not making a serious commitment
  3. Procrastinating and excuse-making
  4. Unwillingness to go through the awkward phase
  5. Not setting up a tracking and reminder system
  6. Expecting perfection, falling into guilt, shame, regret
  7. Trying to go at it alone
  8. Telling yourself self-limiting belief stories
  9. Not having backup plans
  10. Turning slip-ups to give-ups

Overcome the above pitfalls with these Resolution Success Strategies

Make your goal Non-negotiable. Make a promise yourself that you are absolutely without question going to do. When you do it, where you do it, how you do it can, and will most likely change according to circumstances (aka life). But that you will do it is not open for consideration. Call it a vow, a promise, a pledge, a commitment. Whatever you name it, making it choiceless is a tool for overcoming backsliding after your initial enthusiasm fades. You don’t negotiate with yourself about brushing your teeth. You just do it. I bet you honor your commitments to other people too. Treat yourself equally as well . Make your resolution a nonnegotionable commitment in your life.

Make it Actionable. Is your goal concrete enough? Many of us fail because we havent turned our goals into somthing to actually do. Yesterday a client told me she was going to focus more on herself and less on her job. “How are you going to put that into action?” I asked. There was silence on her end. Recently here are some resolutions I have heard, “to have more energy” “to learn to relax” “to make better decisions” “to say no more” “to have more balance”. There is nothing wrong with these desires. But they must be translated into actions. Actions tell you how you are going to do something. “I’m going to go to bed an hour earlier and exercise 30 minutes daily to have more energy.” “I’m going to spend three hours a week relaxing and reading on the couch.” To succeed, you must know what specific, realistic actions you are going to take.

Make a powerful visual reminder.  One thing I find extremely effective in setting goals that have lasting power is creating a vision board.  Creating vision boards is considered by many to be a vital step on the road to success. Since positive, focused thinking is the key to achieving goals, pinpointing what those goals are and having something tangible to symbolize them is an essential part of the process. Vision boards remind us what we should and should not be doing in order to achieve our goals. The images and phrases that make the board should represent the highest priorities in your life. It reinforces what you truly want and helps keep you on track in living it. It’s easy to do and a powerful tool, click here to read more on how to make your own goal vision board. 

Come up with Solutions for your usual Excuses. What is your usual litany of excuses and rationalizations? One way to think about this is to ask yourself what has gotten in your way in the past when you have tried to keep this resolution or any other. Forgetting? No time? Losing interest? Not knowing where to begin? And what are the rationalizations you give yourself when you gave up in the past? It doesn’t matter? It’s not that bad? It’s too hard? Instead of just hoping it will be different this time, write down your typical excuses and rationalizations and create strategies in advance for dealing with them. That way you wont get stopped in your tracks and lose forward momentum when they arise. And yes, they will! Because of the way our brains are wired we have a strong tendency to repeat behavior over and over. So think ahead, come prepared, and beat your brain at the excuses game.

Build a strong support network. They say you are most like the 5 people you surround yourself with. Its true, your community, co-workers, friends, and family have the biggest impact on whether or not you succeed at your goals. Build a strong support network by 1. Communicating your goals to your network and asking them to support you and 2. Choosing to surround yourself with people who have a positive impact on your lifestyle and goals. STAY CONNECTED to these people, its important to have a team cheering for you! No one can succeed solo 🙂

Set a deadline. Business coach, Mike R. Jay claims that 60 percent of the population is “pressure promoted”, as it’s called on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. It’s a preference, usually labeled as procrastination, for taking in information for as long as possible before being forced into action by some external deadline. The other 40 % are “early starters”, who prefer to get the ball rolling and avoid pressure. If you fall into the pressure-promted majority, find a deadline that will help you get into motion – a reunion, a vacation, a wedding, a performance. One would-be dieter and exerciser finally got off the starting line when she booked her trip to Hawaii, which required her to wear a swimsuit with her boyfriend. Another man finished his Ph.D thesis, which had been lagging for years, when he got a job that required it’s completion. To work most effectively, the deadline must be real and come from the outside. Pressure prompters tend to blow off self created deadlines.

Schedule it in. Fail to plan and you plan to fail. People who succeed make time for their goals within their schedule. Put it into your day planner and treat your commitment like an important appointment with a client. Otherwise it’s too easy to schedule all your time away with other things. Want to write every day? Block it in your calendar. Want to start looking for a date on Match.com ? Schedule it. Make a specific, time-bound appointment with yourself and you’ll be much more likely to follow through.

Do it Daily. Someone asked the Dali Lama to describe in one word the secret to living a healthy life. His answer? “Routines”. Bad habits imprision us; good ones bring us closer to our hearts desire. The more you make what you want a part of your everyday life, the more it will become so routine that soon you won’t even have to think about it. If you want to have more work/life balance, for instance, find a way to do a little something each day: leave the office half and hour earlier, take a walk with the family after dnner, read a novel before bed.

Track Your Behavior. Research shows that when you monitor your behavior and track your outcomes, you’re more likely to be motivated and perform. That’s because tracking is a key to self-regulation, the capacity to do what it is you say you want to. Monitoring can take the form of a food journal, NIKE fuel band, smart phone application, anything that helps you track your activity and progress overtime. Check out a list of some of my favorite smart phone apps here for health, fitness, and wellness. One of my favorite life guru’s Tim Ferris, advises people to track their food intake using the “Flash Diet” in which they simply take photos of everything they eat/drink. This tracking is highly effective as it builds immediate awareness regarding caloric intake. You can track your progress in any modality you’d like, the important part is just to TRACK it! 

Keep things in perspective, Focus on the Big Picture.  Look at how far you have come, not how far you have left to go. Some call this the horizon effect. It creates encouragement (“I’ve done twice as much as I did two weeks ago!”) and builds determination (“I’ve made it this far; I might as well keep going”). Focus on the ten pouds you did lose, the closet you managed to clean; the thousand dollar debt you’ve deleted; the evening you carved out for yourself. Don’t forget to ask yourself how much you’ve accomplished the task so far, so you can mine you success for ideas on how to keep going.

Take it one choice, one day at a time. When we think about changing something in ourselves, it can feel overwhelming. But in truth, our entire lives are constructed of the minute-by-minute choices we’re making, many of which we are not even aware of. “An unconscious choice is a reaction…. A conscious choice is a response.” Bring your own choices into your consciousness. If you’re having trouble sticking to your resolution for a day, try this practice: when you’re doing the bad old habit, stop and say, “I’m choosing to…” (eat this brownie, not work out, stay in the office to finish this project, blow up at my husband, look at my Facebook rather than clean my apartment, etc.). Do  you like yourself when you make this choice? You can choose differently, moment to moment. The next day, make the positive choice visible to yourself: I’m choosing to eat a healthy breakfast; I’m choosing to leave the office on time; I’m choosing to work out; I’m choosing to work on this project now vs. the night before the deadline; I’m choosing to take a few deep breaths before speaking. The more you focus on the positive choice you CAN make this very day, without worrying about forever, the more you will live yourself into the new desired habit.

Find Someone Who’s Doing what you want to be doing and copy! When it comes to changing human behavior, there’s nothing that beats a good old fashioned role models. Babies learn by intimidation, why shouldn’t adults? Who do you know that is good at what you want to learn? What do they do that you don’t? The more intentionally you watch those who are living with the habit that you desire, the more examples you have to draw on when you are by yourself.  Watch and learn – and don’t be afraid to ask questions. “How do you get your work done and still have time for your family?”, “Teach me your dating secrets.”, “What makes you so good at taking risks?” Most people love to teach when given the opportunity.

Walk the Talk – Teach it to Someone Else. A great way to really cement a new habit is to become a mentor to someone else. Teaching can help reinforce the positive impact of the habit you are committed to keeping in your life. One crucial tip for making this as effective as possible – whatever you suggest to someone else, practice it yourself. In other words, be sure to take your own advice on the topic. Its a way to really walk the walk!

Treat yourself with Kindness and Compassion. Stop beating yourself up. You are a work in progress. You get there a little bit at a time, not all at once. Keep doing the best you can. We all mess up or forget. When we do, our task is to hold ourselves in love. You and I are human beings dealing with the challenges of growth. When we treat ourselves with kindness, we don’t collapse into shame or guilt. Instead we are empowered to try again with greater wisdom from our fall.

“To exist is to change; to change is to mature; to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly”. Yup thats exactly how it works. You set out to do something new, like learn how to strength train, or volunteer at a group kitchen, or enjoy life more and something bigger happens along the way. You become more aware of yourself – how you get in your own way, how you get unstuck, how you sustain momentum. And because how you do anything is how you do everything, what you learn applies not only to strength training or volunteering but to everything in your life. You now know much more about how you tick, what motivates and discourages you, and what inner qualities you have available to apply to any situation.

When we set out to keep a New Years Resolution, change a habit, or bring a dream into being, ultimately we are involved in a bigger act of conscious self-creation. Rather than being stuck with the way we are now, we can actually choose the habits of the mind and the qualities of the soul we wish to be. We can consciously choose the behaviors and skills we wish to learn, the life we wish to have, and follow through to a successful conclusion. Not perfectly, not always – because we all come with a lot of baggage and life isn’t always kind of fair – but to a much greater degree than we could before because we’ve had an experience of success to draw on. In these ways, creating a new habit brings us to precious spiritual gifts: hope – that our future will be brighter than today through the efforts we make – and faith: that we can bring into being more of what we desire in ourselves and in our lives. What more do we need to weave a life of meaning, purpose, and beauty?

Each of us has the opportunity to change and grow till our very last breath. Keep going. Keep growing. Keep creating. Keep being YOU 🙂

Caroline

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