SOLVED: How To Stick To Your New Year’s Resolutions
For many of us January is one month of the year when we reflect on what we would like to change in our life, set goals, start new projects, decide to let go of negative habits and improve our character. I honestly believe that if we all managed to keep the same level of motivation, excitement and determination as we have in January, for the rest year, we would not need to read books about overcoming procrastination or staying focused on our goals.
Unfortunately, February comes and our enthusiasm and commitment wears thin. We find ourselves slowly slipping back to our old habits and old lifestyle. And finally, after about a month-and-a-half we throw our hands up in the air and declare, “Forget about it! It is too hard”. Then, of course, we wait for the next year to try again.
This year can be different!
Here are ten top tips to help you stick to your New Year’s resolutions throughout the rest of the year:
1. Have realistic expectations. In the best tradition of the holiday season, when we decide to pursue a certain goal, we often overestimate our future level of motivation and productivity and underestimate possible implications that we might encounter on our way. Do not expect to see immediate results of your efforts. Miracles do happen, but only to people who are willing to wait for them! Keep that in mind when you set deadlines for your goals.
Solution: Imagine that my New Year’s resolution is very similar to yours. How long do you think it will take me to reach this goal, given that I have a full time job, two young children that I have to pick up after school and a Salsa Class on Wednesdays and Fridays? So what is your verdict? Most likely, this is the same deadline you should consider for yourself. It has been proven that we are a lot better at making estimations for other people than for ourselves.
2. Pick just one goal. I know that it might be tempting to go after one career-related goal, one personal life goal, one health goal, one self-improvement goal and top that all off with a three-week vacation, a great book that you are dying to write and Japanese language courses that you always wanted to take. Have you ever tried juggling with 3-7 tennis balls? Try it. I bet you, that you will drop at least two balls on your first try. Juggling with 3-7 goals is no different. You will give up on all of them before you know it.
Solution: Prioritize. Choose just one resolution that is the most important to you at the moment and fully concentrate your efforts on it. The rest of the resolutions on your list can wait.
3. Do not walk into the same brick wall twice. In a very curious research paper “If at First You Don’t Succeed”, Polivy and Herman examine the reasons why so many people keep trying to achieve the same goals over and over again despite overwhelming odds. It seems that we repeatedly strive for the same goals, and make the same mistakes, instead of taking the time to figure out what would be the best way to achieve our goals and how to do it with less effort.
Solution: Do not strive to achieve last year’s resolution. It is already associated with failure and disappointments. Instead pick a new goal or, if you absolutely must pursue the same goal, try to look at it from a different perspective (e.g. What other way can you achieve the same result? What stopped you the last time you tried to accomplish this goal? What can you do differently this year?)
4. Educate yourself, before you do anything else! Any serious life change requires time, sustained effort, but most of all knowledge. Too many people rush into taking action on their resolutions, without the necessary preparation or a clearly defined action plan. If you pick a resolution, because it sounds “cool” and motivating, slap a random deadline on it and then take several random actions to achieve it – your results will most likely be unpleasantly predictable.
Solution: Before setting some grandiose resolutions that require you to change your life style, ask yourself a few questions:
a) Why do you want to accomplish this particular goal? For example, you want to lose 20 pounds in two months. Why exactly 20 pounds? Why in 2 and not 3 months? Why do you think it is a realistic goal for you?
b) What do you need to know about your goal, before proceeding?
c) What are a number of do-able steps that you can take on a daily/weekly basis that will ensure your success?
5. Do not focus on pain. Many great and useful resolutions are linked to some kind of sacrifice: stop smoking, stop eating junk food, cutting down on our expenses, or giving up two hours of watching TV for jogging. If you concentrate on what you are losing, you are not going to make it, because you will put an end to practically any inner motivation that you had.
How can anyone be happy and enthusiastic about give up something that they like?
Solution: The more personally motivated you are to take all the necessary action steps, the higher are your chances of sticking to your New Year’s resolution. Think of what you can gain when working towards accomplishing your goal. Make sure that when you break your goal into smaller manageable tasks, you state them positively, instead of concentrating on what you deprive yourself of. For example, if you want to lose weight, why proclaim that you will never eat chocolate again when instead you can chose to substitute one in between meal snack with a serving of fruit?
6. Prepare yourself that it might not be a piece of cake. According to the latest statistic, 25% of New Year’s resolutions are abandoned during the first 15 weeks. I do not believe that it happens, because we lack desire and determination. Quite the opposite, most of us are truly excited about getting started! The problem is that we expect to accomplish everything in record time with minimal effort. We are simply not prepared to do the consistent work required to accomplish our great goals. As soon as things get slightly uncomfortable, inconvenient or challenging, we panic and give up.
While staying positive and concentrating on the rewards that you will gain after accomplishing your goal is important, be careful not to underestimate potential resistance that you might encounter on your way.
Solution: Make sure to break your goal down into a number of very specific steps. If your action plan is too vague, you set yourself up for a sure failure. Instead of promising yourself “to run twice a week”, block specific time for this activity and take into consideration possible challenges that you might have to face. For example, your resolution may look like, “I will run Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. and Thursday at 8:15 a.m. If I cannot run on one of these days, I will run Sunday at 9:00 a.m.”
7. Do not be too hard on yourself. Making important life changes is not easy. You may slip up from time to time. No, let me rephrase that – there is a high chance that in the beginning you will slip up a lot. It happens to the best of us. Do not exaggerate the gravity of the situation or beat yourself up over it. You will fail only when you stop trying. Pick up where you left off and carry on working towards your goal.
Solution: Get a support group. Following through with your New Year’s resolutions is much easier when you have strong back up. Research shows that telling friends and family about your resolutions increase your chances of sticking to your goal by 10%. But do not just stop there.
• Find an accountability partner, or a person, who will regularly check up on your progress and will not let you procrastinate.
• Join a forum where other people are trying to achieve the same goals that you have.
• Find a person, who has already successfully accomplished what you are striving for and ask them for advice!
• Become an accountability partner or a motivational coach for another person. When we know that we must do everything in our power to help another person succeed, we ourselves become instantly more determined, more enthusiastic and more goal-oriented!
And remember, “Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.” You included!
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