New Years comes around and we make a pact with ourselves to improve our lives, end bad habits, and commit to long neglected goals. However, two weeks later, all of our good intentions seem to fall by the wayside. We wind up feeling guilty, defeated, and frustrated at our inability to make our New Year’s resolutions stick.
Tips for Success
Here are some great tips that can help you stay on track and turn that short term goal into long term results.
Starting with a small goal is one of the most important things you can do. Often, we make a long list of everything we want to change. Then, when we try to accomplish it, we quickly become overwhelmed. It is key to decide on one important goal that you feel would be enjoyable to focus on.
For example, you decide that your goal will be to diet. Pick one aspect of the diet – such as limited to no sugar, eating less, or consuming more vegetables; instead of radically changing everything at once. If you change too much at once you’ll burn out quickly and find yourself falling into old patterns. If you start small and build good habits, then you can add in other changes as you progress.
Hold Yourself Accountable
One way to honor your commitments is to hold yourself accountable for your actions. A great way to accomplish this is to find a partner, friend, or colleague who you can check in on you regularly. Their job will be to make sure you are working towards your goal. It also provides much needed support and structure.
For example, if one of your resolutions is to go to the gym more often, having a workout buddy can motivate you. It is much easier to blow off exercising when you do it alone. However, if you meet someone at the gym, it makes it much harder to break your commitment. Find someone who has similar goals and needs an accountability partner and you support one another in accomplishing your resolutions.
Give Yourself a Reward
A great way to motivate yourself is to give yourself a reward for work well done. If you set small goals and accomplish them, then treat yourself to something you are looking forward to. That way there is a tangible, immediate payoff for sticking to your commitments. Don’t put the reward too far into the future, but reward your progress along the way.
For example, say that your resolution is to lose 20 pounds. Weight loss is slow so you don’t wait until you have lost all 20 pounds to reward yourself. Instead, reward yourself after every five pounds. Make sure the reward is highly motivating – something fun like a new article of clothing, going to a movie, buying a new electronic gadget, shopping on itunes, getting your nails done – anything that gets you excited!
Remind Yourself of the Positive Outcome
This is one of the most important steps you can do to succeed in sticking to your resolution. Often, as we embark on a big change, we notice the difficulties involved and forget about what we are gaining. As we come up against obstacles it is important to remind ourselves of why we have chosen to make this change.
For example, if you are trying to quit smoking instead of focusing on how much you miss cigarettes, focus on how good your lungs feel and how much more energy you have. A helpful tip is to remind yourself of the positive outcome. Pick a phrase that emphasizes the positive outcome and say it every time you are tempted to return to your old behavior. In this case, you may want a cigarette and say, “I choose health.” It helps you to feel in charge of your life and strengthens your will power and resolve.
Make It Habitual
The definition of a habit is “an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary.” We have many habits in our lives, some good, some bad, but the nice thing about a habit is it becomes second nature. If you can make your resolution into a habit, real change will occur. It has been said that it takes an average of 21 days to create a habit. This is great news, because to do something consistently for 21 days is much easier than trying to do it for life. When you set a resolution, give yourself a goal of doing it consistently for 21 days. At the end, re-evaluate and see if it has become easier. If so, set out to do it for another 21 days. Soon you will notice a deep and lasting change and it will feel weird not to do it. Also know that habits are easily broken – that is good when you want to break a bad habit, but that means you also have to continue to practice the good habits you create.
Many times when we resolve to change something in our lives, we make extreme goals (i.e. I’m going to exercise seven days a week, I’m going to lose 30 pounds, etc.). The danger in this is that we set ourselves up for failure; making it easier to give up and return to our old patterns. When setting a goal, pick something that is easily accomplished. This will help you see real results and encourage you to continue versus giving up.
For example, if you are a very busy person but you want to exercise more, maybe start with working out two times a week. Once you’ve done this for 21 days and you are feeling like exercise is part of your routine, add in another day. Which brings me to my next tip…
Do It Incrementally
This may be the most important step to successfully stick to your resolutions. It is much easier to do something incrementally than all at once. The benefit of doing something incrementally is that you see success, which only encourages you to continue. The best way to do something incrementally is to set short time frames for practicing your resolution.
For example, say that you are giving up chocolate. Instead of saying, “I am never going to eat chocolate again,” you say, “I won’t eat chocolate for a week.” At the end of the week say, “I will not eat chocolate for another week.” Pretty soon a month has gone by, then 6 months, then a year. When you fall off the wagon, you don’t feel bad because you can start the process over again. You can also add on to your goal, so start doing something once a week, then twice a week, etc., until you reach your ideal goal. This system sets you up for success and gives you many small accomplishments along the way to feel good about and reward yourself for.
Strengthen Your Willpower
This is possibly the most challenging thing we face when trying to make a change. When the obstacles, desires, and responsibilities of our lives creep in, it seems easy to abandon our resolutions. How do we strengthen our willpower so we are creating positive change? Start by beginning to ask a new set of questions.
Instead of asking, “Do I want to watch TV or go for a run,” ask yourself, “Do I want to feel one step closer to my ideal body or not?” This is a simple shift in perspective that helps you to again focus on the positive outcome. Remind yourself of the negative outcomes that caused you to want to make the change in the first place.
Make a Decision
When we make a decision on something, it gives us determination and helps us follow through on our resolutions. The simple act of saying, “I decide to…” changes our perspective on how we approach our goals and makes us feel a sense of deep commitment to our new purpose. A decision is unmistakable, free from hesitation/wavering, and resolute – it allows us to be steadfast in our pursuit of making our life changes.
Write it Down
I have found whenever I write something down it makes it more real; both in the actions I take and in my ability to accomplish my goals. I have found the best way to use this technique is to make a list of my resolutions then put them away in a place that I don’t look at very often and forget about the list. When the year is up, I pull my list out and I am surprised at just how many of the items on my list have come to fruition. Download our PDF Handout to get started on your New Year’s Resolutions!