It’s January 1st, a day when many of us begin the often-difficult task of keeping our New Year’s Resolutions. Since I’m always an advocate of positive change in life, below are a few tips to help you be successful.
1) Limit the number of resolutions.
Change is difficult. If we take on too much, we’re more likely to throw our hands up in defeat. The solution? Choose only one or two things to work on at any given time, and then really focus your energy on making that happen.
2) Be specific.
Vague goals are more likely to be forgotten or watered-down until they become meaningless. Try to be very specific. Rather than saying, “I’m going to start exercising,” try saying something like, “I’m going to get to the gym 2-3 times a week and spend at least 30 minutes working out.”
3) Be realistic.
Setting unachievable goals leads to disappointment and frustration, which easily triggers abandonment of our resolutions. Setting smaller, long-range goals is more likely to breed success. Want to lose weight? Think how great you’ll feel if you lose two pounds in a week when your goal was only a pound. On the other hand, if you lose two pounds, but your goal was four, you’ve set yourself up for failure by being overly optimistic (yes, in this instance, too much optimism is a detriment).
4) Find a buddy.
Everything is easier when we have support. Try finding someone who has a similar goal and buddy up. Perhaps you can speak once a week by phone, meet periodically, or text each other with the day’s accomplishments and challenges. If you’re having trouble finding someone, try an online group or meetup. Having a friend with whom you’ll share your accomplishments (as well as occasional missteps) can lead to accountability. Accountability often creates change.
5) Include others in your motivation.
If we aren’t motivated to make changes for ourselves, considering others may help. It might be easier to get to the gym if you remember that your partner is counting on you to try and remain healthy. Need motivation for controlling angry outburst? Consider the behavior you’re modelling for your kids. Are you acting in a way you’d want them to emulate? If not, that’s more motivation for change.
6) Use self-compassion and begin again.
Mistakes and setbacks are a part of life for all of us and should be expected. If you fail to meet your goals, that’s okay. Use self-compassion to forgive yourself (welcome to the human condition!), but then get right back on your path toward change. The quicker you begin again, the easier it will be to meet your goals.
7) Embrace grit.
Angela Duckworth’s book, GRIT: THE POWER OF PASSION AND PERSEVERENCE, brings to light an array of research proving that perseverance, not intelligence, is the main ingredient to success. If you want to achieve something, find a way to keep your goal front and center in your mind. Try different tools: reminders, calendars, daily journaling, tracking apps, daily/weekly check-ins with a buddy, or some other means. Recognize that anything worth accomplishing takes time, effort, endurance, commitment, and belief in yourself (or at least belief in your ability to embark on the path of change). Try to think of grit as a muscle that must be worked regularly and strengthened. If you don’t have much grit right now, that’s okay. Use it regularly and it will naturally become a part of you.
8) Once you begin, you’re as good as there.
It sounds crazy, but it’s true! Once you’re on the path, all you need to do is stay the course and put one foot in front of the other. Rather than always looking at the miles that remain between you and your end-goal, try to focus on the tasks-at-hand each day. Remain moving forward on your path, and soon enough, you’ll reach your goal. And do you know what you’ll do then (after patting yourself on the back of course)? You’ll set another goal!