Making New Year’s Resolutions is a ritual that we seem to forgo as we grow older. Most people realize that the exercise is futile as they break their resolution within the first week of the new year. In fact 25 percent of people, abandon their resolutions after just one week and 60 percent, abandon them after six months.
I think that most people relish the idea that when the clock strikes 12 their sins of previous years are wiped away and they can begin the new year with a clean slate. But this is just a metaphor as January 1st is just one day from December 31st. And the actions of our lives are cumulative, so keeping a resolution requires preparation that will take longer than one day. And this is part of why we fail.
Regardless, making New Year’s Resolutions is an important practice. It shows aspiration, ambition and a desire for betterment. And once we give that up, well, then we’ve given up – and as human beings we need to keep striving.
As much as the odds are against us, I do believe New Year’s Resolutions can work. I even quit smoking on a New Years Resolution over 10 years ago. I haven’t smoked a cigarette since and I know that I will never smoke again.
Other resolutions follow me year after year and are permanent on my list of resolutions. Each year I have a resolution around my weight, that includes diet and fitness. Sometimes, I hit the mark and other times, I don’t. But I truly believe that once I stop making those resolutions, I will go from my target weight to a deuce, deuce and a half. So, each year, I continue to battle the bulge by making a weight resolution. This has allowed me to maintain close to a consistent weight year after year.
I think there is a method to the New Years Resolution. I have often heard that resolutions don’t work, but goals do, so make goals instead of resolutions. Tomato, tomahto; to me that is a matter of semantics – call it whatever you want, the objective is the same – an aim for a better self.
Here are some tips which I have developed through the years that work well for me.
Begin by removing the pressure. By definition a New Year’s Resolution begins with the start of the new year. There is an inherent pressure that rings in my head like a starting pistol – I get stressed just thinking about it. So I’ve re-defined the New Years Resolution in which I declare that SOME TIME during the new year, I will do whatever it is that I resolve to do. I then dedicate separate focus for each resolution. I wait until I feel that I am ready, instead piling them all up at once – like quitting smoking and losing weight and getting a new job all starting on the same day.
If you feel strongly about starting your resolution at the beginning of the year, you can also remove the pressure by getting a jump start early. Begin your resolution a few weeks or a month before the new year so that you are well on your way come January 1st.
It is also important to be specific. If your resolution is to lose weight, decide how much weight you would like to lose and in what time frame. You will also need a plan of how you are going to achieve this. Make sure you are realistic about what is achievable.
Then, write it down. Research shows that 42 percent of people are more likely to achieve their goals just by writing them down. When you write down your resolutions, you are making a solid commitment to achieve them. It will also provide you with greater clarity, so you don’t wander aimlessly.
Check your progress. It is important to come back to your list and assess how you are doing against your resolutions. I do this every quarter or so. I also make adjustments as needed. If I am trying, but see no visible progress, then I amend my process. Most resolutions require a change in lifestyle which may require a drastic shift in both mindset and actions. This might take some time to evolve and refine in order to figure out what works best for you.
And finally, be kind to yourself. We all have a tendency to beat ourselves up whenever we’ve failed. And although a resolution may be your end-goal, it might take the rest of your life to sustain it. Think of it with a long term perspective, if your resolution is to quit smoking and you have a cigarette, don’t then use it as a trigger to smoke an entire pack. Or, go ahead and smoke an entire pack but then regroup and start again. Recognize that it is a process and there will be set backs along the way. That is ok, as long as you are trending towards progress.
Below are my list of New Years Resolutions. I would love to hear some of yours.
Good luck and Happy New Year!
Maintain my target weight every month this year starting in March. (I am currently 4-6lbs from my target weight).
Continue to be mindful of finances (this is an on-going maintenance resolution – the original resolution was from 2010 and it was to get out of credit card debt)
Evolve my blog (fix the technology issues and revise the format – increase writing frequency to 2x per week)
Donate each month through Kiva
Save xx amount of $$ for new house
Take a class (ballet or interior design or both)
Meditate for at least 5 minutes a day and focus on how I want my life to be
Make it happen