Full disclosure: I don’t make New Year resolutions anymore. I make starting-sometime-in-January-promises-for-better-living. Similar idea, but my resolution commences on some random, nonconventional day, making it special and personal and, as a result, has a greater chance of succeeding. (Now you understand the mid-January resolution post.)
That said, why do something like ninety percent of New Year resolutions fail? OK, well, maybe you don’t wonder why (most) fail, but certainly you, as have I, decided upon a New Year resolution only to see it fizzle out after a few days, weeks, or months. What’s the deal? Generally, resolutions are too vague, overwhelming, and unstructured to succeed. We make grand promises of weight loss or self-improvement without any containers around how or what to achieve, which sets an easy stage for failure. Our minds don’t handle lack of specificity well and become easily overwhelmed with lofty goals. Add in daily demands and the moment something needs to give, the fantastic resolution is no longer.
How can you decide upon a goal and make sure you achieve it? First thing first, make a sometime in January, February, March, April, or whenever else resolution and follow these simple guidelines to success:
- Specific: Your resolution cannot be vague; you must decide upon a very concrete goal. Saving money is not specific. Losing weight is not specific. Exercising is not specific. Each of these admirable resolutions contains so many variables that you’ll become overwhelmed by how to accomplish your goal. For example, if you decide to eat better in 2017, what does that mean to you? Eating less meat? Buying organic fruits and veggies? Not dining out? Not drinking soda? Eliminating sugar? See, you gotta figure out what YOUR resolution means to YOU – be specific AND realistic.
- Small: This is not to say that your overall goal cannot be big, but to achieve your big goal, you must chop that big thing up into bite-sized pieces. Success comes easily when the goal is smaller and you’ll enjoy such an immense sense of accomplishment when hitting the small goal that, more likely than not, you will be jacked-up to continue on the path. Likewise, if you fail to hit your smaller goal, it’s easier to regain focus and recommit.
- Structure: Although structure may not always apply to a resolution, it applies to the majority, especially with health and fitness goals. You need to specifically determine how you will accomplish your goal, including scheduling the time to work toward your goal and what needs you have to hit your goal. Look at your calendar and make a plan how your resolution specifically fits in your life. If you fail to plan, plan to fail.
- Meaningful: When a goal means more than something superficial, your level of commitment intensifies thereby increasing the odds that you’ll stick with, and achieve, your goal. I’ll give you my example: This year, my mid-January resolution is to abstain from all alcohol from January 15 through April 14, which is exactly 90 days. This is meaningful for me because I suffer from clinical depression and, as it turns out, alcohol and depression don’t play very well together; each encourages the other to progressively worsen. Winter is the worst time of year for my depression so, rather than hope I won’t relapse or have a particularly bad depressive episode, I proactively stop behavior that works toward a relapse. Believe me: when suffering from depression, every. bit. helps. Your meaning need not be so profound, but I challenge you to locate purpose deeper than fitting into a pair of skinny jeans.
I hope your New Year is off to a fantastic start! And maybe, just maybe, these tools will help you revise, restart, or make an anytime resolution. Show your life who’s boss!