Are you thinking about what to resolve to do in the coming year? You’re in good company. Roughly 60% of Americans make New Year’s Resolutions. Sadly, only 8% follow through. How many times have you, while making these promises to yourself, given yourself a pat on the back for what you accomplished last year? Let’s resolve to be able to do that next year :). Here are some ways to generate resolutions you can keep, and practical means to stick to them. If you make it to the end of this piece, I have a small gift for you.
1. Operationalize your goals. To operationalize something is to express it in terms of the ways used to prove it. How could you prove that you have eaten healthier at the end of the year? If you commit to meatless Mondays and giving up sodas, you will be eating healthier, and you can prove that by tracking your Coke consumption and Mondays sans beef.
2. Change one thing at a time. The idea is not “New Year, New You.” Prioritize your goals and take them out individually. Taking on too many things at once is likely to lead to stress and anxiety – things you’re probably trying to cut back on rather than fuel.
3. Break it down. Looking to finishing things up a year from now can lead to an inspired start, and if you are among the few who finish, a last-ditch-effort ending. If you’re serious about a goal, map out mini-goals to reach along the way, and set mile markers for them. Want to find a new job? Maybe you can expand your network in January, rewrite your resume in February, and update your interview wardrobe in March.
4. Memorialize your progress. This used to mean writing things down. In this day and age, we have a slew of ways to track progress. Want to lose weight? There’s an app or 30,000 for that. Spend less? Dozens of programs will track and categorize every penny that comes out of every account. The more automated you can make your data-generating, the more likely you are to track.
5. Know your motivation. Why are you trying to change? We are, for the most part, purpose driven people. We are more likely to do something that has meaning to us, especially when it is challenging. If you want to read more, is it to increase your empathy (reading fiction will do this, by the way), get to sleep more easily, or learn more about the world around you? If you have trouble with this, ask yourself the age old therapist’s question: “What would that look like?” “Ahhhhh,” you might say. “Reading more would look like me having more to contribute to conversations.”
6. Do it for you. Relationships wax and wane, but you are with yourself for the long haul. Making a promise to and for yourself and sticking to it is good self-care practice. Keep your promises to yourself with the same resolve you would to someone else.
7. Dangle a carrot – or a tropical vacation. Set a reward for the end goal. Want to save $10,000, for example? Decide to set aside a portion for vacation and plan it out. Keep pictures of your destination in daily view.
8. Ask for support. Tell you close friends and family exactly what you want to achieve, and then invite them to hold you accountable. Give them permission to check in on your progress and remind you of why you resolved to change. Outside of your usual cast of characters, you might look to a specific support group or relevant online forum for encouragement. Tying in to number 4 above, you can share progress with others in most apps, or even in a google spreadsheet. Feeling especially stuck? Counselors and psychologists are trained to help you change unhealthy behaviors. Even a few appointments can help you move toward targeted goals.
9. Be kind to yourself. Did you slack off in February? This does not mean that you have to give up. You can get back on track, or even redefine your goals along the way. This is not an all or nothing gig. If you intended to spend one night a week with family, and you’ve only made one night for all of January, you still have the memories of that one night, and that’s one night more than you would have had you not set the resolution to begin with.
10. You made it! Reading this blog was a move in the right direction. Use the guide below (the gift I promised) to create a worksheet for each of your New Year’s Resolutions:
How will I prove that I’ve accomplished this?
What is the plan? What are the mini-goals and when do I want to achieve them?
How am I going to track my progress?
Why do I want to make this change?
What will it look like when I’ve made this change?
Who is going to support me in this?