January 1, 2011
The moment you become clear on what’s important for you to change, then write a plan and be resolute in your easy-step approach, the New Year will be one of your best years.
Resolutions by the Wayside
New Year’s resolutions are a joke for most people. They make promises to improve their lives, and their intentions and efforts soon drift to the wayside with laughable predictability. This phenomenon is just another example of the nature of human nature—the tendency to often become unfocused and undisciplined. But…we can learn from successful and happy people who are pretty good at self-improvement and life-changing strategy-choices.
Important Goals That Are Clear
Typical “resolutions” are simply unclear goals that are intended to become reality. For instance, lots of people vaguely resolve to exercise more, eat healthier, get up earlier, treat their partner better, help more around the house, or work harder to earn more—all unclear and imprecise goals. Having clear personal and professional goals is the first step toward making long-lasting New Year’s resolutions. It is best to write down things like: “I will exercise at least 10 minutes for 4 days a week….I will read an article or book about respectful and loving communication with my partner….I will set aside 30 minutes on Sunday afternoon to do laundry,” and then schedule them.
Visualizing Your Goals
Goal achievement is powerfully enhanced by vividly picturing what it would look like when you achieve your goal(s), as well as the steps you need to take to achieve those goals. So, you can picture how pleased your partner would be when you help her with the laundry, and you would visualize stopping any other activity, getting up, picking up the dirty laundry, pouring in the detergent, filling the washer, and listening to the chug-chug of the machine…and picture yourself doing it with love and a smile. You could do the same with how you speak and listen to your partner or children, or how it would look—the movie version—when you get up earlier or stay a little later at work.
Visualization inspires you by keeping the happy results in your mind’s eye, and by prepping you for the actual activity. It’s especially important when you “don’t feel like” doing something, as will surely sometimes happen.
Another crucial strategy for activating your resolution is using a step-by-step sequence. You can have a big goal, but don’t plan on doing too much all at once, unless you have a surge of energy on occasion, like spending extra time on a work project. But if you’re trying to get in shape by starting, from scratch, a 4 or 5-day a week exercise program of 45 minutes…forget it! Be assured it won’t work. With any action plan, you plan on doing something as a single step or ongoing step that you know you can do without a gigantic effort. Ten minutes on the treadmill? Reading one page of an article or book? You can do that almost every day.
This means that you make your goal-resolution “public” by telling someone who will support, encourage, or challenge you in a way that will keep you “honest.” We are not talking about scolding or criticizing, but about positive coaching with a serious response. Find a friend or professional who can advise and support you.
Quitting is Not an Option
As you work your New Year’s resolutions, you slow down or lapse, at least on occasion. Here’s when most people drop the ball instead of continuing to play the game. If your goal is important enough, there is no quitting. You continue where you left off, continue again, and again. Success is measured by taking one more goal-oriented step after the last time you missed.
By the way, feel free to make a New Year’s resolution in April or September—any time that you want to change your life. And take time to review, clarify, resolve, and plan on a monthly or quarterly basis throughout the year.
To optimize your New Year’s resolution success, just take these practical steps:
1st Write down 3 of your most important life goals. Specify a goal like “working harder at the office” with “checking emails only twice, and staying an extra half-hour.” You can add to these later on.
2nd With each goal, write a specific plan. For instance, when will you check your office email, and how will you arrange to stay 30-minutes longer?
3rd Make sure you have someone to whom you are voluntarily accountable, and consult with someone if you are slipping a lot. Follow through.