Most New Years resolutions wind up in the dustbin, so much so that it’s a source of amusement, cynicism and consternation. What’s a great New Year’s resolution then? Are they all doomed to failure or are some resolutions easier to accomplish than others? Here are 5 steps to making a great New Year’s resolution that you’ll keep.
Step 1 – Make It Exciting
Common New Year’s resolutions include losing weight, exercising more, increasing our income, saving more, and getting out of debt. These are all meaningful resolutions. Usually we want to change ourselves for the better or improve our circumstances. The problem is that these sort of resolutions rarely excite us, especially since they entail a great deal of perceived effort and take time to accomplish. Sure they’re great for us but they don’t usually energize us into acting on them.
The unfortunate truth is that we need excitement, motivation and passion in order to get off our butts and accomplish most anything.
In crafting a resolution you will keep, it’s important to tie it to something that excites you. This excitement and enthusiasm will generate the necessary energy to get you moving in the direction of your goal – and stick with it once the initial euphoria wears off.
Generating enthusiasm varies from person to person. Some people hoping to lose weight hang a pair of pants or a dress on the door that they want to fit into in the future. Others tie exercise to a challenge like running a 5k or 10k with friends. Others link their resolution to a prized reward they’ll give themselves upon completion. Maybe you’re not excited about contributing to your 401k but you’re deeply interested in retiring early and that contribution is one tangible slice of your freedom pie.
Whatever your method, tying a resolution to something that excites or inspires you is key.
Step 2 – Specificity
Whether making a resolution or setting goals in everyday life, specificity will achieve more results than a vague intention. Important points to make in a great New Year’s resolution are:
- What you hope to accomplish
- When you hope to accomplish it
For instance, “I’m going to lose 10 pounds by March 1st” is a better resolution than a nebulous “I’m going to lose weight this year”. Similarly, “I’m going to train for and run a 5k on February 12th” is more specific and motivating than “I’m going to exercise more” or “I’m going to start jogging”.
When you specify what and when, you’re scheduling an appointment which requires immediate action. Vagueness with an undefined deadline means procrastination. There’s just no commitment inherent in a vague resolution unlike with a specific target with a specific deadline.
Step 3 – Plan for Success
Saying what you want to accomplish and when gets you thinking automatically about next steps. In order to accomplish your goal, you need to know how to get from where you are now to where you want to be. Having a written roadmap is key.
Write down necessary steps to get you where you want to be. Breaking the goal into chunks and steps makes it easier to accomplish, as well as builds confidence and momentum with each stage achieved. Sometimes we don’t know all the steps and that’s fine but often we can at least break our goals into manageable pieces and go from there.
Here is what I mean in practice:
While joining a gym or buying running shoes might be an easy and obvious step for some fitness goals, what are the next phases? For example, what days will you go? Will you take classes or use equipment? Knowing which exercises, how much to do, and what to build up to will start you down the road to actualizing what’s in your head.
It’s the same with reaching a healthy weight or eating better. How will you set and accomplish milestones? Do you need to discover and try a number of new recipes each week or month, outline foods to avoid or minimize, change where you shop or eat? Which meals will you target at different points?
Similarly, in reaching a financial goal, does it require opening an IRA but then following up with research on where to allocate contributions and scheduling when and how much to contribute?
What is the work that needs doing with your goal? Once you delve into this, schedule those steps as sub-goals. Celebrate when you achieve them. This is how you craft a good map to your goal and proceed step by step to finishing it rather than languishing 21 days in.
Step 4 – Accountability
About the only time we talk about our resolutions is when someone asks us if we have any. After that, we’re usually pretty quiet. To have the best shot at keeping your resolution, make yourself accountable first to yourself, then to others for achieving it.
Often we don’t make a real commitment to ourselves on our resolution. It’s more a wish or a nice to have even when it may be highly important to making our lives better. There’s nothing resolute about the typical New Year’s resolution.
To accomplish yours, sit with yourself and think about what you want to achieve and how it will improve your life. How will achieving it make you feel? What will it do for your life? Picture all this, then make a conscious commitment to yourself to achieve it no matter what.
That accountability to self is essential.
To strengthen it though it’s useful to make yourself equally accountable before others. Blast your goal and deadline across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. Post updates, ask for suggestions, show your hurdles and progress. Likely you’ll get an outpouring of support and encouragement that will make your goal that much easier and enjoyable. Others might even join you!
Another form of accountability can be making an agreement with one or more people to prevent failure. For instance, when I had trouble running my miles in the morning while training for a half marathon, I made bets with colleagues: If I didn’t run, I had to pay them $20 each run. Since I didn’t want to fork over that much money, I always ran.
Accountability has many forms. Find the one that works to keep you committed to pursuing your resolution to its finish.
Step 5 – Re-Motivate Yourself
The number one secret to any successful goal is making it something that excites you or that you can become passionate about. Even with a goal you desperately want to achieve, unless it’s a quick task, our enthusiasm still tends to fade over time. Stoking renewed motivation is essential.
How do we stay motivated? There are a number of ways and sometimes you have to use them all!
This can include:
- Finding inspiring stories by people who have done what we’re doing
- Joining a network of people on the same path as us
- Subscribing to media that feeds us a daily or weekly stream of motivational advice, tips, stories, learning points, etc.
- Touching base with ourselves about what we hope to achieve, why, how it will make us feel and how it will change our life
Inspiration can come from anywhere but it’s important to seek it out over the course of pursuing your resolution to its achievement. Become passionate and obsessed so that you are so fired up that you can’t imagine NOT succeeding.
Don’t let your goals wind up in the dustbin. If you want a foolproof New Year’s resolution:
- Tie it to something you can get excited about
- Specify what you’ll accomplish and give it a deadline
- Plan out the necessary steps the resolution will require
- Be accountable to yourself and others for getting it done
- Keep your motivation alive by continually finding ways to stoke your passion
If you do this, you’ll have a killer New Year’s resolution that you’ll accomplish. You’ll be proud of yourself and happy for doing it. Even better, you’ll have the confidence and skills necessary to set other goals and accomplish those as well.
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