It’s not too late to make New Year’s Resolutions. Even better, there’s still time to clear up the anti-resolution mistakes you may have made. Here’s how to actually get some things done, and keep them done:
‘Resolutions’ are promises that you make to yourself. You don’t have to wait until the New Year to make them. But of course, that’s when most of us do. Unfortunately, many are already slacking off by the end of January.
There are resolution mistakes that almost guarantee you’ll be one of the slackers—but there are also things you can do to keep your motivation burning and help you to keep your promise to yourself.
First, and most important, don’t make a long list of resolutions. If you have, delete some. Choose one or two changes you want to make; and never more than three. Making any personal change takes concentration, focus and self discipline. Few people have the determination to parse those qualities out to a big number of significant changes. Picking just one resolution gives you a much better chance of sticking with it until you reach your goal.
Never make a vague resolution like ‘losing weight,’ or ‘getting in shape.’ These almost always fail, because they’re not specific. Exactly how much weight do you want to lose? What kind of fitness improvements do you mean by ‘getting in shape.’ Your resolution should be phrased in a way that accurately describes your goal—like “Lose 20 pounds over six months by cutting out sugary snacks.”
One of the biggest reasons for a resolution failure is promising something to yourself without having a plan to achieve it. Maybe you want to make more money. How are you going to do it? Will you look for a second job? If so, what kind of job? How will you look for it? Perhaps you want to lose 20 pounds. What changes do you plan to make in your diet to accomplish the weight loss?
Closely related to this fail is making a resolution without thinking about it, just because it’s something you want. Maybe you’re tired of the clutter in your garage or basement, and you’d like to have it cleaned out. So you make a resolution based on that desire, but you haven’t yet thought out the way to make it happen. That means it isn’t going to happen.
The problem with that kind of resolution is that it’s ‘magical thinking.’ Somehow, just because you wrote it down, that clutter is going to disappear as if by magic, without you having to do anything about it. Wrong.
Instead, create a plan to work on clutter-clearing for 10 or 15 minutes every day, or three times a week, at a specific time. That plan works for every other resolution as well. Decide which days you will work on your goal, and at what time. Make that time a sacred ‘self’ time that nothing, and no one, can interrupt. Don’t choose a time when you’re supposed to be doing something else, or when others may need you. Never allow any excuse to interfere with using that time to work towards your goal.
Constantly reinforcing your progression towards success eventually will create a habit pattern. Forming a habit of going to the gym or of regularly clearing out clutter will soon make the doing of it much easier. At first, forcing yourself to repeat behavior required by your resolution may seem difficult. But as soon as it becomes a habit, you’ll find the time, and motivation won’t be a problem. Don’t be like the kitchen magpie, fluttering around wasting time
Finally, and this is extremely important, have patience. A lot of folks who resolve to lose weight slack off within a month or two because they didn’t lose as much as they had hoped. Give yourself time to accomplish your resolution, whatever it is. It might even take several start-overs before you see any progress.
If you do slack off, that doesn’t mean everything is finished. Just start over. It may take 20 attempts before you actually stop smoking or spending so much time on your phone or whatever your resolution is. But each attempt will firm up your resolve, letting your subconscious know that this is something important to you, making it easier to keep working towards your goal. Editor Wina Sturgeon says you can win a county bounty by continuing to work towards your goal
When you finally accomplish your promise to yourself, reinforce it by taking time to mentally pat yourself on the back, congratulate and reward yourself. You’ve earned it.