Happy New Year! It’s that time again. Many across the world are nursing their champagne hangovers while trying to decide what their New Year’s resolutions will be. It’s the season for vision boards, desire maps, and visualizing your future successes. Gym memberships will see a huge spike (per usual), as will various addiction-themed groups, and forgive/forget/organize/improve/live/love vaguery is at an all time high.
Unfortunately, statistics show that only 8% of the population is successful at keeping their resolution. How can you revamp your resolutions so that you’re part of that 8%? The answers are surprisingly counter-intuitive.
1. Start with a review of your previous year.
Don’t rush right into making resolutions without taking stock of the previous year. How many times have you repeated a resolution? Why do you think promising yourself the same thing without changing anything will get you different results? What did you accomplish in 2014? What kind of person did you have to be in order to accomplish those feats? What worked for you? What didn’t? What obstacles did you face in implementing your resolutions? What’s your life like when things are “great?” Reviewing the previous year helps you to understand better what you need to focus on and improve and perhaps what you need ditch. What do you want more of in your life and what should you avoid?
Implement a cyclical review for 2015. Take a look at your calendar and mark times for when you will review your progress, be it monthly, quarterly or maybe centered around some big events you have planned during the year. Waiting a full year to review is too long. You want to make sure you have up-to-date data and a fresh memory so you can continually improve.
2. Get specific and real.
Many aren’t successful with their resolutions because the resolution is vague. What’s your actual accomplishment? How will you know you achieved the goal? Don’t be afraid to articulate a specific goal for fear that you won’t achieve it. And notice I said real, not “realistic.” I think it’s important to get real with yourself, and set goals that align with what you actually want, instead of what you feel like you’re supposed to want or that you “realistically” can achieve.
Often our greatest successes aren’t fathomable – they tend to be the third dimensional path that we never saw in our two dimensional minds. Vague resolutions are easier to accomplish and give wiggle room, in case “something happens.” Getting specific sets a target in our minds and feels more restrictive. However, as Parkinson’s Law points out, a task expands to fill the time allotted for completion. Ex: One of my resolutions last year was to “research how to make a blog.” Does that mean spend 1 minute on the internet? Do a little everyday? How was I supposed to know if I accomplished the goal? I amended it to “start a blog by the end of the year.” I noticed myself dragging my feet because I knew I had until the end of the year. I amended it to “start a blog by March 31st.” I launched the first week of March.
3. Give yourself the power.
I think this is the most important step. Most goals depend upon or are based on other people’s actions and decisions, or something outside of your control. Successful New Year’s resolutions rest solely (or mostly) upon YOU.
Instead of saying “I want to get 100 paying customers by the end of the first quarter” why not say “I will reach out to 100 customers by the end of the first quarter.” The achievement of the first resolution (100 paying customers) lies completely outside your sphere of control and you’ve lost the battle already. “I will reach out” depends on you. “I will go to the gym twice a week” is better than “I’ll lose 50 lbs.” Set yourself up for the win and give yourself the power to achieve it.
If you’re in the sales or service industries, you have customers. And you want to make your customers/clients/etc. happy. So you want to make goals that revolve around them. But you are doing yourself a disservice by setting a goal over which you have no control. Focus on upholding your end of the deal and see the magic that ensues.
4. Identify your WHY.
Dig a little deeper: Why do you want to achieve this goal? What will it mean to you? Are you doing it for your health? You may have to ask why several times to get to the bottom of the matter. Your why will be your motivation on the not-so-good days. Most resolution-rebels focus much of their energy on HOW. Execution. Systems. Routines. Understanding your why will not only inspire and motivate you to persevere; it will also give your goal meaning and clarify if really want what you say you do. No fear; you can always scrap what you thought you wanted for a later time, or maybe, you figure out you don’t really want it at all.
5. Plan ahead. Understand that you will have bad days.
At some point during the year, you will not feel like doing what you promised yourself. You may go through a period when it seems that you definitely cannot do it. If you know that will happen, why not plan for it? Since you’ve done your review for 2014, you know what you want to avoid. You’ll understand your triggers. But you’ll also know how to react to a funk and how to get out of one. During your scheduled reviews, it’s ok to amend your resolution based on what you know about yourself and what has happened. In addition, be gentle, be nice, and be kind to yourself. Forgiveness people!
And most importantly, build in support and accountability. As part of planning ahead, you’ll need help along the way. Identify certain people you can count on to motivate you, be your drill sergeant, or offer words of comfort or encouragement. Identify those people and let them know ahead of time you’ll be counting on them.
No one in your corner (not yet, anyway)?
1. Ask. Ask those you respect and trust. Ask a family member or co-worker. Ask me! AND
2. Set up an internal/self-accountability system.
Resolutions are supposed to focus on the positive. By anticipating some of the negative (which is inevitable), you can proactively combat the obstacles and struggles you may face. Figure out how to work through feeling less than 100%. What baby steps or progress can you make even when you’re tired? In addition, most advocate or rely on either internal OR external support and accountability to see through resolutions. I say that both are important because the more you get on board, including yourself, the merrier!
Midwestern roots, DC resident, inspired traveler. Stephanie is a lawyer and life coach, dedicated to extraordinary living. Connect: Website | Twitter | LinkedIn.