How to Create Successful New Year’s Resolutions
What Makes a Successful Resolution?
Every year, people make New Year’s Resolutions – losing weight, exercising more, swearing less – all different kinds of resolutions. And usually, by about 3-4 weeks into the year, those resolutions have fallen by the wayside, to be chalked up as “Oh, well, better luck next year” (if you’re an optimist) or as proof of failure (if you struggle with that inner critic). It’s 2 weeks into the New Year – how are you doing so far?
The question is – how do you make a resolution that you can stick to, that actually improves your life and creates a more successful year?
3 Keys to Resolution Success
- Limit yourself to 3 resolutions or fewer
- Be clear, specific and measurable with your resolutions
- Make resolutions that are tactics and actions not goals
Limit Yourself to 3 Resolutions
Too much change, too fast is a recipe for failure.
As human beings we resist change and we especially resist radical change. Smaller, more incremental change can short circuit this resistance. So limit yourself to 3 specific behaviors that you think would make a significant difference, but make them smaller in scope.
For example, if your goal is to improve your fitness:
- If you never work out at all, resolve to work out for 10 minutes a day (Instead of 2 hours a day which would be too much)
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator. (A specific behavior)
- Park at the back of the parking lot instead of the closest spot you can find. (A tactic to increase your daily step count)
These are 3 simple, small steps that will improve your fitness level without changing everything all at once. And notice, each choice was clear, specific and measurable. You may find that the 10 minutes expands naturally. Let it – that’s OK – but don’t mandate a huge chunk of time that you won’t be able to live up to.
Choose Clear, Specific and Measurable Resolutions
This seems pretty self-explanatory on the surface – so why do we have so much trouble with it? For example – do you have the words “less”, “more”, “longer”, etc. in your resolution? Those are comparative words and are inherently NOT specific.
To make a resolution specific, use a measure that you know you’ve either done or not done. For example, instead of “Exercise more,” how about “Exercise 3 times/week.” Can you feel the difference between those two things?
If you’re not sure if your resolution is clear or specific enough – give it the success test. Will you know on any given day if you were successful in fulfilling a resolution? If not – get more specific.
Resolutions Are Tactics and Actions Not Goals
In Goals and Actions and Strategies, Oh My! I clarified the difference between those terms. You may find it helpful to read that post as well before crafting your Resolutions.
an action or method that is planned and used to achieve a particular goal
So to be clear – a resolution is not an objective or end result. It is the action or methodology that you believe will put you on the path towards your goals. So take a look at your resolutions – are they in alignment with a goal or goals? Will they move you forward towards what you want in your life for this year?
How to Implement your Resolution
Baby steps, baby steps, baby steps. You’ve chosen 3 (or fewer) simple actions or behaviors. You’ve made them clear, specific and measurable. You’ve clarified that they will indeed lead you in the direction of your goals for this year. Now what?!?
Whatever day today is. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first or the 15th. It doesn’t matter if it’s June!!! Today is the first day of the rest of your life, right? Isn’t that how the saying goes? Start today.
If you choose not to keep your resolution one day. Or maybe you forget. Or you only get to part of it. That’s OK – forgive yourself. If you use that as an excuse to stop, if you use “doing it perfectly,” as a reason to not do it at all, then you are not going to reach your goals.
Are you willing to not reach your goals?!?
Instead, say the following, “I recommit to doing this resolution now. I’m starting again, now.”
I heard somewhere (I wish I could remember where), a story about how this person quit smoking cigarettes. At first he decided to quit once a week. On Monday. “OK – It’s Monday, I’ve quit smoking!”
At first, it only lasted one day. He was smoking again by Tuesday. But after a few months or so of quitting every Monday, he had gotten up to 7 days without a cigarette. So that next Monday, he quit again… Pretty soon, he was only having to quit on the first of the month. Then, the first of the new year. Then he stopped thinking about it all together – because he didn’t smoke anymore.
So, just keep choosing the action or tactic. There is no failure. This next moment is another opportunity to choose.
But also – you can think of each resolution as an experiment. You choose a particular resolution because you think it will have a particular impact on your life. But what if you’re wrong?
This year, I made a goal to read 1 book a month that is not strictly entertainment – they can be self-improvement or inspirational or skill building books. They could be biographies or histories or science books. But not mysteries or romance or science fiction!
Then, I resolved to read these books on my lunch break. (Notice the difference between the goal and the resolution)
But here’s the thing – I don’t want to read stuff that’s “good for me” on my lunch break. On my lunch break, I want to be ON A BREAK!! And so the resolution lasted about a week and the second week, I just couldn’t get myself to do it. Does that mean I’m a failure? Should I give up on that goal? No, I need to choose a different tactic. Find time slots that are not break times to do that reading. I didn’t fail – I just chose the wrong tactic. A different method can still get me to my goal. But if I look at it as a failure, if I judge myself harshly – then I won’t even try a different tactic. The key is to think of it as an experiment – if it doesn’t work, try something else!
So please share with me in the comments – what actions or tactics are you choosing to make this your best year ever? And come back and tell me how it goes!