There are two common mistakes that we tend to make when we start to make our new year resolutions or any goal setting activity for that matter.
We think about what we “should” do, rather than what we really want to do.
Worse, we think about what we should stop doing, rather than what we actually want to achieve.
“What should I do this year?”
“What should I stop doing?”
“What do other people suggest I should work on?”
To be successful at any change, we need to really want it. Unless we take the time to think about what it is that we really want we will invariably end up making resolutions that we are not fully committed to.
Without commitment, we aren’t motivated. After the first setbacks or obstacles, we’ll probably quit.
So the first rule of new year resolutions is to only make resolutions that you can commit to – don’t make them because it is “the thing to do”, or because someone has told you that you should.
Rule 1: Commit to Your Resolution
Successful resolutions start with a strong commitment to make a change.
To succeed, you must believe that you can accomplish what you set out to do, and really want to achieve it. Choose resolutions that you really want to achieve and express them in a positive way. Announce your resolution to those closest to you or whom you can trust – they will help to hold you accountable.
Develop a ceremony to mark the beginning of your commitment, this makes it more “real” and special for you. Don’t leave your choice of resolution to the last minute, take time to think about your goals, and make sure that you are mentally committed to them.
Rule 2: Be Realistic
The key to achieving goals is continued motivation.
If you set goals that are too difficult, you risk failing. Think carefully before setting the same resolution that you set last year. If it didn’t work for you then, make sure that there is good reason that you can achieve it this year.
What has changed? Do you have more commitment to make it work? (Be careful, or else you will end up with a repeat performance, and another failed resolution!)
Don’t try to do too much. There is no reason to set more than one or two resolutions. Anymore than that, and you’ll lose focus, and lessen your chances of success in any one area.
Rule 3: Write It Down
A simple but powerful technique for making your goal feel real is to put your resolution into writing. There is something inside us that creates more commitment and drive when we do this.
Consider writing your resolution down on pieces of card, and keeping it where you’ll see it often – on your desk, on the fridge door, or in your wallet.
Rule 4: Make a Plan
This is where so many resolutions fall down. Articulating what you want to achieve is one thing; deciding how to do it is quite another. Don’t miss out this step!
Do a brain dump of all the steps that is involved in your goals. Empower yourself by listing what training you need to do. Do you need to read something to reference to? Do you
Rule 5: Be Flexible
Not everything will work out precisely the way you planned. If you are too rigid in your approach to making resolutions, the first minor obstacle can throw you off your course completely.
Realize that your resolution itself may change along the way. As long as this is positive, that’s not failure, it’s reality. As your life changes, so will your goals, dreams, and desires.
Remember Rule 1 (Commit to Your Resolution)? If you need to make changes to the goal so that you continue to care about it, then do so.
Rule 6: Use a System of Reminders
It’s hard to keep focused on your plan when you have many other commitments, responsibilities, and obligations. The best way to stay on top of your resolution is to develop a formal reminder system.
I’ll ask it again: have your written resolutions visible at as many times of the day as possible? Leave reminders at work, at home, in the car, on your calendar, in your purse / bag, and so on.
Rule 7: Track Your Progress
You won’t know how well you are doing unless you keep track of your progress. This is why your detailed plan is so important. By building excitement around the little successes, you can keep yourself motivated, and keep pushing forwards.
Use a journal and regularly make an entry in it regarding your progress. Note when you felt particularly pleased with your efforts. Note when you felt down, or felt like quitting.
Over time, look for common themes and decide if there is an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.
Record challenges you faced, as well as things that went better than planned. Look back at your entries on a regular basis, and use your past experiences to shape your attitude as you move forward.
Rule 8: Reward Yourself
When you are developing your plan, make a note of a few milestones where you will reward yourself once you have achieved them.
But spread them out – you want to make sure that the rewards remain special, and are not too easy to get. This way, you are teaching yourself that your effort is well worth it.
These being said, resolutions or goal setting is not only reserved for January 1. You can set goals and re-visit it as often as you want. As Lara Casey would say, “there is nothing magical about January 1.”