New Year’s Resolutions

Keeping Our New Year’s Resolutions

Have you made any New Year’s resolutions for this year? Each year at the end of December or on New Year’s Day I am asked this same question by at least one person. My answer is initially “no” but it gets me thinking and I ultimately jump on the bandwagon and start setting my resolutions for the coming year. Some of my resolutions serve to get me back on track after my derailing gluttonous behavior over the holiday season, and some are life changing goals designed to move my life’s mission forward. For the most part, I am able to keep my resolutions but like most people, many die down after even a week. One week! Why is that? And I know I’m not alone. In thinking about this, I realized there are techniques to achieving success on New Year’s resolutions and no, I am not going to suggest that we not make any. After all, I think it feels good to start the year off with some feel-good goals.

According to Wikipedia, a New Year’s resolution is a commitment made to one or more personal goals, projects, or the reforming of a habit made in anticipation of the New Year and new beginnings. The concept is to annually reflect on self-improvement.[i] According to one survey, of the 80% of respondents who have made resolutions in their lifetime, only 10% said they always keep them. 33% said they have kept some and let some go. 43% said they rarely keep them, but have done so once or twice. And 15% said they have never kept a new year’s resolution.[ii] I’m in the 33%. Where are you?

The main reason it is difficult to keep resolutions is that if it they were easy to accomplish, then they would be accomplished already throughout the year without much more thought. In addition, many resolutions are not planned out very well. The most common resolutions are things that we all know would make our life better if only we would just get them done.

Common New Year’s Resolutions:

  • Lose Weight
  • Eat healthier
  • Quit smoking
  • Quit drinking
  • Watch less TV
  • Manage debt
  • Manage stress
  • Obtain better work-life balance
  • Get a promotion/better job
  • Learn something new
  • Save money
  • Get organized
  • Finish home improvement projects
  • Volunteer / give to charity
  • Enjoy life more
  • Read more
  • Recycle more
  • Exercise more
  • Travel more
  • Get more sleep
  • Have more fun
  • Spend more time with Family and Friends

In general, resolutions are more sustainable when they are approached in one or both of the following ways: By breaking down a goal into manageable and reasonable smaller goals, and by sharing them with a supportive friend or buddy. Here are some other tips to setting and accomplishing our yearly goals.

  • Be specific. If our resolution is to lose weight, we should pick a specific and attainable goal such as: lose 15 pounds by March 15. Then we can set mini specific goals that will help us get there. For example: eat 500 calories less per day by cutting my portion sizes by ¼ and do 30 minutes of cardio three times per week. Or, limit refined sugar or meat consumption to just the weekends. In another example,  if our goal is to obtain better work-life balance, we can be more specific by saying that we will leave work by 5:30 each day and only work late once or twice per week if needed.
  • Be realistic. If we currently eat refined sugar every day and vow to never eat refined sugar again for the rest of our lives, we are likely to get discouraged when that sugar craving hits. But if we resolve to only eat refined sugar on weekends, then having that choice will make it more likely that we will accomplish that goal. Or, if we currently exercise about twice per month or not at all, it is not realistic for the long term to decide to exercise every day for two hours per day. We can make a more realistic goal by hiring a personal trainer to get us started on a workout plan that will work with our fitness level and lifestyle.
  • Be more relaxed about accomplishing our goals. If our goal is to meditate every single day, and we skip a day, having a more relaxed attitude will ensure that skipping one day won’t mean failure and cause us to permanently let go of that goal. We simply pick it back up again tomorrow.
  • See the bigger picture. It’s important to look at the more fundamental reason for choosing to set a goal in the first place. Resolving to save money is not as impactful of a resolution unless we look at the overall picture of why we are resolving to do so. For example, we may be saving money now because it will allow us to invest in something at a later date that will bring in a larger income. Or resolving to get more sleep can come from a fundamental need to be more alert and restful and lead an overall healthier lifestyle.
  • Create accountability. I mentioned before that enrolling a supportive buddy or friend can help us to achieve our goals. It helps if this friend or buddy agrees to keep us accountable for accomplishing our goals. Perhaps we make a bet or agree on a reward. Whatever the agreement, the friend we choose will need to be someone we trust and who is supportive of our well-being. It is a plus if that friend is asking us to keep them accountable for their goals as well.
  • Set up reminders. A great way to remind ourselves is to write our resolutions down and have them delivered in a way that will be pleasing to see or receive and in a frequency which will not cause us to ignore the reminder. We can post them on the wall in a place where we will see them every day or set them up as reminders on our calendar.
  • Reward ourselves. Who doesn’t like a reward? It’s important to choose increments of time throughout our goals to reward ourselves for a job well done. Of course, the reward shouldn’t be something that will sabotage our goals. If our goal is to lose weight, we shouldn’t reward ourselves with a cake after losing 5 pounds. Instead we can schedule an appointment for a massage or schedule that ski trip we’ve been putting off.
  • Play the game. Life is ultimately a game that we all play and we each set up the rules of the game as we go along. Our resolutions can be fun when we choose to look at them as a game rather than a chore. When we think about the recreational games we play in our lives we don’t put so much emphasis on the outcome as we do on each step in the process of the game. In a card game, we play one hand at a time. Football games are played one play at a time. In both games there is an ultimate goal in mind, but the outcome is achieved when we remain focused on the moment and play fully one step at a time. And we would never play if it weren’t ultimately fun!
  • Be thankful. Resolving to say out loud, or write down each day, something that we are thankful for, induces an overall good feeling about life and eventually trickles down to actions that are good for ourselves, making it easier to accomplish our goals.

So good luck to us all with our New Year’s resolutions and have a wonderful 2013!



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