It's that time of year again - the start! And with a new year come new year's resolutions and, for many of us, midyear failures. If you want to stick to your new year's resolution this time around, you're not alone. Who doesn't want to set out to do something and actually do it. I am probably no better than the next person at staying on a long-term task, but over the years, I have attained advice from people who seem to have the stick-to-it thing down. Here are some pieces of advice I've gotten about making and keeping new year's resolutions. I hope you find them useful too.
- Take a personal inventory. If you're looking to make your life better, it's good to know where your life currently stands. You may know right away that you want to quit smoking or you want to finally learn Spanish. But on the other hand, a little soul searching may help you discover new things you want to do in the coming year. So, as the new year approaches, set aside a few minutes to take stock of where you are in life now, perhaps in several categories such as personal life, professional life, health, spiritual life, financial life. And then start to figure out where you want to be at the end of the next 365 days.
- Be reasonable. After you have decided the general things you want to change, consider what you can actually do. For example, if you currently work a minimum wage job and resolve to make a million dollars in the next calendar year, chances are, you're doomed to fail. Why? You have set an unreasonable goal for yourself. It's great to aim high, but it's also important to consider the true size of a task, how long it will take, how much you will have to do to achieve the goal, and many other practical concerns. A new year's resolution isn't like wishing to a fairy godmother, it's instead endeavoring to make realistic changes in your life for the better. So be reasonable. Change "make a million this year" to "start saving so I have a million dollars when I retire." It still might be a long shot, but it's at least possible.
- Go on record. I have heard in several places that one great way to improve your chances of sticking to a resolution is to make it known what your resolution is. You can even ask people to help by encouraging you in your pursuit. If people know you intend to quit smoking, for example, then you will maybe think twice about lighting up in front of them. If you endeavor to write a novel and know Uncle Frank will be asking you about it every time you see him, you may be especially inspired to get to work. When people who care about you know you're working hard, they will also likely offer support. And you, in return, can help others keep their resolutions. Some of them may even be in sync with yours. Publicizing your new resolution may get you a new walking buddy or smoking cessation pal.
- Have checkpoints. Another thing I have heard to be very useful for people trying to keep resolutions is to break the big things into little parts and chart your progress. First of all, this is helpful psychologically. For example, if you want to lose 25 pounds, it seems like a huge task. Breaking it down to five pounds a month - or just over a pound per week for five months - suddenly makes it quite doable. Secondly, people naturally achieve things with small steps. For example, if you want to take up a new language, you would start by taking a beginner's class, not by looking for instant fluency. Small goals in service of the major resolution can be very helpful.
- Rearrange things. As anyone familiar with Oprah or Dr. Phil can tell you, people who are trying to change their lives in one way or another often get the suggestion that they need to make new plans, new arrangements, new schedules, whatever it takes to create the structure that will help them succeed in making that change. If you want to quit eating junk food, quit buying it- in fact, quit going down that aisle in the store. Start keeping healthy foods on hand, instead. If you want to improve your spiritual life, keep your bible or other holy book right by your bed so instead of sitting on a shelf downstairs, it's right there when you wake up or are going to sleep. Easy access. If you want to talk to your siblings more, set up a regular time to chat. You can really help yourself keep your resolution by making changes that will make that resolution a new part of your everyday life.
- When necessary, get back on the horse. The resolution made in January and given up on in February is a cliché. But don't let yourself fall into the trap of the absolute. For example, if you said you'd go to the gym everyday and by Valentine's Day, you've all but stopped going, don't look at it as failure. Just renew your promise to yourself and start anew. Failure doesn't come from falling off track, it comes from not getting back on track. Make sure that you remember you've made a resolution for the whole year. If some months are worse than others, that's okay. Just don't lose heart. If you keep falling off that resolution horse, just keep getting right back on.
You can make New Year's Day the start of a new chapter in your life by resolving to change bad habits to good, by resolving to live up to your potential, by resolving to contribute more to the world around you. Keeping a resolution can give you an enormous feeling of achievement. Good luck with your resolutions this year.