New Year’s Resolutions that Stick

Big journeys begin with small stepsMost advice about making New Year’s Resolutions follows the same formula – make a SMART goal (i.e. one that is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound). Following this formula, I might resolve to lose 5 pounds by the end of January. I could do this by cutting back on my eating, and adding in more exercise. Great, right? On paper it is a simple formula, but in real life it usually doesn’t really work. Why is this?

Well, the problem is that the SMART formula doesn’t help create lasting change. We don’t have switches where we can just ‘turn off’ unhealthy eating and ‘turn on’ exercise. We are more complicated than that. We have our minds and emotions to deal with; with mindset, motivation, and internal dialogue as pieces of the puzzle. We have to learn how to get our minds wrapped around creating a change in order for it to last. Without doing this you’ll just end up making the same resolution year after year, never making any progress.

But, change doesn’t have to be hard – we just need to look at things differently. Follow the advice below if you want a New Year’s resolution that is going to ‘stick’ (i.e. one that you’ll be able to keep the whole year long, not just the first few weeks of January):

1. Start small: the smaller a change is, the easier it is to make. E.g. don’t plan to run a marathon at the end of the year if you’ve never run before! While this may work for some people, they are the exception not the rule. For most of us, a goal of this size will be overwhelming and our minds will resist and come up with excuses to not let it happen.

2. One at a time: only make one change at a time. E.g. don’t suddenly overhaul your diet. Instead, you might start by adding an extra serving of vegetables to dinner every day. Wait until you get comfortable with this change, usually it takes a couple of weeks, before adding in another change. Trying to change more than one thing at a once is more daunting and scatters your focus and efforts.

3. Focus on the positive. Unless you’re a smoker, don’t make a resolution to stop doing something. For example, instead of resolving to stop eating fast food, resolve to make healthier choices (like grabbing a pita instead of a burger). Over time you will add more and more healthy behaviors and crowd out unhealthy ones. Your mind and emotions work in better harmony when focusing on positive resolutions and you’ll feel less internal resistance.

4. Your big ‘why’. Determine why you want to make a change in the first place. Is it to feel better about yourself? Because you want to be a positive role model for your children? Or to just get through your day with more energy? Whatever your reason, this will be your motivation; this is your big ‘why’. Create some sort of reminder for yourself (either a photograph, a vision board, a goal statement, or an affirmation) and post it somewhere meaningful so that your ‘why’ stays in the front of your mind. Sometimes when the going gets tough, all we need is a little reminder of why we’re on this path.

5. Support. Be aware that most people will just pat your back and tell you it is ‘ok’ when you’ve gotten off track. Although, we all need unconditional love and support, this will not help you reach your goals. You need someone who can creatively brainstorm with you, help you determine why you got off track in the first place, how to adjust your strategy, and how to get back moving in the direction of your goals. This is the role of a coach or mentor – make sure you have one!

So there you have it – a simple guide to creating New Year’s resolutions that stick. Although change is never really ‘easy’, working with your inner self (mind, emotions, etc) is much easier than the struggle, fight, and disappointment that usually result from New Year’s resolutions. I believe that we all have the potential for an amazing year ahead – and that mindset will make all of the difference!

This year I am dreaming big and I hope you are too! Please share below some of your hopes, dreams, and goals for 2013.

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