Why do we make New Year’s resolutions? Usually, we want to change something in our lives. If you’re like the old me, you’ve made New Year’s resolutions in the past and, well, they never came to fruition. The new me has a system for achieving those promises to myself and I’d like to share it with you. Spoiler alert: as you may have figured out by now, it takes some effort and determination to change. But with a little persistence, we can do it!
I used to make 4 or 6 or even 10 New Year’s resolutions. I didn’t make myself choose the most important one. You know what happened? None of my wishful thinking ever panned out. Don’t overwhelm yourselves with so many dreams you can’t focus, because focus is necessary. Decide on 1 or 2 resolutions if you must. It’s much better to achieve one goal that’s important to you than long for more and achieve none.
Seriously. Write your goal down. Maybe in big gold letters where you’ll see it frequently. Then get out your calendar. What will it take to make progress on your resolution each week? Each day? Write those things on your calendar for the days and weeks in January. After each week ends, see what you’ve accomplished during that week. This is important because it gives you a chance to see that, yes, you actually are working on your New Year’s resolution; half the time, we forget what we’ve done. Progress begets progress!
Towards the end of the month, set up February’s calendar, refining based on your January experience. Each month, follow the same process. All success is garnered one step at a time. Changing habits a bit at a time, repeated over time, will lead you right to your goal.
We’re human, ergo we need reminding. This can be as simple as stickies posted on your computer or desk or photos torn from magazines that remind you of what you want to do, how you want to cause change. You might create a chart that demonstrates your progress toward your goal.
When I decided to hike the 48 highest mountains in New Hampshire, I had a map on my wall that showed all those mountains. Blue pins marked them. Whenever I climbed a peak, I swapped the blue pin for a red one that was numbered according to what number mountain it was for me. My computer wallpaper showed images of the mountains I’d done. I framed a few and stuck them on the walls of my office. Props! Reminders, flags planted for you to move toward.
Tell at least one person you see frequently about your resolution. In fact, if you can, find a buddy and agree to check in with each other each week about progress made toward the goal. Don’t worry if you have a bad day, or you get sick and fall off the resolution train for a day or two. We’re human and this happens, but remember to take the long view. In fact, when you’re starting out, it’s wise to think of strategies to get yourself back on the resolution train should you languish for a bit. Just make sure you get up and get right back on your schedule as soon as possible.
Your and your buddy’s resolutions don’t need to be the same at all. They may differ wildly, and your buddy may live hundreds of miles away. What matters is that the resolutions mean something to each of you and you hold each other accountable. It’s also a whole lot more fun if someone else is in the process with you! If you have the means, you can hire someone to “report” to, like a trainer, psychotherapist, career adviser, or life coach.
Achieving New Year’s resolutions takes patience and focus. This means it’s important to reward yourself along the way — you’re doing work most people let slide! Perhaps you allow yourself to read a book for fifteen minutes in the middle of the day, or listen to music, take a long bubble bath or eat a piece of chocolate every time you do something related to your resolution. Maybe if you’ve done what you set out to do that week, you treat yourself to your favorite museum, see a movie, or meet up with a friend. You might put money in a jar every day you fulfill your resolution to save up for a massage. Whatever feels like a treat to you is what will work. Rewarding yourself is pleasurable, and beyond that, it encourages your subconscious to help you stay connected to and achieve your goal.
Happy New Year’s resolution success!
Cheryl Suchors is the award-winning author of 48 PEAKS, Hiking and Healing in the White Mountains, the story of a woman determined to heal from breast cancer and the loss of her best friend by immersing herself in nature and mountains, despite her fear of heights. Kirkus Reviews called the book, “An inspiring yet relatable true story with exciting scenes and plenty of heart.”
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