Do you ever reflect each December on the resolutions that came and went without success? Can you remember what they were at all? Each January starts out like a pop gun of fresh hope and determination. Then somehow, life just gets in the way. The problem is not you—it’s your resolutions.
Setting unrealistic goals sets you up for failure, and here’s why: the mental excuse-trigger kicks into gear almost as fast as you utter an unattainable resolution. Furthermore, it’s difficult to pursue a goal set merely because it’s “that time of year.” This year, make your resolutions stick by following these five steps; you may find that you’ve hit your targets sooner than you planned.
1. Set goals that truly mean something to you. To realize lasting change, choose resolutions that you can picture actually making a difference in your everyday life. It’s OK if a resolution of walking the dog every day means more to you than losing 15 pounds. Envision how reaching the goal will look, feel, taste, sound…
2. Make mini-resolutions. Instead of January 1 being the start of some monumental, earth-shattering goal, think of the smaller steps that take you in that direction and start with just one. After you accomplish step one, allow yourself to start step two. Allow yourself little successes to build confidence that you can change.
3. Don’t make vague resolutions. The human mind does not fare well with ambiguity. For sustained motivation, set concrete, know-what-to-do goals. Don’t say “I’m going to be kinder to strangers.” Say, “I’m going to respond hello anytime someone new makes the gesture.” Instead of “I’m going to get in better shape,” try, “I’m going to go to the gym on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays.”
4. Create a supportive environment. Don’t just shoot a resolution into the air without preparing a parachute. Think about the challenges you’ll face and plan for them. Purchase anything you’ll need ahead of time. Arrange your schedule so that you’ll have time for your goal. Let others know about your resolution so that they can be supportive.
5. Expect ups and downs. It’s easier to stay on track and not become discouraged when you plan ahead for minor setbacks. You can’t expect to begin a new way of living without any problems. View these “problems” as normal, and part of the process. You’ll be on your way towards your goal in no time if you don’t let the ups and downs derail your success.
This year, make your resolutions stick by making them personal, attainable, and specific, and set up your life to support your new goals. While you’re at it, enjoy the year without allowing a resolution to be your sole focus. Here’s to a healthy, happy 2012, celebrated for both its highs and lows.