In breathless anticipation we look forward to the coming New Year with its promises of new leaves turning over and old habits finally dying. By February, many of us realize that those romanticized notions are easier said than done. You eat a cupcake – then four. You stop going to the gym and start sneaking a cigarette here and there. Soon the resolutions are a distant memory and you are saying to yourself, “Next year! Next year I will stick to my resolutions!”
Well, it’s next year.
So let’s take a look at some ways to make those resolutions stick. Cavett Robert said, “Character is the ability to carry out a good resolution long after the excitement of the moment has passed.” Obviously Mr. Robert was never wooed by a red velvet cupcake with cream cheese icing, beckoning enticingly from the bakery counter. Obviously, sticking to your New Year’s resolutions is easier said than done, but here are few tips to make it a little easier.
Form an emotional bond with your resolution. It is easier to stick to a goal if you are emotionally tied to it. If you are trying to lose weight to make your spouse happy or because you know you should, you are probably setting yourself up for failure. If you find emotional connections between your resolution and you, such as better health, feeling better about yourself, or being able to better enjoy quality time with your family, well, that goal just got personal.
Give your resolution substance through visualization. What does your resolution look like? Simply making up a goal in your mind without giving it substance and life makes it difficult to make it real. Find pictures that represent your resolution, whether it’s a photo of you when you wore a smaller size, or one of you doing a fun activity with your kids. When you have a visual of where you want your life to go, it is easier to maintain your willpower to make it happen.
Establish benchmarks that lead up to your goal. Now that you know what your goal looks like, what does the path to your resolution look like? Establish benchmarks on the way to your goal so that you can track your progress. If you are trying to lose weight, celebrate at certain points: 10 pounds, 20 pounds, and so on. The bigger your goal, the more you need to break it down into smaller bites that are easier to digest.
Challenge yourself. If all of your goals are easy you will lose interest quickly. You don’t need to make all of your goals super challenging, but you do want to push yourself a little. Create a nice mix of resolutions in varying degrees of challenge. You will be more likely to stick to them.
Set the timelines according to the goal. Not all of your resolutions will have a December 31 deadline – nor should they. There are probably some of your resolutions that should be met earlier in the year. By giving a blanket deadline to all of your goals, you are setting yourself up for failure. You will tend to look at those that should have a shorter deadline and get a little lazy with them. Make the deadline commensurate with the goal.
Be realistic. Some goals are realistic; some, not so much. As you contemplate your resolutions, think about those that you can realistically complete, even if they will pose a bit of a challenge to you. However, if there is something that you have no way completing within the one year timeframe – or ever – don’t frustrate yourself. Take it down a notch and get real. Realistic New Year’s resolutions are much easier to stick to than impossible ones.
Forgive yourself, then start again. If you fall off the wagon and eat that pan of brownies or smoke a cigarette, don’t give up! As the old song says, “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.” Don’t beat yourself up. Examine the circumstances that led to your fall and develop strategies to combat them.