How can you make this year the first year you successfully complete your New Year's Resolution?
I've talked a lot about behavior change, goal setting, and the "ideal" self in my blogs this year. But New Years is the agreed-upon culmination of all of these forms of self-improvement.
So allow me to share a few tips on how to set New Years Resolutions so that you will stick with them all year and even further into the future!
1. Acknowledge Where You Are
The first step to a good New Year's Resolution is to make it achievable. And to set an achievable goal you have to be honest about where you're starting.
If you currently don't exercise at all, don't set a resolution to go to the gym 6 days a week. Which brings up another good tip on resolutions - they can be progressive.
What I mean is that you can still resolve to exercise 6 days a week, but for the first few weeks maybe just try for 1 day. When you succeed at one day per week for at least 4 weeks, try for 2 days a week! People often think that their resolution has to start right away in its full form, but when it's completed incrementally you have a much higher chance of success.
2. Build Instant Rewards
You've heard this from me before, but I think it warrants repeating. New Year's Resolutions are all about your future better self - I do this thing today to help myself tomorrow or next week.
The issue is that humans like instant gratification. And we tend to act in ways that give us what we want now - often at the expense of what we want later. So while I want a pizza and a beer now I want a healthy, energy-filled body later. And unfortunately, those two things can't always exist together. And the pizza and beer payoff is more appealing because it's now while the healthier body is a long-term reward.
You can combat this issue by building in a reward system for your New Year's Resolution behavior. For example, if I wanted to stretch before work each morning I would tell myself that while I stretch I could enjoy my favorite brand of coffee. All of a sudden, I am able to fulfill my craving for something now (coffee) with a behavior that will help me in the long run (stretching).
3. Make Them Meaningful
One of my unfulfilled resolutions last year was to fold and put away my laundry as soon as it came out of the dryer. It was a little silly, but I felt like there were too many occasions that I left clean clothes for hours before folding them.
Only now as I reflect on that goal do I realize that one of the reasons I didn't stick with it is that I didn't care enough. The threat of wrinkled clothes was simply not important to me. And that's okay!
Don't choose resolutions because you think you ought to do something. Pick them because they are meaningful and present serious value to who you are and who you want to become.
Resolutions should not be rooted in the arbitrary.
4. Just Pick One
The start of a new year represents hope and enthusiasm for what the future holds. We are optimistic about what we can achieve and who we can become - which is awesome!
But it can cause us to overpromise and underdeliver. Trying to exercise more, eat better, volunteer regularly, and start playing the guitar are all great ideas, but do you really have the time, energy, and wherewithal to do all those new things at once?
But for most of us, the answer is no. So instead of setting yourself up for disappointment, pick just one resolution and give it all you've got. Prioritize it and ensure that your life can make room for it. Pick the thing that will add the most value to your life this year.
5. Don't Be Afraid to Pivot
Most lean startup companies use the term "pivot" to describe a change to their business model or delivery. It describes a fast way to make a change in a new direction and it's crucial in the flexibility and ultimately the success of the business.
With our resolutions, we have to understand that it's not an all or nothing endevor. If after a week of your daily 12,000 step goal you're exhausted and sore, don't give up - just pivot.
What about a goal of 12,000 steps 5 days a week? Or 10,000 steps 7 days a week?
Just because you can't reach your resolution right away or even if you skip a day, it doesn't mean that you should call it quits. Keep the idea and change the goal. Be willing to negotiate as long as you are still making progress toward that ultimate goal. Successful change takes place incrementally, not all at once.