Making Your Resolutions Your Reality!
The New Year is a time for making fresh starts, beginning anew and trying to get “this thing” right (yet) again. We are meticulously writing (and rewriting) our resolutions, trying to make the necessary adjustments, and looking forward to the future. We have repeatedly seen social media posts declaring “New Year, New Me!”. Proclamations like this are wonderful as they help us to imagine our new year. But as the great Maya Angelou once informed us “Nothing will work unless you do”. Critical to every New Year’s Resolution is concrete action!
There are some resolution that we have accomplished, some that we are still working on, and some that we have yet to start. The truth is there can be barriers to making changes in our lives. No matter where your resolutions stand, let this be the year that you actually make those resolutions reality! Here are five tips for accomplishing your resolutions:
1. New Year’s Resolutions: Write down your goals – and be specific!
In previous years, I have written resolutions in the format of a “to do” list. Lose weight. Read more. Engage in community service. Because my goals were so vague, I did not accomplish them. I was not specific about what I wanted to achieve, so I was not motivated to make my goals reality.
Many of us have heard of SMART goals. With concepts that were introduced as early as the 1960s, SMART goals are a method of developing goals that also allows you to get them organized. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound. For me, using the SMART method meant the difference between writing down a goal of “Lose weight” and writing “Lose 10 pounds in three months by regularly working with a personal trainer and nutritionist”. Use the SMART method for motivation!
2. New Year’s Resolutions: Break it down!
I recall working in higher education and meeting with undergraduate students to discuss their goals. More times than not, they found themselves not achieving their goals by the deadline they had set. Most of the students did not lack motivation, and possessed a strong desire for achievement. What I noticed was that they tended to write down the goals and its “deadline” – but not the small steps necessary to make the goal possible! This resulted in them having no clear direction toward the goal, becoming overwhelmed by the goal, and focusing on the end result rather than the “baby steps” needed to get to the destination.
A colleague of mine once asked a group of students “How do you eat an elephant?”. The answer: One bite at a time. You can achieve anything based upon strong determination, but you have to have a plan to get there. A goal – no matter its “size” – can appear impossible, particularly in our non- stop, multi-tasking existence. Take your goals and break them down. What is step 1? Step 2? And by when should each of these goals be completed? By breaking your goals down, you can focus on each step leading up to the “big” goal. Trying to write a novel? Write one page every day. Want to save more money? Determine what percentage of your paycheck you would like put aside in your savings on payday. Every little step counts toward the goal, and gets you one step closer to what you want to accomplish.
3. New Year’s Resolutions: Have someone to hold you accountable to yourself!
I am determined to get back into a physical fitness routine this year. However, if left to my own devices, I know that I will not be visiting the gym! To hold myself accountable to my fitness goals, I signed up for a personal trainer at a local fitness facility. In addition to having a trained professional to support me, I also know that for me, having someone waiting for me at the gym to provide a service that I am paying for is a huge incentive for me to show up! Whether you hire a professional or ask a good friend to support you, find an accountability partner to encourage you to achieve the goals you have set. Like weight lifters who need someone to “spot” them, find someone who can keep you on track this year. Make a plan to talk with this person on a regular basis to discuss your progress and get insights. Having someone to support you can make a world of difference!
4. New Year’s Resolutions: Never forget that you got this!
We all know it – we can be our own worst critics. We can think of more reasons why we cannot or should not pursue something than we can think of reasons that we should. In addition to your accountability partner, it is critical to find ways to affirm yourself as you work toward your goals. On a regular basis, revisit your goals, and recall your purpose for setting them. Doing the work to achieve your goals is not easy, and the process may bring up feelings of doubt, inadequacy, or fear. But battling our negativity is part of the process, and winning over our negativity can be an unintended (yet positive) outcome as progress is made toward the target. A critical component of achieving your goals is to have an optimistic mindset. Your attitude determines everything!
5. Celebrate the victories along the way!
Positive reinforcement can be a great way to stay motivated. Each time you achieve a step toward a goal, celebrate! Decide how you are going to reward yourself as you make progress. Each time I completed a major part of my final assignments in grad school, I held a small dance party in my living room in honor of the achievement (I was the only person in attendance, and that was okay with me!). Celebrate alone, with your accountability partner, family, or friends. Find ways to celebrate the steps and progress you have made at each benchmark. Go ahead and treat yourself! You deserve it!