How to design New-Year’s resolutions that stick:
This time of year, many people are looking back on the past year and wondering how the new one could be better. It’s a time for self-reflection and honesty. Here’s a step by step of how to write some New Year’s resolutions you can really take forward into next year:
1. Remember that change comes from inside yourself, not from other people. If your resolution requires someone else to swoop in and change your life, you’re setting yourself up for failure from day one. So how does that affect a resolution such as “find love” or similar? Instead of focussing on “getting” a partner, “starting” a relationship etc, let it happen naturally, make sure you like the person you’re seeing for something more than the relationship status, and don’t place the burden of your internal emotional wellbeing on their shoulders, whatever relationship configuration you might be in – that is your basket to carry and it is unreasonable to expect other people to take it – they have their own! Perhaps “go on more dates” or “meet more people” would be more achievable because there’s a definite touchable thing you can do about these resolutions, whereas “find love” is very needy and you can’t really make it happen by yourself.
2. Ask yourself, “do I actually want to change the habit, or just the end result?” For example, if you eat too much of the wrong things, do you really want to stop doing that or just lose weight? If it’s the latter, your resolution won’t stick. You need to want to have a life without donuts, cigarettes or meat for that resolution to work, otherwise it’s just forcing you to be something that you’re not. Can you re-write your resolution or re-vision it so that it’s achievable?
3. Can you actually control whether or not you get the thing you want? For example, if your resolution is to have a baby or to drive from Morocco to Algeria (Algeria’s borders have been closed for years), these are beyond your control. A New Year’s RESOLUTION is something you RESOLVE to do next year. Something you can control and make happen. So “taking snowboarding lessons” is a great New Year’s Resolution, while “winning the gold at the Winter Olympics” is not (that’s a dream or an ambition). Ditch a resolution that’s too fatalistic.
4. Do you have the means to achieve your goal? On my “things to do before I’m 30” list, I had “Circumnavigate the globe in a boat.” I can’t afford a boat or yachting lessons, so it wasn’t an achievable goal. Is there a more affordable goal you could work towards instead?
5. Are there elements of your life which will conflict with your resolution, and will you have to make far greater lifestyle changes to enact that resolution?
For example, when I worked at McDonalds, I could never have quit smoking because I needed that time out of the store, where I got to go outside and just think and time my escape, and as a non-smoker it’s awkward to just go outside and stand there for ten minutes when you work at a busy train station. On top of that my housemate smoked like a train – indoors. When I quit McDonalds, moved in with a non-smoker and got an office job, quitting smoking was easy. What would you need to change in your life to make your resolutions work? Are these changes realistic and how long would they take?
6. Make your resolution really specific: Word it so you will know what it looks like when it’s been achieved. Once you’ve got a resolution, write down three things you are going to do to achieve it – one should be right now, the second should be in the next couple of weeks and the third should be in a month or two; regular work towards a goal helps it materialize.
I hope some of this provokes some introspection about your resolutions so you can write stronger achievable resolutions that will make you feel really good about yourself this year. What do you think? Have you re-written any of your resolutions or are you keeping to them?