Ah, it’s that time of year for New Year’s Resolutions, ringing in the New Year and making plans for starting 2017 off the right way for big changes and success.
But, as you probably already know, most New Year’s resolutions fall flat within the first couple of weeks after you start.
So, we’ve put together this short guide on making the most of the new year, and hopefully reaching some of your goals along the way.
According to Psychology Today, there’s a science behind changing habits and creating new ones. That means there is a formula to follow so you don’t have to make this up on the fly. And, since it only takes about 30 days to form a new habit, you could actually change a dozen things about yourself in 2017.
Here’s a typical list of New Year’s Resolutions that are sure end in failure and frustration.
- Lose weight
- Exercise more
- Quit smoking
- Quit drinking
- Watch less TV
- Read more
- Enjoy life more
- Spend more time with the family
- Save money
- Make more money
- Get organized
- Travel more
- Build a home on Mars
OK, that last one isn’t that common, but you get the idea. I bet you’ve resolved to do at least one of those things in the past with dubious outcomes. One of the problems is that you can’t just “lose weight” or “travel more”. Those aren’t a thing you can do per se, they are a whole bunch of things that you have to do to get the desired outcome. And those outcomes are not very well defined, so how would you know if you “lost weight” or were “enjoying life more”. These huge shifts in your life you want to make need to be smaller and more specifically defined, in terms that mean something to you.
Here are 7 Steps to Start the New Year Right
1. Break it down
First, just choose one new habit, achievement or goal to start with. You can add more later, as you gain momentum and see results from your efforts. If you’re the industrious type, write down a new habit for each month, but don’t even consider starting more than one at a time. If you’ve had trouble in the past making changes (and that’s most of us), plan to give yourself 3 months per habit or goal. Break your goal down into small, easily achievable actions or steps. Using the example from #2 below on losing weight, if you break down the 10 pounds over 3-months into days, you only need to lose 1.77 ounces a day. That sounds pretty doable to me. 🙂
2. Be specific
Rather than saying, “I want to lose weight”, be specific about the amount, the time period and the way you plan to achieve this. For instance, “I will lose 10 pounds by April 1st, 2017 by walking 10 minutes a day, every day, and by cutting out soda from my diet.” Whatever your goal or new habit, you should define it in terms that would be understandable by most people. Unless you are a rocket scientist, then you may need to dumb it down for us. 😉
3. Set goals or action steps
Have you ever heard of S.M.A.R.T. goals? They are; S – specific, M – measurable, A – achievable, R – realistic, and T – time-bound. All good things, yet, goals (SMART or otherwise) often don’t work for many. You’ll notice that the goal for losing weight in #2 above was specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. But for some of us, goals represent one more thing to fail at, while for others, setting goals is the vehicle for success. If setting goals works for you use them, if they don’t work for you, you’ll need to use a different method, such as deciding on certain actions steps to take, using checklists, or write out how you will feel when you obtain your new habit. Emotion is a powerful motivator, so use it as a tool either with or without the goal setting.
4. Start off easy
Nothing will beat down your spirit like blowing your resolution the first week. So make it easy for yourself to succeed at the beginning. Get those first wins, then add more difficulty or challenge as you make progress. Even if you slip, falter or fail, get back on the horse, as they say, and try again. You only really fail if you quit.
5. Make it a priority
We all know that life is demanding, and there is only so much time in a day, and more so, there is only so much energy we have in a given 24 hour period. So you’ll need to make your objective a priority or it will probably never get worked on. If you need to, explain to your family what you are trying to achieve, why it’s important to you, and get their support if you can. Remember that it takes about 30 days to change a habit, so think of the first month as a sprint to get to that milestone, then if your destination is farther off (like the 3-month goal to lose 10 pounds), you’ll be running a marathon for the balance of the time. Slow and steady wins the race.
6. Change how you talk to yourself
Often times you need to be your own cheerleader when endeavoring to make big changes in your life. Even if you have the support of your family, friends, or co-workers, you can be your own worst enemy. You’ll need to learn a new language, known as self-talk if you want to lead yourself to victory. In the book What To Say When You Talk To Your Self, the late Dr. Shad Helmstetter teaches us how to reprogram ourselves by replacing our old negative language with new positive and healthy programs “that can be positively life-changing“.
7. Get help, get accountability
It’s so easy to get distracted or discouraged while trying to do something new or different, or just trying to change old bad habits. The best way to stay in the game is by getting help from someone else who is trying to do the same as you, or a professional who’s job it is to help you. You can join a group at the gym, join a book club, find a group of hikers or cyclists in your area, join a group on Facebook, or hire a personal trainer or personal chef. If you’re not into the group thing, find an accountability partner who will hold your feet to the fire, and for whom you will do the same.
8. Reward or penalize yourself
Some of us move toward positive results (rewards), while others move away from negative results (penalties), so leveraging your personal motivational paradigm can be powerful. If you’re a rewards oriented person, then plan appropriate rewards for your interim achievements. So for instance, if you lose 3 pounds in your first month of no soda and walking 10 minutes a day, you get to buy yourself a treat (not food!), or take an extra hour to meditate in the morning. The reward should be something that will motivate you, improve your life or happiness, and not conflict with any other changes or goals you have, such as spending less or watching less TV.
If you’re motivated by avoiding negative things, you should set penalties for missing your interim goals or marks for success. So if you only lose 2 pounds in your first 30 days, you have to contribute $20 to a cause you hate, or a political candidate you would never endorse. Maybe you could make the penalty to wear those shorts that haven’t fit you for 10 years to the gym all next week. Your penalty should be the opposite of a reward. Something you really don’t like doing, something that will torque you off, deter your happiness or motivate you to avoid the consequence.
No matter which method you use, choose your rewards or penalties in advance so you know what you are working towards or away from. For penalties, you may need some accountability to make sure you take that negative action. It could be tough to write that check to The Alliance for Eliminating Dolphins from Earth. 😉
9. Evaluate your results
In the end, make sure that what you are doing is moving you in the right direction. If you goals are too big, break them down into smaller more achievable results. If your rewards are not motivating you to stick with it, make them more exciting. Be sure you are in alignment with what you are trying to achieve. If you don’t believe in what you are trying to accomplish, or you don’t really believe you can obtain the goal, you’ll certainly fail. Consider taking notes or keeping a journal during your new habit journey to identify road blocks, mental blocks, or stumbling blocks that kept you from your goal or make it difficult to achieve.
You really can succeed in changing yourself, your life and your results. If you never give up, you’ll never fail. If you have challenges that get in the way, you may need to revise your schedule, update your priorities, or get additional help.
Or, maybe you need a new perspective on life… or maybe just a nap. Yeah, probably just a nap. 😀
Good luck and let us know how you do by leaving your comments in the box below. We’re rooting for you!