It’s that time of year again! The Black Friday madness is over, the gift-giving frenzy has calmed down and it’s now time to think about how you’re going to spend the next year of your life. By now, you’ve probably started making your list of resolutions (lose weight, pay off debt, get along with your in-laws, etc.) and are absolutely 200% committed to sticking to them—this year. Again. For real.
The only problem is, right around January 15th, you’re thinking, “Maybe I should have said I would lose 5 pounds instead of 30. Besides, I have an entire year. One little cookie won’t hurt.” Before you know it, one cookie turns into the entire bag and then you’re right back where you started—if not further behind. And that’s exactly why my first reason for not making New Year’s resolutions is:
- They put you in a “do-or-die” mentality. It’s all or nothing with no wiggle room for mistakes. The reality is that we all make mistakes even when we’re trying to do our best. Those who end up finding success are the ones who realize that mistakes are not the end of the world. They’re opportunities to learn, grow and try again. The only time you’ve failed is when you stop trying.
- Transformation shouldn’t be something you commit to only once a year. Personal growth and improvement should be an ongoing process. If you think as short-term as one year to complete a long-term goal, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Think about it this way: it’s taken you a lifetime to become the person you are today; give yourself a reasonable timeframe to transform into the person you want to become.
- Resolutions almost force you to try to eat the entire elephant (or bag of cookies) at once. That might be part of why only 8% of Americans are successful in reaching their New Year’s resolutions. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that making major goals without a plan to reach them one day at a time, is a sure way to sabotage your success. As one quote I’ve read says: “It takes about 10 years to become an overnight success.”
- They’re overrated. I think people sometimes make resolutions just so they’ll have something to talk about at the water cooler on January 2nd. So whose resolution is the most impressive? “I’m going to lose 40 pounds by January 10th!” “I’m going to quit smoking, right now. Forever.” “I’m going to pay off my entire $150,000 debt by March 30th!” Optimism is one thing, reality is another.
- And the final reason I stopped making New Year’s resolutions: They often aren’t connected to the deeper spiritual and emotional work you need to do in order to succeed in realizing them. The only way to create sustainable change for yourself is to address the deeper root cause(s) of why you haven’t been able to keep your resolutions in the past. And that usually requires more work than one resolution can cover.
Instead what I do now is set long-term goals and look at each year as an opportunity to get closer to those goals—leaving me room to assess my progress and adjust my plan along the way. If you’re tired of making New Year’s promises to yourself that you keep breaking, then I suggest the following:
- Create a vision of what you want your next year to look and feel like. A vision board is a great way to do this. Writing things down also works. You are more likely to reach a goal that you write down and/or visualize than one that stays only in your head.
- Take time to celebrate your successes. Acknowledge the progress that you’ve made, however minor to you (those two pounds count!) and then keep working at it.
- Create an action plan. Yup, you need a plan. You’ve got to set up mini-goals to help you reach the bigger goal. Reaching each milestone will give you fuel to get to the next one.
- Find someone to hold you accountable. It has been documented that telling others about your goal makes it more likely for you to reach it.
- Be willing to dig deep. True success requires a holistic approach: body, mind and spirit. If you’re not willing to do the spiritual and emotional work that it takes to be healthy, it will be very difficult to meet and then maintain the goals that you’re working so hard to reach.
Once you get your mind and soul connected to your goal, everything else will fall into place. Whatever you do, don’t be afraid to be bold, ask for help and then just go for it. Here’s wishing you a phenomenally fruitful 2014!
BMWK – do you normally make New Year’s resolutions? Do you keep them?