Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A New Kind of Resolution -- How to Make a New Years Resolution (or Any Time Resolution) & Goals That Stick

It's that time of year again. Resolution time. When we are suddenly motivated to make some positive changes in our lives. To improve ourselves in one way or another (or several). We buy those organizing bins, sign up for that gym membership, and resolve to pray for no less than an hour a day. "We can do this," is our chant. Before March comes, however, life has set in, and our organizing plans have been forgotten. Our gym membership goes unused (even though we continue to pay the monthly fee, just in case we should decide to feel motivated). Our prayer life, in our failure to pray for an entire hour every day, has been completely abandoned.

There has got to be a better way.

There is a better way, actually.

How to Make a New Years Resolution (or Any Time Resolution) That Sticks:
  1. Start small. The key to success is to set yourself up for success. You can do this by starting small. Most resolutions are all or none. They are too extreme, too fast, and, once we realize we can't live up to our own unrealistic expectations, we abandon the plan altogether. Is your plan to lose weight? Start small. Maybe, starting in January, you can start exercising for 10 minutes 3 times a week and drink 16 oz. of water a day. That is setting yourself up for success. Or, say you currently eat chips 7 days a week. Starting in January, you can limit yourself to eating chips to 5 days a week. These are small lifestyle changes that set you up for success.
  2. Gradually add to your goal, month by month. By the time January is finished, you should have established a fairly good routine of exercising for 10 minutes 3 times a week and drinking 16 oz. of water a day (or whatever your small goal was). In February you can increase your goal a bit. For example, bump up your exercise to 15 minutes 3 times a week and 24 oz. of water a day, along with at least one fruit or vegetable a day. Again, you want to set yourself up for success, so for each month, set your goals in attainable increments. (Download my Monthly Breakdown Worksheet to help you with this step.)
  3. Bring your new habits alongside old ones. You have habits and routines already established into your day. Whenever possible, try to bring your new habits alongside your old ones to integrate them more naturally. For example, when I eat pizza, I crave pop. There is something about eating pizza delivery that makes me want to have a soda. So I started buying carbonated flavored water (with sucralose, not aspartame as a sweetener). Now when I eat pizza, I drink one of these instead of a pop, and my craving is satisfied. I am still drinking a flavored carbonated beverage, so switching out this habit was seamless. Another example: When I wake up in the morning, I like to hang out in my bed for a while. I do my Jesus Calling devotional, check my e-mail, etc. So, as part of my 2014 resolutions, I kept this tendency as part of my routine. I give myself time to lay in my bed. This will be the easiest place to incorporate my prayer and Bible goals, because it will become part of a habit I have already established.
  4. Make your general goals concrete. General goals are difficult to achieve because they do not have a built-in plan. "Organize my house" is vague and much less likely to succeed than "Spend 10 minutes 4 times a week decluttering/organizing." For every general goal you have, turn it into a concrete plan. (My Goal-Setting Worksheet can you help you with this step.)
  5. Plan for busy months. If there are times of the year that you know are busier than others, you should reflect that in your monthly goal planning. For example, I work full-time in the summer, and full-time at this job sometimes means 100+ hours a week. Because of this, my goals for June and July are tiny. I have coined these "grace months." Again, I want to set myself up for success. In August I will be a stay-at-home mom again. So my August goals will revert back to what they were in May. I have not added or increased any goals for that month because I want to re-establish my routine first. 
  6. Track your progress. I have downloadable Weekly Progress Charts that can help you track your progress. This step is important because it provides both a visual reminder and helps you track your success. Success motivates us to continue on. 
  7. Consider having an accountability partner. You may consider asking a friend if they are willing to discuss your progress and keep you accountable. If your accountability partner is also doing a chart, even better. A friend and I will both be doing these charts, and we have agreed to be accountable to each other. Knowing that someone is going to ask you how you're doing can be good motivation to stay on track. 
  8. Give yourself grace. These resolutions are not "all or none" like typical resolutions are. So remember to give yourself grace. One of my goals is to start waking up earlier. Today, I slept in, so technically, according to traditional resolution thinking, I have already failed. Should I abandon my plan to create a habit of getting up earlier? Of course not. Remember that the direction you are going, and the progress you are making, however small, is more important than completing your chart to perfection. We are imperfect beings. Perfection is not possible. But, by setting ourselves up for success, we can achieve our goals and make positive changes in our life. (With it being the day after New Years Eve, I was never planning on getting up early today, but it still works nicely as an example.)
You can access all the free printable goal-setting worksheets and progress charts in my next post.

What has been your experience with New Years resolutions? 

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