Illustration By Jose Antonio Villalobos Vargas
The beginning of a new year is a powerful time alive with possibility and intention. This is the time to begin again and start fresh, get back on track and pave the way for transformation. Many of us feel compelled to set resolutions and goals to envision a brighter future. Whether written or spoken, it often sounds like this: 2013 is the year I’ll make more money, work out harder, be more disciplined, be kinder and happier.
But the odds are that one or more of our goals will backfire or fall off track if not shortly after the new year, maybe a few months down the road. The problem is that failed resolutions can lead to depression, disappointment and self sabotage instead of self improvement. The attempt to change a habit might turn out the opposite—binge eating, for example, after following an overly strict diet.
The practical tips below are designed to help you make this year’s resolutions stick.
Limit Your Goals/Resolutions and Be Specific: The ability to focus on multiple goals or ideas that require self-control is limited. Therefore, the chance of success is higher if you have made the commitment to a few specific goals rather than ten or twelve general ones. Although it’s tempting to make a list of all the things we have in mind to improve in our lives like losing weight, quitting smoking or drinking, exercising more and spending more time with loved ones, it’s more productive to chose just two or three and then write out specific action steps for how to achieve those goals.
Set Deadlines and Write Them Down: By marking a specific date on a calendar, it’s easier to stay focused, and then you have a record right in front of you to refer back to. For example let’s say your goal is to “get in shape.” Write out your schedule: I will take a 20 minute walk on Tuesdays and Thursdays, attend a yoga class on Fridays and engage in more strenuous exercise by running/working out/swimming/surfing on Saturdays and Mondays.
Recruit Support: Share your intentions and goals with friends and family who will support you. Developing a support system will help you stay accountable and on track. Also encourage others to achieve their goals.
Resist the Impulse to Direct Anger at Yourself: Instead of judging yourself negatively when you haven’t achieved your resolutions, make the decision to try again. It’s important to approach setbacks with compassion. Take stock of what is happening and without blame, look at what has led you to get off track. Maybe the goals need to be adjusted so they are more realistic and not so overwhelming. When we choose not to dwell in the past, it’s easier to move forward.
When you do reach your goals, celebrate! Make sure to acknowledge your efforts and achievements in order to set yourself up for success in the future.