Determining to change things about ourselves on New Year’s Day is a tradition that most of us grow up hearing, whether we have any interest or understanding of the process involved or not. This tradition is usually the first way anyone gets involved in personal improvement! While some folks are firmly committed to New Year’s Day as the only time at which to ponder the future and what one hopes to accomplish, others seem to scorn these types, because obviously anytime is a good time to make a positive change.
I find myself with many others in a third group: ready to embrace positive changes whenever they made be necessary, but with a special focus on recognizing the growth of the recently completed year and a concerted look into the next year and all that it can hold.
Whatever your relationship with resolutions, New Year’s or not, I invite you to join me for a quick and concise journey through the world of effective resolution making!
Start to brainstorm about what the next year could hold for you. What should 2018 be known for? On this day, next year, what would you like to be able to say that you accomplished? Some people choose a goal in each of the five life areas: mental, spiritual, financial, physical, relational; others choose a word for the year that they will focus on and manifest; some find it most effective to just sit down with paper and pen and free write about the future. Whatever your method, spend some time dreaming of the next year of your life.
In your musing, work to pare this grand vision down into practical changes that are possible to implement now. Take your wonderful goal and determine steps that you can take immediately to move yourself in that direction. No grand ambitions are realized in their entirety without a process. Figure out the process and resolve to take the first few steps this year, or this month and add the next steps as you go.
Use your determined next step to inform the habits that you will implement to move forward. This is your resolution, an implementable habit that will move you toward your goals. In this process keep in mind that your resolutions must be measureable. “Be healthier”, “lose weight”, “be more flexible”, “save money” are all crap. I mean, they’re great ideas but you can accomplish them all in five minutes without making any real progress. If you plan to make any actual and lasting change in your life your goals must be measureable. Decide what things will show you that you have met your goal. If you want to be healthier, what does that look like to you? Is health measured by blood work? A gold star from your doctor? Being able to keep up with your active kids? Making all your meals at home? Create a specific rubric that will show you whether you are being successful in your resolution and where you can improve.
One crucial step in the resolution process that I have to work to remember and implement is to create rewards for yourself for progress in your goals. It can be easy to get on a roll, making strides, doing that challenging task every day, feeling good about yourself, but then it stops being amazing and you fall out of habit. Building rewards into your resolutions is one way to keep yourself on track. Whether you’re rewarding yourself with new workout gear when you have successfully worked out for a month, new furniture when you’ve cleared out the clutter in your house, 20 minutes of fun reading if you read a non-fiction book every day, or a high-quality treat if you avoid junk food, rewards are crucial in maintaining positive behavior. So, put some in to your resolutions!
A few things to remember if you decide to embrace the New Year and resolve to make changes:
We’ve all heard the term “resolution” a thousand times, and usually in a context that tarnishes its meaning. “I don’t think I’m going to make any resolutions this year”, “I had a resolution, but it was too hard”, or “Oh my resolutions all went out the window by the end of the week!”. The people saying these things didn’t resolve. They sort of thought. They decided it would be nice if… They dreamed that life could be different, which I applaud and encourage wholeheartedly. What they didn’t do is RESOLVE. They did not make a firm decision, create a firm solution, deal with successfully. They were not RESOLUTE, bold, steady, firmly determined. They gave it a shot, which is great! But that’s different from a resolution.
When you make a resolution, you decide: my life will never be the same in this area. I am going to change and continue changing. Nothing will make me go back to the place that I am now. In order to change your mindset from thinking that you might like to change to making your goals happen you have to feel exactly what life will be like if you change that thing. We’ve talked about this before, but this is the imagining and envisioning of your life once you have successfully made the desired change. You have to get a glimpse of just what the new habit or accomplishment will do for you, how it will improve your life. Not “I’ll be happier” but “I will be able to spend more time with my family which will give me more positive memories of my family members, help me to relax, build my relationship with the most important people in my life, bring my more tangible joy in the moments we will share, and recharge me to go to work”.
While you must be firm in your decision to make changes, you must also treat yourself with grace. Obviously, you won’t be successful every moment of every day. A new year does not instantly a new you make. You’re the same old you, making changes to become a better version of you. So, give yourself a little slack. Don’t beat yourself up when you inevitably spend, eat, sleep, people-please, gossip more than you intended. On days when you do less exercise, intentional gratitude, kind things, positive self-talk, remind yourself that tomorrow is another day.
Many people find it helpful to bring others in to their resolutions to add accountability to the process. Find a friend who also wants to make changes and share your resolutions. Find an Instagram buddy who is doing the same program you are. Make a wall chart and be accountable to it and yourself. Engage in some way with a third party that will make you want to keep your resolutions.
Dream big dreams, beyond this year. Creating a goal that will take years to accomplish is an excellent way to ensure that you keep moving forward! Whether you can tangibly see how the changes you are making are moving you forward or not, creating the goal is the first step.
May your new year be full of gratitude for what you’ve already experienced, enjoyment of the moment while you’re in it, and anticipation of the brilliant future you are creating.
All the best!