Day #549:Going to Make a New Year’s Resolution? Consider These 4 Tips.

So in the next 24 hours, the year 2014 will come to an end. If you are still having problems coming up with concrete goals/ resolutions,here are some tips for making your resolutions as effective as possible. Remember, right now, you’re in the planning stage. Don’t feel like you have to do anything yet! Just start thinking about what would make 2015 a happier year.

1. Ask: “What would make me happier?” It might be having more of something good – more fun with friends, more time for a hobby. It might be fixing something that doesn’t feel right – more time spent volunteering, more time doing something to strengthen a relationship. The more your life reflects your values, the happier you’ll be.

2. Ask: “What is a concrete habit that would bring about change?” One common problem is that people make abstract resolutions, which are hard to keep.  “Find more joy in life,” or “Enjoy now” are resolutions that are difficult to measure and therefore difficult to keep. Instead, look for a specific, measurable action that can become a habit. “Watch a classic movie every Sunday night“ or “Drink a cup of tea every morning” are resolutions that will carry you toward those abstract goals.

3. Ask: “Am I starting small enough? Or big enough?” Many people make super-ambitious resolutions and then drop them, feeling defeated, before January is over. We tend to over-estimate what we can do over a short time and under-estimate what we can do over a long time, if we make consistent, small steps. If you’re going to resolve to start exercising (one of the most popular resolutions), it might be too much to resolve to go to the gym for an hour every day before work. Start by going for a ten-minute walk at lunch or marching in place once a day during the commercial breaks in your favorite TV show. Little accomplishments provide energy for bigger challenges. Push yourself too hard and you may screech to a halt.

But the opposite of a profound truth is also true, and by contrast, some people do better when they start BIG. If they start small, they lose interest or get discouraged. For them, a big transformation generates an energy and excitement that helps to foster habits. Steve Jobs reflected, “I have a great respect for incremental improvement, and I’ve done that sort of thing in my life, but I’ve always been attracted to the more revolutionary changes. I don’t know why.”

There’s no right or wrong approach. What works for you–do you prefer to aim small or aim big?

4. Ask: “How am I going to hold myself accountable?” For many people, accountability is the secret to sticking to resolutions, and there are many ways to hold yourself accountable.Belonging to a group is a good way to hold yourself accountable, part of why AA and Weight Watchers are effective groups.  Accountability is one reason why #2 is so important. If your resolution is too vague, it’s hard to be held accountable. A resolution to “Eat healthier” is harder to track than “Eat salad for lunch three times a week.”

Have you found any strategies that have helped you successfully keep resolutions in the past?

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