Seven Strategies for Highly Effective New Year's Resolutions

REUTERS/Kena BetancurNew Year’s Eve is just around the corner.  It’s likely that at least one person will ask you what your resolutions are for the year ahead. Whether you like to make them or not, research has found that people who make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions. Yet as you know, it’s not so easy to keep your resolve as life returns to normal and your old habits of mind and action start testing your resolve and pulling you away from the new ones you resolved to create.

Change is difficult, yet as hard as it is, everyone has the ability to make and keep meaningful changes in their life, regardless of their age, or how well worn their habitual ways of engaging in the world.

Indeed there’s a science to success when it comes to achieving goals and making life changes – whether on January 1st or any other time of year.   On the link below are 7 strategies to help you make the changes you want in the year ahead – including making the right resolutions to begin with. I hope you will read it, but more so, I hope you will apply them so that 2013 will truly be the best year of your life. Not because everything will go as you want, but because you be firmly at the helm of your own life – living by design rather than by default.

7 Strategies for Highly Effective New Year Resolutions. 

1.   Know Your Why.  For a resolution to stick, it has to be aligned with your core values. We all want to  look better or get richer, but your resolutions have to go beyond superficial desires and connect with what truly matters most to you. In other words, you have to “Know your why” and feel truly passionate about the goals you set for yourself. If you don’t, then when the going gets tough or your alarm goes off at 5:30am, you won’t have the resolve to stick to your plan.  Connect your resolutions to those things that give you a deeper sense of purpose and align with your core values. When your resolutions connect to a deeper sense of purpose, it compels you not to think small or play safe, but to dig deep and stay the course when the going gets tough – no matter how many hurdles.

2. Be Specific.   Resolutions to ‘eat better, get fitter, be happier, relax more or have better life balance’ are doomed for failure because they lack specificity. The more specific you are, the more likely you will be able to succeed.   Describe your goals and resolutions in ways that allow you to track your progress and measure your success. For instance, if you want to build a better relationship with your partner, schedule at least one date night per month, or, as I’ve done with my husband, one weekend away – sans  kids – per year. Likewise if you’re committed to a better health and exercise regime, schedule how many workouts you’ll fit into each week.

3. Don’t Just Think It, Ink it!  A Stanford University study found that when people wrote down their goal, it increased the probability of them achieving it by over 70%.   But don’t just write down the specific goal, write down how you will feel when you’ve accomplished it.  When you have finished penning your desires, jot down on sticky pads the words that inspire you most about your goal and put them around your home/office to remind you of why you are committed to doing what it takes to bring your goal into reality.

4. Design Your Environment.  Never underestimate the power of your environment to support or sabotage your success.  Design your environment so that it’s hard NOT to do what you resolved.  Create a progress chart, recruit a cheer squad among your family and friends, find someone to hold you accountable, hire a trainer, join a group, create a blog.  Likewise, if there are people or things in your life that pull you down or off track, address them directly and set whatever boundaries you know you will need up front.

5. Narrow Your Efforts.  Trying to do too many things at once can make you so unfocused that you just bounce around like Tigger on Red Bull, not quite sure which direction you are going. Set yourself up for success and start with JUST ONE MAJOR UNDERTAKING come January 1st.   Then break that goal down into small bite size steps.  Small steps, strong start!

6. Focus On The Process.  It’s easy to get caught up in an initial wave of enthusiasm, only to come crashing down when your initial efforts don’t produce immediate and amazing results. So focus on the process itself, and develop greater competence of the actual activity, habit or skill you want to acquire.  For instance, if you want to become more fit, focus on being able to jog a little bit further every time you go for a walk, rather than being able to run 5 miles within a week. PERSISTENCE ALWAYS PAYS OFF.

7.  Forgive Your Failures. Your setbacks and failures will not define your success in the year ahead or any year. HOW YOU RESPOND WILL. If you happen to mess up, lose your resolve, press the snooze button or revert to a familiar well-practiced behavior, don’t beat up on yourself. Okay, so you didn’t get to the gym like you’d planned.  How about 5 minutes of stretching?  When it comes to slipping up and tripping up, you are in good company. It happens to everyone. Just don’t let your mishaps, setbacks and failures mean more than they do.  Reflect on the lessons they hold, make adjustments accordingly, then tap your inner John Wayne and get back in the saddle. Life rewards those who work at it.

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