Picking a New Year’s Resolution is the easy part. It’s sticking with it past the second week of January that’s tough.
When you think about it, January 1st is an arbitrary date to start any life change, but a new year offers the benefits of the Strategy of the Clean Slate. It’s a chance to reset and renew. To reevaluate what is and isn’t working in your personal and professional life, and to make changes.
The problem is when we set a crazy 180 goal and don’t create any plan along with it. It’s as if when the clock strikes midnight we’ll suddenly be freed of our vices and invigorated with positive motivation.
If only it were that easy! In reality, which I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, you need more than the thought of a resolution. You need a plan. If you’re serious about keeping your New Year’s resolution, here are 4 crucial steps to make sure it sticks.
Set a specific goal
A lot of resolutions look something like this, “Eat healthy”, “Get in shape”, “Stress less”, or, “Save more money”. There’s nothing wrong with the idea behind these goals, rather that they are so incredibly vague. It’s a cliche but it’s true; if you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?
Spend more time specifying exactly what your goal is, and picturing what your life will look like at the end of 2018 if you stick with it. Let’s look at “eat healthy” as an example. What does eating healthy mean to you? It’s going to look different for everyone, here are some ideas:
- Cooking at home
- No fast food
- Limiting fried and processed foods
- Eating more vegetables
- Giving up red meat
- Eating a homemade breakfast everyday
It could be a combination of these ideas, or something completely different. The idea here is that you detail what eating healthy means to you and the specific ways you will work towards that goal in 2018.
Break it down into increments
A year is a long time. An end date of 12/31/2018 seems so far away that it’s easy to push things off, or get overwhelmed at the start. If you have a weight loss goal of 70 pounds (points for making it specific!), it can easily seem intangible as a whole. Breaking down your goal into increments not only keeps you from being overwhelmed, but allows you to reach these smaller goals more frequently which keeps your motivation up.
For example, “get in shape” is vague so let’s say you changed it to “lose 20 pounds and workout regularly”. Taking it a step further and breaking it down could look like this:
- Lose 1-2 pounds each month
- Run for 30 minutes 3 times a week for a month
- Go to 4 gym classes each week through the end of February
- Complete a 10K by March 1st
- Fit into one size smaller jeans by February15th
Break down your year into increments and adjust as soon as you reach one. If running 30 minutes 3 times a week in January was really easy, add time to your run, another day, or add in strength training afterwards.
You want to have a smaller goal on the horizon at all times, especially when you’re first getting started so your actions become habits. Reaching these goals will give you an extra boost in confidence and keep you on track to your larger goal.
Make sure you have a way to track your progress. Maybe your goal of “saving more” transformed into saving 15% more than you did last year, then your smaller goals were putting $XX into a savings account each month. This is an easily trackable goal, but just because you can track it may not mean that you are.
You could track your progress by writing the amount you’re saving into your daily planner so you can see it each and every month. If you fall short, or better yet put away a little more, make a note. This could be in a separate journal just for your resolution, it just needs to be visible so you know immediately if you’re falling behind and can readjust.
It sounds silly but even adults love stickers. If your goal of “stress less” translated to making time for meditation and yoga classes, put a sticker on a calendar the days you go. Having that tangible feedback will show you how you’re doing and give you a boost to keep it up if you hit a slump.
Set outside accountability
Tracking your progress is a way to be accountable to yourself, but having some form of outside accountability will help tremendously. There are a lot of ways to do this, here are some examples:
- Pick one accountabilibuddy to report to as you see fit; weekly, monthly, when you reach a small goal, etc.
- Make it public on social media by posting your progress in regular intervals.
- Start a resolutions group; between friends, family, or coworkers have a Facebook group, in person, or email chain where you all check in on your relative goals each week or month.
Pick what works best for you and is appropriate for your goal (you may not want to say how much you saved publicly, but you could state that you hit your savings goal that month).
If you want to stick with a big resolution, take the time to set an appropriate goal. Write out the change you want to make and why you want to make it. Get specific and jot down a list of how you will make these changes along with incremental goals and how you will track.
A goal without a plan is just a wish. Take your resolution seriously and you will see the results!