How To Write a New Year's Resolution You Can Keep
The new year can be an exciting time for everyone. Whether you make resolutions or not, the new year is a new beginning and a great opportunity for self-improvement. It’s the start of a whole new chapter in life and a solid chance to start fresh and set goals alongside others.
Setting a new year’s resolution can be an intimidating prospect for some, while others love it and over-enthusicly set too many to keep track of (I always set at least one and forget what it was by March). If you’re planning on setting some goals, how do you make resolutions that you can keep?
Keep it Simple
The stereotypical New Year’s resolution goes something like this: "lose weight", "be less stressed", "be happier", on and on with grandiose ideas and expected outcomes. While the basic ideas behind these goals are great, they're far too broad to really have an impact on your immediate life and can easily be shunned as “too hard”. Sure "lose weight" is a fantastic thing to shoot for in 2014, but a better resolution is an action step rather than a result. Instead of choosing "lose weight" or "be happier", write things down that are much more specific and much more achievable, like "exercise two more days each week" and "write down one thing each day I'm grateful for." These smaller goals will get you closer to actually accomplishing the broader big picture goals, and will most likely get you closer to the year end result you’re looking for.
Realism is better than Idealism
Making realistic and attainable goals is probably the most important aspect of setting a resolution for 2014. Sure, earning a million bucks next year would be great, but is it realistic for you? If it is, fantastic! Get after it! For most of us, a more attainable goal would be to increase your yearly income by 10%. How will you make it happen? "Work x hours of overtime each month" or "get a second part time job" is a much more attainable target. Break down your big picture goal and make sure the goals you're setting aren't setting you up for failure. If you see the progress toward your goal, you should actually succeed!
Reward Your Hard Work
Remember when you were in grade school and you spent hours on a paper to get an A and a gold star? Resolutions should feel the same way. How do you make a year-long goal seem more rewarding? Set short-term benchmarks! Going back to our "lose weight" example, let's set the first benchmark goal as "working out two more days each week" and set your personal deadline for March. If by March you haven't missed a week of 2 extra workout days, give yourself a gold star! (or a latte, or a trip to the bookstore, massage, whatever floats your boat)
Setting benchmarks also give you a great place to re-assess and up the ante if needed. Does the extra two days of working out feel good? Great! Now keep that going, add "eat a half a cup of veggies with each meal" to your plan, and set your next benchmark deadline for June!
By setting small, attainable, rewardable goals you set yourself up for an awesome year of success.
Write it Down
Statistically, people are more likely to stick to their goals if they're on paper. On paper. Writing them in the notes program on your computer or phone doesn’t count. Write your resolutions on a sheet of notebook paper, a sticky note stuck in plain sight, or (even better) on your actual calendar, and you'll be much more aware of them in your day to day activities. Think of it as writing yourself a personal contract. You can even list each one of your resolutions, their benchmarks and dates you will aim to achieve them and reassess. At the bottom of your goals sheet, write “I will do my best to accomplish all of the above by December 31, 2014” and sign it! It will feel good to put it down on paper, and make a commitment to yourself to improve what you think needs improving.
Resolutions Are Not Only for the New Year
One thing westerners are great at is treating the new year as a period of new beginnings. One thing we're terrible at is seeing that potential in every month, week and day. If setting a year-long goal is waaay too intimidating, set one for 6 months, a new goal each month, each week or even every day. Just because you have to write a new year on your checks this month doesn't make next month any less special. Every day can be oriented in the direction of personal growth if you work for it.
A Step by Step Guide to Writing and Achieving Your New Year’s Resolution
- Choose a result. Where do you want to be with your life in 2015? New job? Lighter? Less stressed? This step can be big picture thinking, we'll get deeper in a second.
- Find the action steps. Break down your result into attainable, measurable, realistic benchmarks that you can reassess every few months. Keep these simple and direct! If your action steps still seem too broad, create sub-steps to reach for every couple weeks, but don't overwhelm yourself. Remember, they should be totally do-able!
- Set your rewards. Try matching your rewards with the effort you need to put in to reach your goals. The harder the goal, the better the reward. Keep things interesting and motivating, but be sure not to give yourself any rewards that might set you back in your progress toward your goal result.
- Write everything down on paper. Chronicle your starting point. If you've made benchmarks, write them in your calendar. Keep track, assess your progress, reward yourself and set a new benchmark. If you haven't reached your benchmark, no reward, and hold off on adding more to your plate. It really is that simple.
- Reap the Benefits! Folks who actually set New Year’s resolutions are more productive, more personally driven, have a better sense of purpose and are happier than their less ambitious counterparts. Don't miss out on all the good you could achieve. Take a couple minutes to follow these steps and give yourself a great purpose during 2014!
Sarah Monk is a die-hard Coloradan, running addict and yoga instructor. Her passion is empowering young women through fitness, and she does this by coaching several high school girls sports teams. She lives in Fort Collins with her yummy boyfriend and their two hairy kids, Nikki and Gala. Currently Sarah is helping to grow the YogaTravelTree.com community as Outreach Coordinator. Follow Sarah on Twitter and on Instagram.