turn resolutions into results
For ages, millions of people have made new year's resolutions, aspiring to be better or make positive changes in the new year.
The practice of making new year's resolutions was already well-established by the 1860s, as seen in one of Mark Twain's letters.
"Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink, and swore his last oath," he wrote on 1 January 1863. "Today, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient shortcomings considerably shorter than ever. We shall also reflect pleasantly upon how we did the same old thing last year about this time."
The new calendar year, or division of time, i.e., after a weekend, creates the sense that we have a fresh start. Often called the Fresh-Start Effect. After the previous year's or week's failures, we now have time to close a chapter and start over and try again.
Although many of us set goals or new year's resolutions, we often fail to stick to them. However, we can push through and reach our goals if we change our game plan.
These seven actionable ways can help you to turn resolutions into results!
But First, Resolutions may fail because...
7 ways to achieve your new year's resolutions
Follow the SMART principle
S - Specific - be very clear on what you want to achieve. I.e., instead of "I want to save money," say, "I want to save $2000 by the end of August."
M - Measurable - Measure and note your progress as you go along. It will keep you on track and help should you make adjustments.
A - Achievable - Is your goal realistic, considering your life, circumstances, and limitations? Rather take smaller steps instead of biting off more than you can chew.
R - Relevant - Is this goal relevant and important to you? Are you doing it for the right reasons? We often set resolutions to please a spouse or colleague or to prove something, but it's not really what we want for ourselves.
T - Time-bound - Similar to achievable, set a realistic time frame (and deadline) to achieve your goal. Focus on small wins to get to your end goal. See it as forming a habit to keep you on the right track.
Have a plan
When you envision and plan how to reach your aspirations and dreams, attaining them will get much easier.
Breaking your end goal into smaller "steps or sections" could also help you stay on track:
- Divide the end goal into sub-tasks
- Prioritize and order them
- Use a visual map to display the tasks
- Assign milestones to each task
- Decide how much time each step or section requires
- Allocate resources such as time or finances accordingly
- Focus on the next step, not the end goal
Confide in your community
Share your goals or aspirations with loved ones, or find a community with similar goals to keep you accountable.
When announcing our goals or resolutions, we are more inclined to stick to them to avoid disappointing ourselves and others and feeling ashamed if we don't.
A community or group with similar interests and goals will help you stay on track, get advice, and find clever, tried-and-trusted ways to reach your goals.
A support system or group can keep you motivated when you feel like giving up and need that extra push to keep going.
Celebrate small victories
It's a marathon, not a sprint.
Remember this quote when working towards your goals.
Celebrate every small victory or step forward towards reaching and maintaining resolutions. Focus on what you have achieved and the positive results instead of what you still need to do.
Instead of saying, "I still need to lose 15 pounds", focus on "I have already lost 5 pounds, and I am starting to feel good".
When you focus on the positives and your achievements, you will feel proud and stay motivated to push on.
Identify the traps
Avoid situations (or people) that may derail your efforts or tempt you to give in.
Do you want to save money? Avoid the mall!
Need to lose weight? Go on a hiking date instead of a coffee date.
By finding creative ways to overcome possible obstacles and temptations, you can avoid the traps but still enjoy the journey and not let it feel like punishment.
Pauline Wallin, a psychologist and author of "Taming Your Inner Brat," said any resolution plan should include room for errors. "You're there for the long haul. You have to expect slip-ups," she said.
"There will be times when you will say, 'I'll make a mess of things, and I'm just going to start again tomorrow.' Don't berate yourself. Focus on what you're doing good for yourself rather than what mistake you made," she said.
Remember, a resolution doesn't need to be tied to New Year's. It can be following a weekend, following a birthday, or starting in the middle of the year. Be flexible and adjust. Don't be afraid to start over.
Sometimes our resolutions can be a bit too unrealistic or out of reach.
Wanting to see the world, be as fit as possible, read more, or get financially more secure, is on many's resolution lists. But is it realistic for your lifestyle or at this point in time?
If you have a newborn, you might not have time to get to the gym that often. Or maybe travel cannot be on the cards as you have a full-time job and need to put in extra work to get promoted (another goal).
Tangible, short-term, realistic goals which you have time for during your day are easier to achieve because you’ll have more control over them. You'll also experience more small wins, motivating you to keep going.