The majority of us fail to live up to our New Year’s resolutions. During resolution setting season we are surrounded by a festive atmosphere, fueled by supportive family and friends. This atmosphere gives us a sense of empowerment. Unfortunately, it often doesn’t reflect real life – as the festive atmosphere dwindles and routine life beings, our new WANTS fade as well, and we revert back to our usual behavior.

Even if we are blessed with a strong support system year around, it is still difficult to mentally ‘switch gears’ and settle into a different lifestyle. It come down to physics – it is virtually impossible to muster up the force (in this case, will power) to stop the original inertia of our bodies and our habits dead in its tracks. Instead, sustainable change must be achieved incrementally. In trying to sustain our motivation and achieve our resolutions in the New Year, it is important to break down our goals into attainable accomplishments. This way, we’ll feel a sense of gratification on the short term, while also make strides towards long term change.

Here is a plan that I use personally; I hope it helps you as well!

Step 1: Reevaluate your Resolutions. Resolutions should come from the heart. Peer pressure and societal influences should not make an impact. The chances are you set your resolutions when you were with family and friends. A couple weeks into the New Year is a good time to reevaluate: were the goals set really what you wanted, or were they inspired by other environmental factors? Don’t consider re-evaluating or changing your goals at this point as a failure to stick to your resolutions. The biggest problem with New Year’s resolutions is that they start at New Years. If results are paramount, it is best to begin immediately (new year or not) and set short term goals. Look at reevaluation as a chance to maximize success!

Step 2: Write a Resolution Manifesto, and share it. Sit down with no other distractions and start free writing/typing about your goals, and more importantly, why you are setting them. Once you’ve got this done, send it to someone you trust. Preferably this person is a close friend or family member, but is not someone who is around you on a regular basis (a beloved college friend, perhaps). No matter who this person is, they must meet this single qualification: this person should be someone who really knows how to ‘kick your ass.’ They shouldn’t be afraid to call you out on your failures, and probe into why you failed. They don’t need to be your cheerleader. If you meet your goals, you will be your own cheerleader.

Just because New Years has past, doesn't mean you can't change your resolutions!

Step 3: Set goals at the beginning of the week, and share them. This is when you start really getting into the nitty-gritty of achieving your overarching resolutions. On Sunday night or Monday morning, write a list of tasks that need to be completed by the end of the week. These tasks should be aimed at helping you gather momentum towards your resolutions, while ALSO incorporating the tasks of your everyday life, whether it pertains to work, family etc. By incorporating all tasks into one list, you can formulate a schedule that incorporates your WHOLE life, not just the resolutions part.

It is important that this looks like a to-do list, which each task being clearly executable (measurable by metrics). Examples: go to gym 3 times a week for 45 minutes a day, apply for 1 – 2 jobs, etc.

Now, remember that person who you shared your ‘resolution manifesto’ with? Send this weekly task list to that same person. They’re going to review it, and make sure your tasks seem achievable, and make sense in terms of your resolutions.

Incorporate Work & Play activities into your Weekly Task List

Step 4: Write a ‘Week in Review’ With the week winding down, it is time to reflect. Did you execute on the tasks you assigned yourself? Go through each task, and comment in detail on if and how you achieved it.

Example:

Task: Go to gym 3 times this week. Outcome: Went to gym on Tuesday morning between 6-7, Thursday night after work, and Saturday morning for yoga!

You’ll likely realize that you weren’t able to achieve all your tasks. DON’T lie in your reflection, it is only self – deception. DO write about why you think you failed – was it lack of effort, or legitimately unattainable? Did it not feel important? By asking yourself these questions, two things will happen: you’ll see yourself either inching towards your resolutions or not progressing towards them in a measurable way, and you’ll also start to realize which resolutions you actually care about compared to which you don’t. Both of these processes are essential for Incremental and Focused self-improvement. Send this ‘week in review’ to the same person.

Sunday is time for REFLECTION

Step 5: That ‘special person’ now gets back to you! If the person you’ve entrusted with monitoring your progress truly knows you well, they’ll be able to tell from your review whether you are making excuses, or if you putting in genuine effort. If you aren’t putting in your effort, they’ll call you out on it, and hopefully be able to motivate and refocus your attention by talking about your original manifesto. They’ll be able to discuss how you should change your tasks for next week.

Learn for LAST WEEK'S successes and failures

Step 6: Rinse and Repeat Steps 1 – 4 If you are committed to this process, you’ll notice your goals becoming more attainable and targeted, and you’ll find yourself achieving them more efficiently. You’ll be caught up in achieving them on a week-to-week basis, and feel a sense of accomplishment consistently. Soon a month will pass, and you’ll have a moment of reflection. You’ll realize you actually have made REAL progress towards your New Years resolution – you’ll have lost weight, or saved money, or hung out with family 3 to 4 times more than usual. This process will help you identify what changes you really crave in your life, and will help you achieve them. Good luck in 2013!

Have advice on how to stick to your New Year’s Resolutions? Share by leaving a comment below!

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