Do you set New Year's Resolutions? Millions of Americans do. They look back over the past year and reflect on what they have accomplished and what they have not. They look back at what they wanted to do and what they never did. And, with the best of intentions, they begin this New Year with resolutions, with the determination to do better, to be a better person, to accomplish goals, to lose weight (the most popular resolution), stop smoking or whatever their goal may be. By the end of January, most of these people have abandoned their resolutions and may not even remember what it was they resolved to do. The tradition of making resolutions dates back through the centuries. The tradition of breaking resolutions dates back just as far.
Making unrealistic resolutions adds stress and creates feelings of failure and inadequacy. Resolutions often fail, not because we are not resolved to do better, but because we do not have a plan to carry out this major change in our life. We believe in the magic the New Year brings, the magic of renewal. We believe that our fortitude and willpower that we feel on January 1st will continue and stay as strong as it is on the day we make the resolution. At other times during the year, we are more able to plan changes in our life. If we decide we want a new job, we write our resume and plan our strategy. But on January 1st we believe in magic and we rush forward without a plan.
Before setting your New Year's resolution, take the time to follow some simple steps to help improve your chance of success.
1. Choose just one goal. You will be able to stay more focused by choosing only one.
2. Commit to your goal in writing.
3. Accept that you may have setbacks but that you will not allow these to stop you from achieving your goal. Accept that if you have a setback, it is not a failure, just a slight delay in accomplishing the goal.
4. Break your goal into small pieces. Rather than setting a "whole year" goal, set a goal for January, or even for the first week of January. Once you have accomplished that goal or have made it through the week, set another small goal for the next period of time.
5. Make a plan of action. Determine what you should do and when you should do it. Be prepared to alter some of your behaviors in order to make the change happen.
6. Use email reminder services to send yourself reminder notices or buy postcards and write one out to yourself for each month. Ask a friend to put one in the mail at the beginning of each month. Use your computer or PDA to set a reminder system.
7. Plan rewards. Set up a reward system to help you going. Each day you follow your plan, put a dollar in a jar. Use the money to go out or buy something as a reward for following through.
8. Remember no plans are set in concrete. If you find yourself feeling like a failure because you can't follow through, reevaluate your plan and your goals to make sure they are realistic.