Most would not argue with the statement that 80-90% of people who start a New Year’s resolution at the beginning of January are probably not going to make it to February. Most resolutions are meant to improve people’s lives and make them happier, so it’s sad that so many people give up on their dreams so prematurely. There are varying reasons that can explain the failure to keep resolutions but some of the more common ones are connected to setting too many goals at once, making your goals too general or making them too big. Whether you’ve consciously or unconsciously abandoned your resolutions after only a few weeks of trying, the good news is you don’t have to wait until next January to make another attempt. March is the perfect time to pick yourself up, dust off and give it another go. Here are a few things that can help you make your second shot at your desired life change more permanent.
First, Look at the Data
If you’ve failed at keeping up your January resolutions, you’ve now accumulated useful data. Between when you started and when you quit, you can likely pull some information that can show you what worked with your attempt and what didn’t. Taking a closer can help you to figure out what things you can do differently so that you don’t repeat failure a second time. For example, maybe your resolution was to start exercising regularly (5 days a week), but you were only able to exercise 3 evenings the first week, then 1 evening each of the next two weeks. That data would show evening exercise didn’t fit well with your schedule. So on a second attempt at the resolution, exercising first thing in the morning would be a better plan.
Figure out what’s REALLY Important to You
People sometimes decide on resolutions for superficial reasons and a deeper look can uncover that a particular resolution may not really matter to you. You might have a resolution to stop eating chocolate – but upon closer inspection you discover that what you really want to do is start eating healthier as a whole. Deciding to focus on only eliminating chocolate from your diet wouldn’t yield you the type of results you want because you could simply replace one less than ideal food choice with another.
Be Specific with Your Goal Setting
Break down your goal into specific parts so you know exactly what you need to do, and when you plan to do it. The wrong way to approach a resolution like incorporating more exercise into your routine would be to say “I’m going to exercise more this year”. When you’re that vague, it allows you the flexibility to interpret “…exercise more…” any way you want – i.e. I exercised twice this month, hopefully I’ll exercise more next month. It may not unfold exactly that way but you get the gist. Instead, be specific on how you are going to integrate exercise into your routine, i.e. I’m going to do yoga four times a week on Mon, Wed, Fri and Sat first thing in the morning. By listing specific steps, you’ll know when you’re not keeping up and that you might need to address something in order to stay on track with your goal. Choose the SMART method for goal setting:
Don’t Do Too Much at Once
There’s an endless list of things one would want to change about themselves but trying to make many changes at once is usually difficult. Start with one goal and once you have built some momentum with maintaining it, only then should you consider working on another goal at the same time.
Create Accountability for Yourself
Don’t keep your goals hidden, share what you want to accomplish with someone close to you. You’ll be more committed when you know someone is watching. And invite them to inquire about your progress. When you know someone is going to check up on you, it’s added incentive for you to keep up with your efforts so you have results to communicate when you’re asked: “How are things going?”
Measure and Celebrate
Keep track of your progress, whether by journaling or marking progress on a calendar. A visual record of your progress helps you maintain momentum because it allows you to see how much you’ve already done. And identify milestones so that you can have mini celebrations along the way. If you need to lose 20lbs, it’s much better to celebrate each time you lose 5 than waiting to celebrate only after you’ve lost the full 20.
And Finally, Lighten Up!
Making a change is not easy, especially if it’s a significant change. There will be moments of discomfort and times when you just won’t do what you are supposed to do. If you have a moment of weakness and stumble, don’t use that as an excuse to quit – no one is perfect, failure along the way is normal. Also, accept that your goal won’t always be exciting and fun to tackle and that you may often not want to complete your task(s). Most of the time you probably won’t feel like doing what you should be doing – recognize that motivation won’t always accompany you. Despite the absence of motivation, do what you need to do anyway. Focus on developing the simple habits that will get you going, i.e. if you need to get in a morning run – just focus on getting your shoes on, and once those laces are tied what follows will be automatic.
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