5 Steps To Making Resolutions That Stick
Having trouble sticking to your New Year’s resolutions? Maybe you’re trying too hard! Read on to discover the secret to setting goals that succeed.
Out with the old, in with the new
Ring all the bells, ring all the bells – 2017 is dead, long live 2018! Or so it goes. At this time of year, after the joy and jubilation of the season’s festivities have simmered down, we all get a little bit reflective. A little bit eager to banish the excesses and inadequacies of the past with hastily made and easily forgotten New Year’s resolutions. We want this fresh year to be bright and shiny like never before! We stare at our unblemished desk diaries as if looking into the pure white bliss of our souls; willing for us to make lasting, transformative change. Each of us becomes The Little Engine That Could (“I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…”) making demands of our fragile selves that we really have no business making.
And then it happens. The crash and burn, the slip and slide, the inevitable fall from grace. Whether it comes one week, one month or, as in my case, one day from January 1st (what? The school run can be stressful!), all but the most bloody-minded will waver in their resolve at some point during the month. It’s inevitable, we are only human after all. It’s a universally acknowledged fact that gyms are busiest in January, full to bursting with optimistic Get-Fit-Quick’ers keen to show off their Christmas Fitbits (or at least so I’m told, I’m too scared to go back to mine). By February things have settled down again leaving only the true enthusiasts to jostle over the functioning treadmills.
May all your troubles last as long as your New Year’s resolutions!
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Once more unto the breach
So what then? Do we allow ourselves this little blip and carry on regardless? Or do we throw the whole thing out as futile and give up altogether? The definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results. I must be certifiable then because despite resolving not to resolve anymore last year, I decided that in 2018 I would be more ambitious. I would make myself over and not fail. The jeans are fitting a little too snugly and my 4 year old is having way too much fun playing with my “squishy belly”. Time for transformation! So I put my cynicism aside and with the sort of hope and renewed optimism that only the dawn of a new year can inspire, I sat down to complete a carefully sourced, internet downloaded 2018 Personal Planning Tool. There are plenty of these types of guides knocking around the web at this time of year, but this was developed by a Master Certified Coach, designed to help me “look through 2017 and define a strong plan for 2018”. It had to be good, right?
I tried, I really did try. I dutifully completed the look back section with questions such as “what surprised me?” and “what disappointed me?”. But my inner misanthrope, which had hitherto laid dormant, awoke by the time I had reached page five. Five! Honestly, how is writing reams about where I fell short or when I was happiest last year (can I even remember?), going to help me get fit for summer this year? By the time I got to the section on current goals I was spent. It turns out that for me, as organised and controlled as I am at work, when it comes to my hopes and dreams, I am much more “go with the flow”. And that’s ok. New Year’s resolutions should not be another reason to write yourself off as a failure. They are supposed to inspire you, to encourage you and to challenge you, but that’s it. It is not a measure of success. You can break your resolutions and still be #winning.
A guiding light
Some need the framework of a guide, others don’t. There is no right or wrong way to improve your life, so long as you take it one day at a time. For those who prefer the structure of a tool, you might find those types of templates helpful to focus your thinking. I found it too wishy-washy. I am an action planning, goal-oriented type of dreamer. I want a personal planning tool that step by step breaks down my goals into bite-sized manageable chunks that I can steward along the way. I couldn’t find it, so naturally I decided to design one. A decade and a half as a project manager in Oil and Gas has taught me a thing or two about project planning, and new year’s resolutions are the ultimate life project plan!
Step one: Goal setting
First you need to identify the goal. Sounds simple enough. This is where the self reflection comes in. When the midnight hour approached on 31st December 2017, were you pensive? If so, what about? Did you have regrets or were you simply thankful for the victories? The thoughts that were preoccupying your mind are likely the areas you want to focus on for this year. Career, family, friends, physical and mental health are the typical focus areas people seek to improve. Choose something in your life that you either want to do or stop doing, rather than something to be (too nebulous). Try to pick only one, as this increases your chance of success.
Whatever you choose, do so wisely. Your goal has to be SMART:
S – specific
M – measurable
A – attainable
R – realistic
T – time-based
Once selected, you need to translate that goal into something that resembles a tangible objective. Saying “I am going to eat healthily” is all well and good, but what does it mean? Have you failed if you eat a single packet of prawn cocktail crisps (a personal favourite)? Far better to resolve that “I am going to lose 1 stone by 31st December 2018”. Now you have something to work towards!
Step two: Break it down
Now that you have identified your objective, you need to break it down into bite-sized nuggets. The prospect of losing 1 stone in 12 months may seem daunting, but when broken down into just over 1lb per month, it suddenly seems manageable. Slice and dice however suits your goal best. It can be broken down chronologically, or into other categories that make sense for you. The important thing is to break this overall goal into smaller targets that are easier to visualise.
Step three: The devil is in the detail
For each of your mini targets, how do you plan to get there? Failing to plan is planning to fail, or something like that. List the resources that you will need to make it happen : time, people, money – they all matter. For each, think what you need to do to activate those resources and to make them work effectively for you. If my plan is to lose 5lbs in the first quarter of the year and then 1lb a month after that, then I will need to revolutionise my diet and exercise habits to kick-start that weight loss. I will need to brave the gym, take new classes, and factor the additional cost into my monthly budget. I may need to rope in a friend to join me, so that we can cheer each other on when things get tough. The point is don’t just dream it, plan it.
Step four: It only counts if you count it
They say that a watched pot never boils, but I beg to differ. If you have made a commitment to your resolution, then you have to steward your progression towards it along the way. How else will you keep yourself honest? That is why it helps to have a SMART resolution, so that you can find a quantifiable way to monitor your performance throughout the year. I can easily track that I am on target to lose 5lb by April, although wanting to is a different story! It would be much harder to assess whether I was still “eating healthily” if I had wolfed down a discarded hamburger from the kids’ Happy Meal that one time… Oh stop judging me, I said “if”!
Step five: Just do it!
Now that all the planning is concluded, it is time for action. If you said you were going to work out more regularly, don’t wait till Monday to start. Nothing will change unless you actively change it. So get up and get moving, your time is now!
If this works for you, great. I have translated these steps into a stylish Aurora Wellness 2018 goal planner which you can download for free, I hope that you find it useful. If you don’t, then just try to focus on doing the things that will bring you joy. And remember that you are already freaking fabulous, so just continue to shine! As for me, I’m going to keep it simple this time – no massive dietary overhaul. I’m going to change one thing, just one thing. I’m going to get back to the gym. Do more, lose more. Simple, but that’s good enough- as am I and as are you. So enjoy this new year, whether you are making resolutions or not. Whatever you do, just do you.
Photo credit: Veronica Dearly
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With over 15 years of management experience behind me I love to see women succeed at work and home. When I'm not doling out advice, I can be found sitting mute on the sofa watching tv with my husband or refereeing fights between my two kids.