Well, the new year is officially a week old, and it seems like all we have left to look forward to is snow, cold weather, taxes… and New Year’s resolutions! Hopefully, none of us have broken any resolutions yet, but even if you have, don’t give up. I’ve found an easy way to make sure you never break a resolution, and that’s to just not make any! In all seriousness, though, I don’t like making resolutions because I struggle to keep them, and I get really discouraged when I miss a workout, spend money I had planned on saving or whatever. I always hear folks joke about how there’s an influx of new gym members the first month or two of the new year, and then they’re never seen again. Personally, I wouldn’t know about this, because I prefer to avoid strenuous activity altogether.
This new year, in the most un-cliché way possible, I wanted to be different, to do better; so, I’ve spent some time thinking about and researching ways to one, set realistic goals; and two, actually stick to them for the whole year, maybe even longer.
It seems to me that you can distill resolution tips into three basic principles: focus, discipline and patience.
Focus on a couple specific areas. For example, If you resolve to lose weight, save money, travel more, spend more time with friends and family, read a book a month and get a better job, you’re almost definitely going to fail on all fronts. If you struggle with both finances and exercise, pick one, not both to work on.
Exert self-discipline. If you resolve to do something, then don’t allow yourself to make excuses. Do it. If you’ve resolved to work out four days a week, then, short of illness or death, work out four days a week. The bottom line of keeping a resolution is just that: keep it.
Be patient. Pacing yourself and not getting discouraged may be the hardest part of keeping a resolution. This relates to focus but goes beyond that. You have to understand that you’re not necessarily going to see big results (and maybe not even little ones) right away.
Let’s say your resolution is to use a lot of coupons and sales to save money on groceries, clothes and anything else you buy. January 1, you sit down at your computer to start researching coupons and sales. You spend three hours researching, and you’ve found a few coupons that will only save you a dollar or two. Looked at in a vacuum, three hours of your life isn’t worth $1.50 in savings. Oh well. Keep going.
As you continue to research, you’ll find more websites, blogs and other resources that have a lot of coupons and information on sales. As you build a list of these resources, you’ll be able to make a large amount of savings while spending a lot less time looking for them. When making a resolution, you should mentally prepare for a slow start and not let it faze you. Just keep following your resolution (discipline) whether or not it immediately seems to be working. Eventually, you’ll see a greater return on your efforts, and you’ll feel increasing more successful.
In a personal example, I’ve tried for several years to create and stick to a workout schedule, with negligible success. So, this year I decided to take a different approach: convenient baby steps. To start out with, I’m walking up and down the stairs at work once every day – I work on the twelfth floor, so this is a pretty decent baby step, I think. This “workout” doesn’t take very long, is very convenient and it definitely increases my heart rate. There’s not much noticeable progress in my overall health and well-being yet, but I’m not looking for much. I’m just staying focused on making sure I take the stairs, up and down, once every day.
So, there’s my synopsis of New Year’s resolution success, but I’ve also found some great tips from other folks on the web – check ‘em out!
- Reflect on last year – think about what you did well, what you struggled with, what you wished you had accomplished, etc. and base your resolutions on that.
- Write ‘em down. Writing out your resolutions and sticking them somewhere that you’ll frequently see them will help you stay focused.
- Get specific. If your resolution is to save money, don’t just say that and then hope it works. Make a plan. Coupon blogger extraordinaire Lauren Greutman suggests paying for everything with cash for 21 days while keeping a strict account of what you’re spending money on so you can figure out specific ways to cut back.
- Identify time-wasters. Take an honest look at how you spend your time (TV, video games, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.) and avoid those black holes so you’ll have the time you need for your resolutions. Heck, that could be a resolution in itself!
- Pick a friend or family member – or two – to keep you accountable for your goals. But remember: that person is not going to do the heavy lifting for you; you’re still the only person who can make that resolution a reality.
- Educate yourself about your goals. If it’s working out more, learn how to develop a balanced workout schedule. Don’t just show up at the gym and jump on whatever machine looks cool.
- Don’t try to do everything in January. If you didn’t complete everything in one year, don’t give up. View it as a multi-year project and keep pushing ahead.
- Break your goal down into specific chunks and focus on achieving one each week.
- Don’t keep looking at the final goal, at how far away it is, or even back to where you were. Just focus on doing what you resolved to do, day in, day out. All of a sudden, you’ll realize you’ve made great progress.
Making and keeping a New Year’s resolution can be a really positive or negative experience. Remember the bottom line: if you want to make and keep a resolution, then do it. Focus, discipline and patience are the keys to help you do that. If you’ve got any other tips, thoughts or suggestions, share them with us!