New Year’s Eve – How to Make the Resolutions… And Keep Them.
Allow me to get my Captain-Obvious moment out of the way: Today is New Year’s Eve. It’s the last day before the calendar flips over from 2013 into 2014. It’s probably the best time of the year for broken promises, mostly to one’s self, which I think are the worst kind. If you can’t keep a promise to yourself, who can you keep a promise to?
I didn’t use to make New Years Resolutions for that reason. I don’t make promises that I don’t intend to keep or can’t keep for whatever reason, but then I started thinking about this at the end of the year in 2012 and realized that it was just an excuse to not do anything. It was an excuse for me to keep living the way I was living and not be responsible for any change that may or may not happen.
At that point, I decided it was time to make some resolutions and follow through. After all, I wasn’t happy with where my life was at the time. I wasn’t happy with what I was doing or where I was going. I wasn’t happy with the path that I was on. So I came up with a plan:
1) CHANGE YOUR DEFINITION OF “NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS”
The first thing I did was I changed what I thought New Year’s Resolutions meant. In the past, I had said, “Okay, I’m going to quit smoking and New Year’s Day is my quit date. That’s my New Year’s Resolution.” Or I would make some goal about losing weight or working out more or something else along the line. I would make January 1 the D-Day and then I would go from there. That’s what it means, right? Wrong.
Make your New Year’s Resolutions about the New Year rather than the specific day. They’re New Year’s Resolutions, not New Year’s Day’s Resolutions. If you want to quit smoking, rather than make your quit day January 1st, make it sometime before December 31st. If you want to work out on a regular basis, make your resolution, “I plan to be working out three times a week before the end of the year.” If you start strong and slip up, no big deal. You haven’t failed yourself because your date wasn’t for the start of the year, it was the whole year.
In 2012, I wanted to quit smoking and lose 30 pounds. My resolutions were to be smoke free and 30 pounds lighter on December 31st. I didn’t feel bad that I didn’t quit smoking or start my diet plan on January 1st. I didn’t feel bad that it took me until the summer to actually start working out and eating better. My goal wasn’t for January 1st. It was “by December 31st.” And guess what? I accomplished both my goals.
2) LOOK AT YOUR LIFE AND TAKE IT INTO YOUR OWN HANDS
When you are trying to figure out what you want your New Year’s Resolutions to be, you really need to sit down and examine what it is in your life that you really want to change. If you think it would be a good idea, but you aren’t completely sold on it, you are setting yourself up for failure. If you know you should quit smoking, but you really don’t mind being a smoker, you will set yourself up to fail by making that your resolution. Do not set yourself up for failure.
If you are sick and tired of feeling a certain way, determine what way it is you currently feel, figure out how you want to feel, and then make a plan to get from point A to point B. Find something that is going to work for you, and don’t worry about time (remember, you have 365 days in a year and we’re setting up our resolutions to be met by December 31st). Make your plan detailed and step by step, but don’t make deadlines for anything.
If you are sick and tired of smoking and the way it feels, how are you going to fix that. Don’t just say, “stop smoking.” Make a plan: maybe you quit cold turkey, maybe you get the patch or gum or meds to help, maybe you switch to the e-cig first. How are you going to quit? When I made this resolution, I decided to “wean myself off” of smoking. I created what I like to call “Negative Affirmations.” Every time I lit up a cigarette, I said, “I hate the way these taste. I hate the way they smell. I hate the way they make me feel. This habit is really disgusting.” While I was doing that, I started switching to e-cigs.
Now, I decided on my resolutions well before the first. It was closer to the start of December 2012 when I started doing this. It took about three weeks before I was completely on e-cigs only. Then I started the same process with the e-cigs: I hate the way these taste. I hate the way they make me feel. This isn’t much better than smoking and it’s gross. On January 13, my last e-cig ran out. I haven’t smoked a day since.
I looked at my life and decided what I really wanted to change and I made a plan. Then I followed the plan because I was accountable for that plan for the entire year.
3) MAKE YOUR RESOLUTIONS ARE VERY SPECIFIC AND ATTAINABLE
If you want to lose weight, figure out what your goal weight is and how much you need to lose to get there. Determine what a good amount of weight loss would be for a year and then stick to that. Personally, I wouldn’t say more than 78 pounds. That’s a loss of 1.5 pounds a week for 52 weeks, and that’s a lot of weight. I would, truthfully, pick a number smaller than that and here’s why: You aren’t going to be good every week. You are going to have days/weeks/months go badly and 78 pounds does not give you ANY wiggle room. My goal for 2013 was 30 pounds. My goal for 2014 is to get to 170, it’s about 35 more pounds. The one bit of information that I read that helped me the most with my weight loss was this: You didn’t put all the weight on in a year, so why are you expecting to get it off in one?
One of the biggest problems that people run into with resolutions is this: the goals aren’t specific, so there’s not a way to measure success, or the goals are so grand that they’re not attainable.
Don’t say: “I want to lose weight. I want to eat healthier. I want to work out more.” There isn’t a way to measure those. How do you know when you’ve done it? When do you know you’ve succeeded when there’s always more you could do?
Say something like this, “I want to lose 30 pounds by the end of 2014. I want to cut my meat intake down to one a day, twice a week by the end of 2014. I want to work out three days a week by the end of 2014.” Those goals are attainable. And not only that, when you tack on “by the end of 2014” they look easy. They give you time. They make sure you are accountable for he ENTIRE year.
4) WRITE YOUR RESOLUTIONS DOWN WHERE YOU WILL SEE THEM EVERY DAY
In my bathroom, I have this huge mirror. Next to that mirror is a long medicine cabinet where the door is also a mirror. I took a purple (because it is my favorite color) dry-erase marker, and I wrote all of my New Year’s Resolutions on that mirror. As I attained them, I would draw a line through them. Writing them down where I would see them every day made a couple things happen: It made me accountable to myself because it was a reminder of my goals. I couldn’t escape them. Sure, I could clean the mirror… but then there was that guilt of letting myself down. They sat there all year and haunted me. But then I started getting to mark things off, and I started feeling accomplished.
Write your goals down where you will see them every day: A mirror, a sheet of paper you put on the dash of your car. Don’t put it somewhere private, it’s okay for others to see your goals too. It makes you more accountable.
5) START IMPLEMENTING YOUR PLANS
Remember how you made those plans to attain your goals? Now is the time to do them. Start small. If you have more than one goal, pick the one that is the easier to attain. Maybe create mini goals that lead up to your big goal (work out once a week to start, then bump it up to two, etc). The point is, the biggest thing to remember is to act. Action is the key to any goal. They won’t fulfill themselves, so make sure you help yourself out and do something to make your goals happen. After all, the goals you made are ones in areas of your life where you wanted that change, right?
So do it. Act on it. And don’t get discouraged if you fail by February. Your goals don’t have to be met until December 31st. It’s okay to fall, so long as you get back up and you keep running. These aren’t goals to change your year, they’re goals to change your life. They’re goals to change you. And that’s the difference between success and failure.
These are my goals for the 2014 year:
1) Continue to not smoke for 2014.
2) Get to a weight loss mini-goal of 170 (that’s roughly another 35 pounds) by December 31, 2014.
3) Cut my meat intake down to once a day, three times a week by December 31, 2014.
4) Work out three days a week on a regular basis by December 31, 2014.
5) Read 12 books (one a month) in 2014.
6) Finalize my spiritual calendar, creating spiritual practices to solidify my focus on the gods in 2014.
7) Meditate at least once a week for ten minutes on a regular basis by December 31, 2014.
8) Write a minimum of 24 blogs (that’s two a month) in 2014.
I’ve read in a few places that if you have too many goals, you put yourself at risk for not meeting any of them, but I don’t necessarily believe that. If your goals support the major theme, you should be able to attain them. What’s the major theme? Becoming a better version of you. That’s the point, isn’t it? You’ve identified something in your life that you aren’t that happy about, so you are deciding to make the choice to change that. You are making a choice to become a better version of yourself. You are making the choice to change your life not just your year.
My goals reflect my overall goal to become a healthier, happier, more spiritually balanced version of myself. If I complete some of my goals, they will lead to my completing other goals I have in place. They’re connected, they’re specific, they’re attainable. And I have a plan.
What about you?