The new year is notoriously known for a time when we all make resolutions. And break them. Have you ever wondered why we make and break resolutions as a pattern? I think the very term “resolutions” is associated with the word “break” – goals we are never going to achieve, ones that are doomed to fail. This struck me a couple of years ago and I decided to give up making vague resolutions and formulate goals instead. A few practical things which will get done – not a laundry list of things all that I’d like to be or do, all in the new year. And this has made a lot of sense to me.
I believe the new year is a great time to renew our efforts at “work in progress” called ourselves! Gradual progress is critical here, not turning into a new leaf as soon as the ball drops. And there are so many ways to continue working on this project, getting better one day at a time. Resolutions we make and the goals we set need not be broken or abandoned abruptly. Here are a few ways to ensure that we all stick with our new year goals – a little longer and make them a part of our lives:
Why do we fail to keep our new year resolutions?
First look at a few reasons why we fail in keeping up with our resolutions or new year goals.
There is too much pressure: The hype created by popular culture to celebrate the new year and make resolutions is too much, if you ask me. In the last couple of years, I have treated January as just another month and feel so relieved of all the anxiety that comes with the season. Making resolutions because everyone on your Facebook is isn’t the kind of commitment that’ll keep you at it in the long run.
We don’t think through: The pressure gets us to think of our perfect selves and convert that image into resolutions. We don’t usually plan or consider how it could be achieved. And hence there are no action steps to convert these resolutions to reality. It doesn’t work that way.
We bite more than we can chew: We want to do it all starting the 1st of Jan! So we commit to running 6 days a week at 5.30 in the morning. Although many a resolution is broken at the altar of hangovers on the very first day of the year. Even if it doesn’t break your resolve, it sure dents your enthusiasm by missing Day 1. It just gets easier to come up with excuses after that.
Life gets in the way: Once the hype of the new year fizzles out, your Facebook friends are back to life as usual. The zest for the new you is gone and so are your resolutions! In the first couple of weeks, we’ve skipped so many times that it doesn’t make sense to continue. The work in progress is left to be picked up again at the end of the year. And we get on with our lives.
How to stick to your new year resolutions?
So how do we ensure that we continue working on our goals, one step at a time so that new year is not the only time we dream and decide to do something? How do we work on our passions all year long?
1. Set realistic goals: Focus on one or two aspects of your life that you wish to improve. Or pick areas that need most attention. If you’ve already done that, which I presume you have, it’s never a bad time to recalibrate and make your expectations more realistic. And it doesn’t always have to be life altering. It can also be about making time for hobbies that you love but have been putting off all these years.
2. Start with an action plan: Think them through and have a plan of action. If something hasn’t worked for you, be flexible and try a new approach. Working out doesn’t always have to be in the morning if you have a kid to send to school. You may not have time for your hobby at the end of everyday. Starting with twice a week or just weekends is also a great way to get in the groove.
3. Take one day at a time: Don’t worry about what will happen to your new routine in the long run. Like when you start traveling for work or when your kid has holidays. You can figure something out when the time comes. So don’t worry about crossing the bridge unless you hit it. Take one day at a time and really build that habit. This takes pressure off sticking to your resolutions and makes it easier to pursue them.
4. Find your comfort zone: Trying out something new or developing a new routine is always uncomfortable. Like I mentioned earlier, be realistic and have a plan. But within your comfort zone, as much as possible. Habit stacking is an easy and convenient way to add new routines in a simple way. Habit stacking is piggyback riding a new habit with an old one. For instance, pick out your gym clothes for the evening workout along with your work clothes in the morning. This could make it easier for you change after work and head out. Need to start writing? Stack a paragraph of writing along with your morning coffee. Need to plan your day in advance? Use the first 5 minutes to jot tasks down as soon as you sit at your desk. The simplest thing you need for habit stacking is to pick a place and time where you can fit in the new habit.
Here is a great resource that can help you develop good habits through habit stacking. S. J. Scott’s wonderful book on Habit Stacking on Amazon gives you tons of suggestions on how to develop new routines in every aspect of your life. And it’s a free read on Kindle Unlimited.
5. Start small: This is the best advice I can give you on sticking to your goals. When we think of a workout, we want to go all out. When we think of pursuing hobbies, we don’t want to start unless we have a large chunk of time. But the key is to start. That’s it. Stephen Guise, the author of Mini Habits – Smaller Habits, Bigger Results tried to develop a workout habit for a decade. And one day he hit on the idea of a mini habit. He decided that he’d start with one push up. One! Sounds silly, right? But when he went down for one push up, he anyways went ahead and did 14 more. The same happened with other exercises that he started. And soon he knew he could do this with other habits he wanted to inculcate – start a mini habit. Don’t plan big. Don’t expect to change the world in a day. One small step at a time is triumph enough.
6. Get a buddy: Accountability is a great way to keep you going. This helps a great deal when our self-motivation begins to exhaust. So find a hobby partner or a running mate. Join a book club that reads 4 books a month. Get into groups that meet up often and share progress on common goals.
7. Work with a coach: Coaching is a very effective way to help you achieve any goal. This is because a coach – not a sports coach – is someone who’s trained to help you sort out your obstacles and take you towards action. Coaching also helps keep track of your progress. Whether you wish to work on your productivity, your skills, your relationships or healthy habits, coaching can make a huge difference.
To know more about how coaching can help you, click here.
8. Don’t give up: Perfection is unattainable. And slipping once in a while is natural. The key is keep getting back on track. I’ve gotten back to habits even after 2 weeks or 2 months of break. Life gets in the way – there’s bad health, travel for work or personal emergencies that need more attention for the moment. Take heart, one can always get back despite all this. One doesnt have to wait for the new year to start afresh.
So this new year, break the pattern. Make resolutions and stick to them. These practical tips are the ones I have used in my own life and they actually work. Pick the top two that you like and get started. Or stay on track if you are already at it. Looking for a buddy or a coach? Feel free to drop me a line in the comments and let’s make this happen!