May the New Year bring you courage to break your resolutions early! My own plan is to swear off every kind of virtue, so that I triumph even when I fall! • Aleister Crowley
The end of the old year and the beginning of a new one is a perfect time to reflect on our lives and the changes we want or need to make. Every year countless people make New Year’s resolutions with a hope that they will have the strength and motivation to adhere to the promises they made to themselves.
A New Year’s resolution involves a commitment to a particular project such as change of a habit or a creation of a new one. A change is usually interpreted as advantageous and involves behavior modification of some sort.
The name “New Year’s resolutions” comes from the fact that these commitments normally go into effect on New Year’s Day. Most people assess their physical appearance or their financial status. They want to lose weight, exercise more, reduce stress, save more money, spend less, quit smoking. All these New Year’s resolutions are quite ambitious, but unfortunately, more often than not, they are bound to fail. People fail because they do not understand the process of change. One simply cannot start anew with an old mindset. Some deep seated, false or outdated beliefs may stand in the way to a better, happier and more fulfilled life.
Most of the New Year’s resolutions are abandoned in the first few weeks if not days of the New Year as individuals discover that they either cannot follow the self-designed schedules or that their resolutions add stress and frustration to their already stressful lifestyles. One excuse is made up after another to find a “rational” explanation for procrastination or lack of motivation and self-discipline. In no time people revert to the old routine no matter how miserable they may feel.
So, what shall we do if we want to succeed in 2016?
It is very important to understand that change of any kind creates stress. People who are trying to change too many aspects of their lives all at once are inadvertently increasing their stress levels. They put too much pressure on themselves. It is only natural that they give up their resolve quickly as the old routine is less stressful and allows one to “relax” on the laurels of his or her failure.
My suggestion would be to pick up one item off the list and commit oneself to it for the first few months of the year.
It is said that a new habit is formed in a period of twenty eight days. One should therefore consequently follow the new pattern of behavior for this period of time to make it a habit.
It is much easier to stay motivated if one sees some progress. The sense of success on the other hand, motivates to an even greater commitment.
There are probably as many strategies as there are people who tried to implement a major change in their lives. Some strategies are more successful than others, but the degree of success depends on many factors, among others on one’s personal circumstances, mentality, personal beliefs, needs, and experience. Every individual is unique, but no one has to feel compelled to reinvent the wheel as there are time-tested strategies successfully used by others. Some degree of modification may be necessary to suit one’s needs, but the program should include following steps:
- Identify your goal – it is vital to know what one wants to achieve and why it is important to reach that goal. Vague expressions like “I want to lose weight” or “I want to save more money” are rather useless as they do not set a precise goal. They may delineate the direction one wishes to take, but they do not pose any concrete challenge. Instead write down how much weight do you wish to lose by June, or how much money you wish to save for your Summer vacation. It is important to set a deadline because otherwise you will self-sabotage your own goal.
- Do some research – find out what to do to change a particular behavior and what benefits such a change may have for you. For instance, if you want to lose weight, find out what effects particular foods have on the human body, what are your caloric needs, how to increase metabolism, etc. This will give you an idea about the challenges you may have to face and what has to be done if you want to achieve your goal. This knowledge will not only empower you, but will help you devise a step-by-step plan.
- Create realistic schedule – do not expect the results to come over night. Remember that success is a gradual process and plan your strategy accordingly. For instance, if you want to save money, set your goal in relation to your income and monthly expenses. You may wish to save $25 or $250 per week and nothing stops you from saving more, but if you set your goal too high, you may realize that it is impossible to keep up with the growing cost of living and you will stop saving altogether.
- Find support – no matter how skeptical your friends and family may appear at first, inform them that you decided to work on your particular issue and ask for their support. Find a coach or join a support group, especially if you are living in an non-supportive environment or have a history of failure. Like-minded people are more likely to understand your “struggle” and give you the support you need.
- Monitor progress – it is very very useful to have a journal in which you can write down your experience and monitor your progress. As you are trying to change your ways, you will experience a wide range of emotions. It is important to understand where your frustrations stem from or what makes you unhappy. Do not ever blame yourself for temporary set-backs, but rather prize yourself for your endurance. The journal will not only help you watch your progress and gain confidence. It will help you monitor your inner talk.
- Reward yourself – as you gradually progress on your path, celebrate your success. This does not mean that you have to reward yourself with a piece of cake if you manage to lose more weight than you expected. Instead, go to a gym or a yoga class or visit a spa where you can relax and pamper yourself. If you managed to save more money than you previously intended, go to a library and educate yourself about the financial markets. You may want to understand how money can work for you in the future.
There is nothing as sweet as success. Remember that you are the master of your life. You hold the key to your success. No one can change you and you cannot change anything unless you really want to. You may have to slow dawn and take an honest look deep into your psyche to find out where your weak spots reside. Some problems may sit deeper than you think and you may have to seek professional help. Do not try to give up before you really tried to change. Believe in yourself and be brave. You can succeed.
By Dominique Allmon
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How to Make Your New Year’s Resolution Work This Time by Dominique Allmon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.