Show us someone who is still talking about upholding their New Year’s Resolution come August and we’ll show you a liar. So scarce are those three little words come summer that even hearing them whispered is like a cold splash of water to the face, triggering alarms in your brain that scream “Oh, right. Those ol’ things”.
The reality is that for most people – more than 90 percent according to staticbrain.com - their New Year’s Resolutions escape their grasp nearly as quickly as the words can be vocalized. For the difference between setting and achieving a goal is vast. It all starts with setting an achievable goal…
The focus needs to be on choosing a meaningful resolution that genuinely affects your level of happiness rather than something you feel pressured into doing by others. The more you value this goal, the more you’ll be willing to work for it. Goals should be realistic, measurable, and they should be something that you can mostly achieve without relying on others.
Do research (like this) on not only practical techniques for achieving your own goal, but also use this time to study behavioral therapy. It will help you see the pitfalls ahead of you. The transtheoretical model, for example, suggests building a healthy habit comes down to first the readiness to change, followed by an arc that consists of preparation, action, and maintenance. Remember, it takes 21 days to form a good habit.
Most people hope to improve their physiques or their bank accounts - which are useful, tangible desires - but be more specific. Behavioral therapists champion specificity because vagueness leaves room for apathy. If you want to lose weight, how many pounds exactly? If you want more money, what’s a reasonable amount to achieve? Once you have a concrete target, write short-term blueprints with the long-term goal in mind. Set checkpoints along the way that you can routinely monitor. Daily or weekly to-do lists are incredibly useful for visualizing your workload, though be prepared to adapt if your action plan reveals some cracks.
A New Year’s Resolution is something you need to do alone. You’re trying to augment your bad habits into good habits, which is something you need to learn how to do without anybody else there to push you. However, stumbling is part of the process and it’s recommended that you relay your goal to a trusted friend or family member so that they can support you in times of doubt. If they share the same goal as you, even better. Get them on board with your goal and remember not to jump down their throats if it feels like they’re placating you when you fall.
You have your goal and you have your to-do list, so start implementing it. What’s key in this step is determination and discipline. How badly you want this goal will be tested, but stay resilient. In times of drought, behavioral therapists recommend just doing something. If you desire more muscles but, man, today you just can’t swing going to the gym, have backup plans in place. Do some push-ups on your fifteen-minute break. Understand that this will take effort and it will take patience. Results take time. Be prepared to hit roadblocks. This is when you’ll need your trusted friend.
You’ve achieved your goal – or close enough to it to satisfy – so now you have to make it part of your daily life. Over time, you’ll begin to understand the rhythms of your schedule and how your goal fits into it, so now you have to maintain your checkpoints. Armed with your research and your experience, it’s up to you to understand when you need to amp back up and when you need to give yourself a break.
Remember: prepare, take action, and maintain.