The end of a calendar year is an excellent opportunity to reconsider your priorities, set goals and make positive changes. New year's resolutions are a tried and tested method. Yet, their success rate is variable. Read on to find out how you can make them work…
Most likely you’ll take some time off around the end of the calendar year. This is an opportunity to evaluate your accomplishments and consider where you want to go next.
A brief look at the past year will help you determine how much change and novelty you need. If you are pleased with the results, focus on maintenance, eliminating distractions, and deepening or accelerating your progress. If you are disappointed with the results, you either need to change your approach or change your expectations.
‘Resolution’ means ‘a firm decision to do or not to do something’. To progress at pace and increase the likelihood of adhering to your resolutions, pay attention both to what you do and what you do not do. Positive psychology would have you think that it is always better to phrase things in the positive and affirmative (do). A cursory look at the advice of the sages of the past would reveal that they phrase their commandments and admonitions in the negative (do not). My experience demonstrates that different people respond differently to each approach. Usually, a combination of both is most helpful.
Toward the end of the year, take the time to think, examine, evaluate and prioritise. Consider your core values and identify the direction and actions that will enable you to live in alignment with them. Then, ensure that you capture the outcome of your reflection in writing. These are going to be your new year's resolutions. Here are seven strategies for making them work for you.
1 Make your resolutions meaningful
The ‘what’ is how you phrase your resolution. The ‘why’ is what will help you make it a reality. What will you gain by realising your resolution? How will it benefit you and the people you care about? What will be the consequences of failing to stick with your resolution? How would you feel if you failed?
The basics of human motivation boil down to avoiding pain and seeking pleasure in their broadest sense. Associate the achievement of your resolution with as much joy, happiness, and pleasure as you can. Make the alternative as unbearable as you can in your imagination.
Most importantly, align your resolutions to your core values and your priorities. Remember that it is about who you become, not what you have or do.
2 Make your resolutions SMART
A successful manager focuses on creating SMART objectives for their subordinates. A successful person creates SMART new year's resolutions. In this case, what works in the business world will work in your personal life as well.
SMART is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound. Specificity helps you focus your efforts with accuracy. Measurability helps you know when you’ve succeeded. You have to know your aspiration is achievable so that you don’t give up. Ensure it is relevant in the context of your values and ambitions. Set yourself a due date, so that you stay on track and progress at pace.
Examples of SMART new year's resolutions:
You are overweight and want to improve your physical health - I am going to the gym twice a week without exceptions and consume no sugary drinks to lose 10kg by my son’s wedding on 3 June.
You experience high levels of stress and anxiety that result in sick days from work – I practice formal meditation twice a day for 10 minutes to develop my resilience and have no sick days due to mental health from April onward.
You overwork chronically and feel that you are sacrificing other aspects of your life – I leave work by 5.00pm every day in order to increase my working hours productivity and be able to complete my yoga training by September, meet my friends twice a week, speak with my parents once a week and spend more time with my partner.
3 Think big, act small
Remove all restrictions and inhibitions of your mind when contemplating where you want to go and what you want to become. Your resolution needs to be big and bold enough to excite you and motivate you every time you think about it.
Conversely, ensure that you focus on the immediate small steps you can take to make it a reality. This is called chunking down. Break your vision down into concrete sequential steps. Focus on executing each one as quickly as you can and to the best of your abilities.
4 Create accountability
Find a way of holding yourself responsible for acting on your resolutions. Make your commitment as strong as you can in whatever way works best for you.
Make your resolutions public by sharing them with supportive and honest friends. Write your resolutions down and place them, so that you see them every day. If you are financially motivated, make a bet with someone where you risk losing money if you don’t cop out.
5 Design for success
Willpower and self-control are limited resources. Use them sparingly if at all by designing an environment that is conducive to your success. Eliminate temptations within your environment as best as you can.
If you want to lose weight, don’t bring junk food at home and sign up for a gym that is close to home or work. If you want to stop drinking throw away all alcohol from your home and don’t hang out in pubs. If you want to stop wasting time on television, cancel your license and sell your TV set.
6 Revisit and revise
Optimising your new year’s resolutions can take some time. If you are new to the process, you will most likely under- and over-estimate your abilities. That’s why it is important to revisit and revise your aspirations on a regular basis.
Let’s say that you’ve been conservative and have accomplished within 3 months what you’d planned to achieve in 6. If you are satisfied with the result you can consider this objective completed. Make sure you reward yourself for your success. Wire your brain to associate pleasure with discipline and accomplishment. If you are unhappy with the result, revise your objective upwards.
If you fail to achieve an objective by the due date you’ve set yourself, you may need to change your approach or the goal itself. Finally, in six months’ time, an objective may no longer be relevant due to a change in your circumstances or your outlook. In that case, you can either replace it or focus on the remaining ones.
7 Keep an eye on the big picture
Some people focus exclusively on a certain area of life like career, relationships, health, spirituality, etc. Others have a more balanced approach where their attention and efforts are split more evenly toward all of these. There are no right or wrong approaches as long as you are aware of your priorities and values.
It is essential to look at your resolutions as a portfolio. Leverage any synergies between them that you identify. Think of the best sequence of accomplishing them if this would make a difference. Relentlessly eliminate any conflicts and contradictions, so that you don’t waste your efforts.
The end of the year is an excellent opportunity to take stock and think about your direction. New year’s resolutions, if used correctly, are one of your best allies in realising positive changes in your life and who you are.
What resolutions will you set for the new year? How will you change your life and the lives of the people around you? How can you make the most of the coming year? What will be the main focus…?
Martin Stefanov Petkov
Master your Super Power