8 Tips for Making New Year's Resolutions
It's always the same game. Every year around this time, countless people all over the world make resolutions to keep in the new year to make one area of your life more positive. You set big goals - lose a few pounds, be more productive, earn more money, get rid of bad habits - and each time you fall off the wagon after a short time. The vast majority of resolutions are dropped again relatively quickly.
However, setting goals is not bad per se or doomed to failure. Contrary to popular belief, setting goals is not the problem - nor is making them at the beginning of a new year. Goal setting is critical to success. The problem arises when we set unclear goals, without clear timelines, structures or plans on how to achieve them.
Losing a few kilos or making more money, these are not concrete goals. It's like saying you want to visit a new city and leaving it at that. Without a clear idea of where, when or how you're going to get there, you're likely to stay home.
Here are a few tips on how to really motivate yourself to keep your New Year's resolutions or how to plan your New Year's resolutions to greatly increase the likelihood of success.
Don't be your Toughest Critic
The vast majority of people try to motivate themselves by criticising themselves. But if you berate yourself every time you slip up, your motivation will not increase. On the contrary, studies have shown that self-judgement makes you anxious and depressed, and you have less confidence in your own abilities, which of course is not a good thing if you want to change your life.
The secret to self-motivation is self-compassion. This is the best motivator to persevere, even if you have missed a few gym appointments, for example. Failure is not the end of the world and there will always be failure because no human being is perfect. That's why it's easier to pick yourself up if you don't beat yourself up.
Scientifically, self-compassion is defined as the ability to treat yourself with the same kindness, care and support as you would a loved one or close friend who is struggling. The good news is that anyone can develop self-compassion with a little deliberate practice. For starters, give yourself permission to treat yourself with the same care you would a loved one or friend. A simple affirmation that you are worthy of support and compassion is an important step in breaking the habit of negative self-talk. Just because you ate dessert doesn't mean you are a loser or doomed to failure.
If you can admit a mistake and think about how you can do better instead of criticising yourself, you are on a good path. A self-compassionate attitude towards yourself is a much more productive and sustainable strategy to achieve your goals.
Choose the Right Goal
Don't choose a goal based on criticism. If you've always heard from your mother that you need to lose weight, that's not a good reason to choose that as your New Year's resolution.
Instead, choose a goal that is important to you personally and focus fully on that one resolution.
Avoid repeating New Year's resolutions from last year that didn't work out. If you've spent years trying to lose a lot of weight, it may be time to try a new approach. Instead, focus on getting more exercise. Pro and con lists can also be helpful if you have to decide between two goals.
Set SMART Goals
Smart goals are one way you can follow through with your New Year's resolution.
SMART stands for:
- Specific (goal must be clearly stated).
- Measurable (goal must be measurable)
- Appealing (goal must be worth striving for)
- Realistic (goal must be realistically achievable)
- Time-bound (goal needs a fixed date by which it is to be achieved)
SMART goals make it easier to follow through with your New Year's resolutions because they are detailed and give you checkpoints for success. Achieving checkpoints in your goals can help you stay focused and motivated.
Here are a few examples:
Bad: I want to read more.
Good: I will participate in a book club every week from January to July.
Bad: I want to lose weight.
Good: I want to be five kilos lighter by April.
It can be difficult to force yourself to do something if you're just not motivated. And no matter how much we want something, occasionally we just don't feel like it.
If this is how you're feeling right now, it's important to take a step back. Here are a few tips on how to find your motivation:
Write down why you want to do it
Your why is your reason for wanting to do something. Your why should be something that is deep and meaningful to yourself. Maybe you want to lose weight so you can chase your children around the playground. Or maybe you want to learn an instrument because your grandfather played the piano and passed away last year and you want to honour and remember him.
Whatever it is, hold on to the feeling you get when you imagine yourself achieving your goal.
Find a partner
We humans are social creatures. We are not made to do things alone. The most successful people are those who have people who believe in them. A lack of support can have a negative impact, so find someone to either start this journey with (it's easier to train in pairs) or at least talk to about your progress.
Remove inner obstacles
Many people have limiting beliefs that prevent them from doing things. These are assumptions about themselves that are so deeply ingrained in the subconscious that they seem like a fundamental truth of the universe. So start thinking about the negative feelings and thoughts you have on a regular basis and identify your own limiting beliefs so you can overcome them to achieve your New Year's resolution this year.
Most New Year's resolutions fail because of a lack of planning. If you have a goal in mind that you want to tackle, make sure you have a plan that will help you achieve it concretely. Detailed and comprehensive step-by-step plans that allow you to take inspired action towards your goals are a good idea. Above all, remember to write down every single step - no matter how small. That way you will always know what to do next. Other good ideas are:
- A well-defined description of the goal to be achieved.
- People who can help
- When these tasks will be done
- List resources needed to complete the tasks
- Define measures to evaluate progress
- Create backup plans in case life gets in the way
Execute your plan
Finally, you just have to start and do it. No one can do it for you, so take responsibility for it yourself and work through the steps of your plan each day until you can tick off your New Year's resolution.
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