Thursday, January 30, 2014

Sticking to Your Guns: Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions Going

We’re just a few days away from the end of January, which means we’re nearly a month into those New Year’s resolutions so many of us made. Did you know that about 40% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions—and that just 8% of those people achieve them? That fact brings a juxtaposition of emotions for me—it’s wonderful that so many people are proactive at the beginning of each year, making goals for how they want to live their lives for the coming year. But it’s really, really sad to me that such a small number of people actually live up to those goals.

"People with clear, written goals accomplish far more in a shorter period of time than people without them can ever imagine."
People with clear, written goals accomplish far more in a shorter period of time than people without them can ever imagine.
Image: Celeste Chua / Flickr CC
I’ve personally focused a lot in the past year on making goals and sticking with them. And you know what? It’s a lot harder than it sounds. There is so much going on in our daily lives that it’s easy to forget what we set out to do in the first place. Oh, you wanted to lose weight? Here are ten billion birthday parties, all full of delicious cake, cocktails, and food.

The universe is a master of distraction.

But sometimes, the problem is the goal itself. We unwittingly make these unattainable, or worse yet, immeasurable goals. There’s a difference between aspirations and goals, though. “I want to lose weight” is too broad. “I want to lose 150 pounds” is probably unattainable (and also an unhealthy rate of weight loss).

I don’t know about you, but I want to be a part of the 8%.

So how do I do it? How can you do it, too? Here are some tips:

Keep it simple, attainable, and measurable. Come up with concrete goals that you can measure. Give yourself sets of smaller goals and regular check-ins. For example, give up soda for a month, then add on going to the gym once a week beginning in February, then in March make at least half your meals from scratch… and so on.

Go public. Shout your goal out. Tell friends and family, make a wall chart or vision board, or keep a personal journal to track progress. Don’t just make a goal in your head: write it down and tell others so they can help keep you accountable.

If you fall behind, don’t give up. We live in an imperfect world. If you fall behind, don’t abandon your goal—reassess. Can you still meet your overall goal? Did you overshoot it, slack off, or was the “speed bump” out of your control? It’s okay to adjust your goal if that means getting back on track.

Hold yourself accountable. It might sound childish, but it works. Give yourself small consequences for small mess-ups. Didn’t go to the gym on a morning you promised yourself you would? Take away your own morning coffee as a consequence. Drank a soda when you promised you wouldn’t? Go to the gym one extra day that week. You get the picture. Don’t make it painful, but do make it impactful.

Stay positive. If you’re always bashing on yourself, how can you expect to reach your goals? Give yourself consequences when due, but don’t beat yourself up over it. Learn from your mistakes and move on. This is the practice of life. If you fall down 100 times, get back up 101 times. And when you do a great job--don't forget to tell yourself how awesome you are!