Friday, December 30, 2011

How to not fail at a New Year's Resolution

There is no middle ground when it comes to New Year's resolutions. You either make them or you hate them. There are probably different reasons for the dislike, but it seems the apathy comes from a feeling that resolutions are never accomplished. Why make them if you are just going to fail.

This is a completely legitimate feeling, but I don't think this assessment should mean throwing out the concept. New Year's resolutions are just goals, and we all need to make them. 

New Year resolutions allow you to reflect back and in turn plan and dream ahead. 

The reason most people fail at New Year's resolution is because from the get go they set themselves up for failure. "I'm going to exercise in the morning for two hours every day!" Hardly anyone does that. And if you have rarely exercised in 2011 then you are going to fail at that resolution in 2012. You have to set yourself up for success. 

Here are some suggestions on making good resolutions that you can succeed at but that will also stretch and challenge you:
  1. Be focused - What is one thing you need to work on, grow in, become better at, learn, or develop. What is the one thing that if you had it down it would help you be a better you, or a better spouse, husband, worker, Christian, etc? What's the one thing that comes to mind? Just one. OK, maybe two. But no more than that.
  2. Be daring - go back and rethink about the first step. Did you think up something in regards to eating healthy or losing weight. Yeah...that's original. Not that it isn't important, but come on...stretch yourself! Forget your body shape. Think about the person that you are, are becoming, and want to become. With that in mind how would you answer the first step?
  3. Be specific - Here are some resolutions that are made: read more, become more healthy, exercise more, learn an instrument, be more creative. They all sound good, but none of those are going to happen. They aren't narrow enough to be measured. How do you know when you are more healthy? How do you know you've been creative? What instrument and how well will you be able to play it?

    You have to be specific. I'm going to read 25 books this year. I'm going to learn guitar this year, to the point of being able to 15 songs from artist I like. I'm going to write one original poem each week. All of those have great potential for success because you can actually tell if you did them or not.
  4. Be realistic - this isn't meant to kill being daring, but to allow for a daring success. Finishing the Chicago marathon is a daring, specific goal. But if you never ran a step in 2011 then it's not very realistic. Possible for some, but is it for you? Maybe a more realistic goal for this year would be to run a half marathon. Then you can take that up a notch in 2013 for the full thing. If you weren't a runner in 2011 then the half marathon is still daring. It also sets you up for the more daring step the following year.
  5. Be strategic - What's the old proverbs say? Fail to plan and you plan to fail. Whoever came up with that one nailed it on the head. You won't get anything accomplished if you don't think through when, where, and how you are going to do it. Say your resolution is the one mentioned above about writing one original poem each week. Without a plan you'll for sure have poems written, but I'd venture to say you won't have 52 of them.

    In this situation a good plan would be to:

         - carry around a notebook to jot down ideas throughout the day/week.
         - go for a walk each Mon afternoon in a different part of the city for inspiration
         - go to the Starbucks on North Ave each Thurs morning for coffee to begin writing
         - compile the poems in a Word document that is also backed up
         - every Sat morning post that week's poem in a blog entry

    That is a recipe for poetic success. (Someone please do this - because it would be awesome!)
  6. Be helped - Have someone help carry your resolution load and it will be lighter. Do you need someone to keep you accountable for different tasks? Do you need a coach to help you figure out how to train for a half marathon? The person who says "I can figure this out on my own" usually wastes the most time and gets the least amount done.

    Along with getting help from someone, help yourself by keeping track of your accomplishments. Guaranteed: seeing your progress will help you progress more. A few years ago I made the goal to read 52 books in one calendar year. In a word document I began writing down the titles/authors of each book I read as the months went on. This let me check whether I was on pace or not, and it help motivate me to keep at it.
  7. Be committed - Nothing I can say in regards to this would be better than what Seth Godin wrote this morning:
    The reason productivity improvements don't work (as well as they could)

    GTD, 18 minute plans, organized folders... none of them work as well as you'd like. The reason is simple: you don't want to get more done. You're afraid. Getting more done would mean exposing yourself to considerable risk, to crossing bridges, to putting things into the world. Which means failure.

    The leap the lizard brain takes when confronting the opportunity is a simple formula: GTD=Failure. Until you quiet the resistance and commit to actually shipping things that matter, all the productivity tips in the world aren't going to make a real difference. And, it turns out, once you do make the commitment, the productivity tips aren't that needed.

    You don't need a new plan for next year. You need a commitment.
And that's really what it comes down to. You can complete all of my first six suggestions, but if you aren't committed to the goal then you won't succeed. It really takes things full circle to be focused: what is the one thing you need to work on, grow in, become better at, learn, or develop...that you passionate enough to stick with it regardless of the cost. If don't see yourself passionate about it in six months, don't do it! 
You CAN fulfill a New Year's Resolution. 
You just need to set yourself up for success. Hope this post helps.

So what's your one thing?  

Let your eyes look directly forward,and your gaze be straight before you.
Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure.
Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.
Proverbs 4:25-27

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