Data shows that 40-50% of people will make a resolution at the start of a new year. Of the people that make resolutions, 46% will stick with their resolutions for at least 6 months and approximately 25% are unable to stay committed for longer than 7 days. That means at day 11 of the New Year about half the people who made resolutions on New Year’s Eve have already given up. Think of your resolutions as dreams you don’t quit, and keep going. Here are five simple steps to keep you going.
Most people do not create resolutions with the intention of not following through on them. That’s why we make them. I have made and broken many resolutions over the years and the feeling of failure and hopelessness of not being able to make a permanent change to a habit or behavior is frustrating. So I stopped making resolutions years ago as I had adopted the attitude of “Why make them if I’m just going to break them anyway.” I’ve heard many people at many New Year’s parties over the years make the same proclamation. With a mindset already in failure mode from the beginning, no wonder 25% of people fail in their resolutions within the first seven days.
After having achieved so much personal and professional growth in 2015, I no longer want to look at the negativity associated with my past resolutions. So, I am marking 2016 as the year where I commit to my resolution. How? I will approach my resolution from a different angle, because obviously the old approach was not working. I am aware that in order to change my results, I need to change how I perceive resolutions.
If I continue to believe that resolutions are a necessary process to change bad habits that I have, then I have a reduced chance of success because my resolution is rooted in the negative. It is difficult to achieve positive results when starting from a negative mindset. So for 2016 I am changing my perspective on making resolutions by viewing them as goals to create my dreams, and provide positive attributes to my life. My resolutions are dreams that make it easier for me to stay motivated and focused on establishing positive behaviors in line with the desired outcomes I want to achieve.
1. Create an Emotional Connection
Your goal is yours, not your bosses or neighbors or partners so creating an emotional connection to the goal is important in order to define ownership. To understand and connect with the emotional need behind your goal, reflect on the “why”. Emotions have a powerful influence over our behavior, so why not use those powerful emotions to establish the passion or desire behind why you want to achieve certain results?
If there is an emotional connection to a goal you will have a driving desire to continue working towards it. By not being passionate about a goal, the desire to drive forward and follow-though on a goal, remain focused, and stay motivated long-term is difficult to maintain. Staying emotionally connected to your goal will keep you moving forward when the going gets tough.
To increase the emotional connection you have to write it down. Keeping it in your thoughts will make it a silent, inward goal. Write it down, and read it out loud as it is being written. Not only are you using multiple processes to learn as this is being done (seeing, saying, hearing and physically writing) you are also allowing the goal to exist outside of your own mind. And being able to see it and refer to it can provide an additional boost of motivation.
2. Less is More
Depending on the goal a significant transformation or establishment of habits and/or behaviors may be needed. You have a day-to-day life that you are living, and to achieve the desired goal the creation of habits that establish new beliefs and behaviors need to be incorporated into it. Having multiple goals, especially if they are life-altering, can have a huge impact on day-to-day actions and having too many goals may require too much of a transformational change.
Give yourself credit and applaud your desire to focus on creating positive abundance in your life. Being able to adopt change in your life takes commitment and is easier when you retain the positive mindset that you will develop the habits and behaviors you want and need. If there is too much change needed in your life to keep a positive momentum, it can quickly spiral into feelings of being overwhelmed or stuck.
As a result, to keep from becoming overwhelmed and to remain focused on your positive outcomes, focus on 1-2 goals at a time and acknowledge your growth when you do establish new habits. Change takes time and repetition. If you have fewer goals you will find it easier to stay focused and focus will keep you moving forward in the right direction. Don’t forget to celebrate even the smallest of achievements.
3. Make a Plan
Have you ever gone on a trip without directions? Ever lost your way along the route? Had to redirect or turn around? And if the final destination was reached, where there feelings of frustration related to the difficulty and time needed to get from point A to B? Goals work the same way. Without having a plan you have no map or directions to follow to move towards the goal. This can cause you to wander aimlessly, resulting in demotivation and a desire to give up.
You do not need to have all the details when you commit to your goal, but it needs to have a start and an end. As you start to move towards the goal you can build in more granular details. The original plan can help to keep you rooted in not just the goal itself but it also becomes a visual indicator so that you will be able to measure how far you have come. And if you need to turn around, you know where you need to go back to and re-route your journey.
Once the goal is defined, the plan is critical in providing the focus and direction. Take the time necessary to plan out the direction you want to move in to achieve your goal. It will be time well invested.
4. Give Yourself Dates
Dates are important when creating goals as they create a sense of accountability. They also provide check-in points for you to reflect back on your growth and assess if you need to make further changes to your plan in order to reach your final goal.
Dates also create a sense of action. If there is no deadline then there is no sense of urgency created for something to work towards. Deadlines promote a change in behavior from “I’ll get to it when I have time” to “I need to get this done now because it is stopping me from reaching my next step”.
Instead of jumping into a goal on January 1 without the creation of a plan, give yourself a date to start the creation phase of your goal on January 1 and develop deadlines after that as to when your plan needs to be crafted. Then give yourself a realistic date to initiate actions on the goal.
Timelines also help to break activities into smaller chunks that can feel less overwhelming and then provide a sense of accomplishment as they are being completed and checked off from the plan.
5. Seek out an Accountability partner
Establishing an emotional connection to a goal creates ownership, but knowing that you have to provide progress updates to somebody else ups the ante of accountability. In the business world, routine status updates on project activities and timelines is a core element of project management. By utilizing the same element of reporting out to somebody it provides an additional avenue for ensuring that you are owning the actions needed to achieve the goal.
An accountability partner can be anybody that you trust to give you support and who wants to see you achieve success, but they must also be somebody that can provide you with honest feedback when actions have been stalled. It can be a friend, mentor or coach. Accountability partners have your best interests in mind, and as such, they need to play a wide range of roles, from a barrier that will stop you when you have gotten off-track to a cheerleader to help get you re-focused.
Sometimes life happens and you need somebody to help you get back on track. Sometimes having that sense of additional responsibility to somebody else can be a motivator. Having someone in which to check-in with increases the sense of ownership. I seek out accountability partners on medium to large goals as I enjoy having a personal connection with them and knowing that I am not alone on my journey towards my goal. Sometimes I just need somebody to give me a little push forward when I am scared or life has caused me to get a little off-track.
Resolutions in their simplest form are based on a negative perspective; a negative behavior or habit that needs to be changed. Resolutions need to be thought of in the positive sense; as a dream or goal where you are focused on the positive outcome of actions due to changed habits and behaviors.
To keep motivated and moving in the direction of establishing new habits, it is easier to remain connected to it when it is wrapped in positivity and not a constant reminder of the negative mindset that needs to be changed. By changing the perception of resolutions and thinking of them as our own dreams and goals, that sense of positivity remains with and can drive your desire to follow-through.
By using 2016 as the year in which I change my mindset and approach to resolutions, I possess a confidence that was not present in former years. By focusing on the positive outcomes of a goal, keeping goals simple, and creating the systems around them to provide direction and support, I possess an arsenal of skills that point me in the direction of success. I have a goal in 2016 of being one of the 46% of people still committed half-way through the year to their goal, or even better, shifting that statistic up in a positive direction. I’ll check in with you in six months to see if you are living the dreams you didn’t quit.