Every year you promise yourself things will change – you'll shed a few pounds, organize your office, get rid of clutter – maybe change the world (well, sort of …). Then it happens – apathy. What began as a grand idea disappears like a puff of smoke.
Why is that?
When we make New Year's resolutions, are we inevitably setting ourselves up for failure? Sadly, the answer is commonly, "yes."
It's not that our intentions are not honorable – we honestly want our lives to improve and we desire to eliminate things that are not working. The reason we fail is that we do not plan the plans properly.
If you think New Year's resolutions are just a modern day ritual, think again. The tradition of New Year's Resolutions can be traced back in history to 153 BC when the Romans selected Janus, a mythical king to be the leader of the calendar.
Janus became the ancient symbol for resolutions and the Romans asked their enemies for forgiveness and brave each other gifts before the New Year.
The greatest benefit about the banquetment of a new year is that it gives us a chance to 'begin again', and eliminates bad habits of the previous year.
New Year's resolutions are not just about giving things up – they're also about replacing poor habits with great ones. This is not an easy process – it requires commitment and perseverance and being aware of our self-defeating behaviors.
The most common resolutions include: losing weight, quitting smoking, saving or earning more money, being more tolerant of others, getting organized, exercising, eating well and being a better person.
By now you've probably reached that point where you do not want to set any resolutions for fear they will not come true. You know the feeling – the resolution to lose 20 pounds and it's the end of the year and you have not lost weight, or the dream of exercising three times a week and getting in shape and you're still soft and pudgy.
There's another way to look at resolutions – you need a new approach. This begins with four rules for resolutions.
The first rule is to focus on one resolution at a time. If you start the New Year thinking, 'I will lose weight, exercise four times a week, be a better person, make more money, etc.' you'll be overwhelmed and will not focus on anything. Start with one specific goal that's important to you (your most painful problem) at the present moment and develop a detailed plan of action for success.
The second rule for resolutions is to record them on paper or a computer; This way the goals will not be forgotten or changed. You'll find it easier to continue with your plan when it's written out on paper or your computer.
The third rule is that you must be held accountable for your resolutions, otherwise you'll 'let the goal go' when it gets tough. Designate a friend, mentor or a coach to monitor your progress, offer support and hold you accountable.
The fourth rule is you must be persistent; no goal will happen unless you keep working. This can be the most challenging rule – especially if you're trying to lose weight and you do not see immediate results.
This is where you need to use the third rule – have someone help you be accountable. You might ask your best friend to phone you weekly to check your progress on weight training. You may hire a coach to help you be accountable for setting financial goals in your company. If you belong to a business network, the members may email you and touch base weekly to help you complete your marketing goals.
If the thought of resolutions still does not inspire you, consider keeping it simple and focusing on spending your New Year doing things that give you joy.
This may include: spending more time with family, friends, doing hobbies, exercising, traveling – whatever makes you happy and gives your energy.
Remember in the larger scheme of things, life is meant to be enjoyed – living by impossible lists and resolutions is not living, it's existing.
Wishing you much success in the year ahead!