Q: Every December, I draw up a list of New Year’s resolutions that look depressingly similar to the ones I wrote last year. How can I make things different this year?
A: It’s fairly easy to dream of change, but it’s another thing entirely to actually make it happen. In fact, research shows that only 8 percent of people achieve their annual resolutions. However, with careful planning and the right approach, it's doable.
Whether your resolutions are about getting into shape, taking control of your finances or being a kinder person, you can reach your goals in 2020. Here are some tips on making change last.
Make it SMART
- Specific. Don’t be vague about how you want to improve. Resolutions like “Get myself into shape,” or “Try to be a kinder person,” don’t translate into tangible steps. Instead, make goals like “Start working out twice a week,” or “Do one random act of kindness each day.” This way, your resolutions are clear and easy to put into action.
- Measureable. Make sure your goals have clear markers to help you track progress. Some resolutions, like losing weight, naturally lend themselves to tracking, but others, like self-improvement goals, are more challenging to measure. Take the time now to create markers for your progress to make it easier for you to stay the course.
- Achievable. Be realistic about what you intend to accomplish. If you haven’t worked out in years, don’t resolve to run a 10K this year. Instead, start small, like committing to a 10-minute daily workout. When you set goals that are within your reach, you’re less likely to abandon them when the going gets tough.
- Relevant. It’s best to concentrate on the areas where you most need to improve. While other goals may sound nobler, work first on the areas where you know you are lacking.
- Time-based. Set a specific date for achieving each goal. A self-imposed deadline will push you to work on your resolution today.
Write it down. Don’t make a list in your head or scrawl your resolutions on a piece of paper you’ll lose by Jan. 2. Instead, save your resolutions on your phone, using a note-taking app like Evernote or OneNote. If you prefer to work with old-fashioned paper and pen, you can slip the paper with your resolutions into a plastic sheet-protector and hang it up in a prominent place where it won’t get lost.
Chart your progress. Use a calendar to check off every day you’ve stuck to your resolutions. Visual reminders of your success can be a powerful motivator. When you look at your calendar and you see you’ve been sticking to your goal for the last six days, you won’t want to break that consistency the next day.
Don’t keep your resolutions to yourself. One of the best ways to ensure success is to share your journey with others. Here are three ways you can do this:
- Enlist the help of a friend. It’s easy to fool yourself into thinking you’ve changed; it’s a lot harder to fool a friend. Pair up with a pal this year and commit to keeping each other in check. Share your resolutions and designate one day a week, or twice a month, as a check-in day, in which you note each other’s progress and give honest feedback on how you can each improve further.
- Post your progress on social media. This will make you accountable to an entire audience and just might give you the motivation you need to keep going.
- Join a support group. The American Psychological Association recommends joining a support group dedicated to your goal, such as a workout class at the gym or a group of coworkers determined to quit smoking.
Celebrate each win. Don’t wait until you’ve shed the last pound or reached your savings goal to celebrate your achievements. Reward yourself for the smaller goals you reach along the way, like a 10-pound target or the first $1,000 you sock away in your savings account. Celebrating your progress will give you the motivation you need to keep on improving.
Embrace imperfection. Don’t expect a 180-degree change this year in the area you’ve decided to improve. While you should never lose sight of your goals, it’s important to accept that perfection is a myth. Trying to force it can leave you feeling frustrated and discouraged. You can be a wonderful, better you without being perfect.
With careful planning and hard work, you can make 2020 the year your resolutions stick. Happy New Year from all of us here at Freedom First!