Strategies for Setting A New Year’s Resolution

“What’s your New Year’s resolution?” I’ll bet you’ve been asked that question many times over the years. The New Year’s resolution gets a lot of hype around the start of every year. Some people completely disregard it while others reluctantly set a goal but they always include an eternal caveat: “I don’t know why, I’ll never achieve it.” Or they say, “I always set a New Year’s resolution but I never reach it. I don’t know why I even bother.”

If you’re one of those people, then you’ve probably broken one or more of the three most important rules of setting a New Year’s resolution:

  • Set a meaningful goal.
  • Create a plan for achieving it.
  • Review your goal and progress regularly

I’m going to give you some strategies for setting a New Year’s resolution that can help you move into the rarified group of superheroes who actually accomplish their resolution. But first, let’s start with a look at the purpose of a resolution.

What is a New Year’s Resolution?

At the start of every new year, there seems to be a sense of renewal to many people. With the changing of the year, it’s a great time to leave behind the stresses and complications of a previous year; to wash away our mistakes and turn over a new leaf. A New Year’s resolution is really just a commitment to a goal or project we’ve been wanting to tackle; to eliminate a bad habit, or adopt a new one. We firmly resolve to reach a specific goal, like losing weight, getting more exercise, quitting smoking or drinking, getting a better job, or paying down debt. These are some of the more common ones, but there are really no limits. At the heart of every goal is a desire to improve your life in some important and meaningful way.

What NOT to Do When Setting a Resolution

Knowing where you may have gone wrong in the past will help you avoid making the same mistakes you’ve made before; the same mistakes that most people make who fail to ever accomplish their New Year’s resolution.

DO NOT set goals that are dependent on other people. For example, “To go through the stuff in storage with Mike.” You may have a high motivation to sort through all that stuff the family has in storage and you may want to eliminate the need for renting the storage unit. But if you’re going to need Mike’s help, you have an automatic obstacle to achieving this goal. If going through the stuff in storage isn’t high on Mike’s priority list, you have a slim chance to accomplish this goal. This kind of goal only works as a shared goal when both people are just as committed to achieving the goal. And even then, it’s tricky unless you set up some kind of accountability.

DO NOT set goals that are conditional but are out of your control. For example, “To take a cruise in May.” It looks good, but you failed to write down that your vacation slot is dependent on the City meeting its quarterly budget. But the trouble begins when you put down a non-refundable deposit because “the City almost always meets its quarterly.” If you can put in for vacation time that’s not contingent upon anything else happening, you’re in the clear. Otherwise, reexamine the goal.

DO NOT set goals that have only one possible (but unrealistic) deadline. Okay, I know that sometimes you may have no choice. I’m just saying, as a rule, it’s best to avoid this. Here’s an example. “To show my crafts at the Sandy Beach Wayfarer Walk in February.” But by the time you finish the orders you have and then start making your crafts for the show, you will need one full month. Plus, the entry form says to allow three weeks for submission approval. You have six weeks to be ready, but you’ll need eleven. People get so excited about their goal that they think they can accomplish the impossible. What they end up doing is failing to accomplish yet another New Year’s resolution.

DO NOT set vague goals with an unclear objective. For example, “I will finally lose 15 pounds by December 31.” At first, that looks like a good goal and it seems specific. To lose 15 pounds is very clear. And it has to be done by the end of the year. So there’s even a deadline. But what happens if you lose 15 pounds in July but gain it all back by December 31? Did you achieve that goal? You lost 15 pounds and this happened before December 31. Slam-dunk, right? It’s obvious that the intention behind a goal like this must be considered here. The intention was to drop 15 pounds of weight, and to stay at that new, lighter weight for the remainder of the year.

New Year’s Resolution Strategies that Work

Set a meaningful goal. Only goals that you know you’re ready to fully commit to are worthy of a New Year’s resolution. If you’ve chosen a goal that seems like a pipe dream, or that you think is doomed from the start, it is. Don’t set it. In fact, if you are not one hundred percent committed to doing what it takes to accomplish this goal, then don’t even bother setting a resolution. This is one of the big reasons why so many people never accomplish their New Year’s resolution, they’re not ready to roll up their sleeves and do the work that’s necessary to accomplish the goal. It HAS to be a meaningful goal that you are totally ready to commit to; that you’ll stick with until you’ve achieved it.

Create a plan for achieving it. What good is an arbitrary goal that you’re one hundred percent committed to? If you don’t have a clear idea of how to accomplish a goal, then get it fast. The longer the path to your goal stays foggy in your mind, the more likely you are to abandon it. Confusion is an automatic road block for achieving any goal. If it’s meaningful enough to set as a goal, then it’s important enough for you to come up with the best plan you can think of so you can get working on it right away.

Review your goal and your progress regularly. If you’re one of those set-it-and-forget-it people, haven’t you got better ways to waste your time? If you let your goal become an afterthought in your week, the goal is not a high enough priority. Review your goal daily, weekly, or whatever works for you. But you should be thinking about it daily. Reviewing your goal doesn’t just mean re-reading it. Consider your progress. Have you hit any obstacles? If so, how can you deal with it? Are you making progress on a regular basis or has progress slowed down? What can you do to jump-start your activity again? Are you procrastinating on the next step? If so, are you not sure how to take action on it? Are you waiting for something else to occur before you can take the next step? When you review your goal and consider your progress, you can tweak your process along the way and keep yourself moving forward consistently. But if you go long periods of time without thinking about your goal, you’re just creating another obstacle and preventing yourself from achieving the goal.

Keep your New Year’s resolution fresh in your mind. Keep working your plan fearlessly. And keep moving forward making adjustments as needed. Use these strategies and you’ll discover possibilities normally reserved for superheroes.

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