It is New Years, 2013, and 'tis the season for resolutions. And the season for breaking them. How many people do you know that have kept a resolution past January 31? Not many, I bet. Here are 5 things you must do to make your resolutions stick more than 30 days:
1. Verbalize your goal and make a plan to achieve it. Some people confuse the desire for change with actual change. They think, "I want to... (get a gym membership, start my own business, eat less and lose weight, etc.) Just talking won't get the results you want, but it helps to verbalize your goals. Write the goal down and post it where you will see it often.
2. Make positive goals, not negative ones. Your brain responds better to positives than negatives. Focus on what you want to do rather than what you want to stop. A positive goal is "I will put all my paperwork away after I'm finished with it." A negative goal is "I won't put all my paperwork in a pile." A positive goal is "I will go to the gym twice a week." A negative goal is "I'll quit being a couch potato."
We naturally want to accomplish things, so we will do "I will" things better or more often than "I won't" things. "I will" goals give a feeling of accomplishment, whereas "I won't" goals seem to leave an empty spot in our life.
In my paperwork example, it is easier to figure out a filing system to immediately file papers, rather than figuring out what to do with that pile of papers at the end of the workday when you want to go home.
3. Visualize the end from the beginning. What will you feel like or look like when your goal is accomplished? If you are going on a diet, put a photo of the new dress or swimsuit where you will see it constantly. If you want a raise, think about being praised by the boss for your good work, or getting the "Employee of the Month" award. If you are saving money for a new gadget, get a photo of the gadget to remind yourself. If you want to go on a cruise, put a seashell on your desk. Just have something that will remind you and motivate you to complete your goal
4. Devise an easy-to-do, step-by-step plan to achieve your goal. This may seem hard at first, but do it this way: Write down your goal. Under that, write down the last thing you would do before you achieve the goal. Under that, write down the next-to-last thing you would do. Continue until you are at the point you are today, when you make the resolution.
This will give you a 'road map' of easy steps to reach your goal. When you look over the list, if you find a too-big step, break it down into smaller, more easily achieved steps. Now you have a series of easily achievable steps to reach your goal. Remember how to eat an elephant: One bite at a time! As you complete each step, it will increase your motivation ("I'm getting closer") and confidence ("I can do this!") to take the next step.
Look out for stumbling blocks in your path to your goal. If you want to lose weight, don't put ice cream in the 'fridge. If you want to impress your boss, don't gossip at the cooler. Remember to plan "I will" ideas rather than "I won't" ideas. Put low-fat yogurt in the refrigerator or bring bottled water to keep at your desk.
5. Write it down! Use feedback to your advantage. Record your progress or lack of progress in a journal or log. You may find an unexpected distraction to avoid or a great motivator to use in the future. Writing things down inevitably leads to change in the behavior you are logging.
You must be honest in your log. No 'forgetting' to document failures. Your log will initially have positive and negative entries, but later on, it will have more positive notes than negative ones. If this is not true, you need to review your plan, find out why it is not working, and modify it to overcome the obstacles.
Perhaps a temptation is too big to handle. Get an accountability partner to help you through the tough spots. Are your surrounding contributing to your negative entries? Is there a way to modify your environment, or get out of it entirely?
These steps will make your resolutions more achievable. Set the proper positive goals, rather than negative ones. Visualize the goal completed using a physical object or a photo. Devise a simple plan to reach your goal. Keep a log of your progress.
Then, when you achieve your goal, have a celebration! Make it a memorable event, so that you will remember the emotions when another challenge comes along, and you will have a head start on completing the next goal!