Have you fallen off the wagon on your New Year’s resolutions? You’re not alone; according to a Forbes article from January 2013, only 8 percent of those who make New Year’s resolutions actually achieve them. If you’d like to take another crack at being among that eight percent, I have some advice that has worked for me to help keep me at least somewhat focused and moving forward for the long haul.
First, find a technique to keep you on task. For me, I’ve used a kitchen timer with some success. Do you need to declutter, but feel like your house is too huge to tackle? Pick a room, set a timer for the appropriate amount of time, and get to work. Do this regularly, and you’ll make visible progress. I’ve seen some pages online that recommend spending 15 minutes on a task, on the principle that anyone can stand to do anything for 15 minutes. When I have the time, I like to set it for an hour; that way, I can get lost in the task, and I’m not thinking about when the alarm will go off. In fact, that may be the best part about having a timer — no need to check the clock!
Second, give yourself credit for what you’ve already done. Okay, so you only made it to the gym once this week? Isn’t that once more than you did in all of December? The point of this is to not give you an “easy out.” How many times have you said to yourself, “well, I’ve backslid on this one thing, I might as well go whole hog”? (And yes, I’ve done it too). Reminding yourself of what you’ve already been able to do can help you turn things around, and give you some incentive to keep going. You fell off the horse? Big deal; you were riding it for 10 minutes, so get back on and break that record.
Third, acknowledge what motivates you and make it work for you. I’m notoriously bad at this…because I have a nasty little secret. What motivates me is fear, and I hate that about myself. It’s a pretty miserable feeling. But I use fear of diabetic complications to keep me exercising and eating a relatively healthy diet. I’m down about 35 pounds from the highest I’ve ever weighed, which was a few months before I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes (only 17 more to go!).
There’s another way to do this that I’ve tried and found to work. Get a closer, deeper look at what’s really motivating you. You don’t necessarily need a therapist for this, though genuine self-awareness and a good friend can help. I realized there was more to what was motivating me than fear; it was also the sense of not wanting to let others down, especially others who had earned my respect and whose goals I shared. Recasting my motivational force in this way made it into something I could live with, without being ashamed of it.
Finally, consider making yourself accountable. This doesn’t have to be to someone outside of you; it could be in a journal. Be specific, but give yourself a little slack. “I will shoot for exercising six days out of seven, and count it a victory when I get in at least four days out of seven.” You’ll also need to remember that habits and skills take time to develop; don’t beat yourself up over backsliding (see my second point), but be sure you get back on that horse quickly.
In my case, one of the ways I stay accountable is by keeping my list of resolutions somewhere that I encounter it at least twice a day: once in the morning and once in the evening. When I complete a resolution, I put the date I completed it next to it and cross it off the list. Seeing this every day helps to give me the incentive to keep going and stay on track.
How are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions?