new years resolutionsAs the New Year approaches, millions of people begin planning their New Year’s Resolutions. Exercising, losing weight, and saving money are among the most popular goals for 2019. 

While the new year may feel like a great time to start fresh, accomplishing these resolutions is not as easy as it may seem. According to the University of Scranton, research suggests that only 8% of people achieve their New Year's goals.

Perhaps the reason so many people do not succeed, is that they are missing some key elements in making their resolutions. This year let’s look at some important principles that are commonly missed, and set you up for success!  


1. Clarify Your “Why?”

Take some time to slow down and get to know yourself. This might sound strange, but so many times we rush through life to the point where we lose track of ourselves. In order to set meaningful goals, we need to get back in touch with our true self. 

Notice what you are truly passionate about so that you know what is worth changing in your life. There’s no point in working hard towards a goal that doesn’t align with what you want in life. Make sure you are investing in things that really matter.



2. Know Thyself Deeper

Mindfully notice what drives your behavior. This important step is often skipped because it doesn’t seem like we are doing anything, but it is a crucial part of understanding so that we can set ourselves up for success. Don’t skip this step!

Before attempting to add a healthy behavior, notice your inner experience surrounding your current practice. If you want to stop eating late a night, notice the feeling you have when you eat before bed tonight. What does the behavior you want to change do for you? Are you really hungry? If so, your plan will look much different than if you recognize that you are actually really lonely.


3. Be Specific

In order for a goal to be achievable, it needs to be specific. John Norcross of the University of Scranton says, “if you can't measure it, it's not a very good resolution because vague goals beget vague resolutions." 

So rather than deciding to exercise more, say you want to take a walk three times a week during your lunch break. Instead of deciding to eat healthier, choose to have a serving of vegetables with 90% of your meals.


4. Be Realistic

Take an honest look at your capacity. What is your schedule like? What commitments do you have? How is your physical and emotional energy?

As much as we hate to admit it, we are finite beings with limited capacity. Saying “yes” to one thing will mean saying “no” to something else. Make sure that your goal is worth saying “yes” to, and figure out what you will say “no” to.


5. Choose Small Sustainable Goals

Small achievable goals are the way to go. The feeling you get from accomplishing these goals is energizing and can drive you to further success. Breaking large goals into more manageable steps can motivate you towards success and keep you from feeling overwhelmed. 

Hank Ebeling, of H-4 Training, encourages a one-step process for change. In this, you write down 4-5 things that are obstacles to your goals. Then rank them starting with what you think would be easiest for you to change. Don’t rank them based on the level of importance, but based on what is most achievable for you personally. Make your way down the list, easiest to hardest, with your successes encouraging you along the way.


6. Make a plan

Figure out the details of your plan. What do you need to do to make your goal a reality? 

  • Have Conversations 

Are there people in your life that you need to tell about your plan? Many times our resolutions impact those around us. It will be easier to stay on track when others understand our goals and can support us in the process.

  • Make Lists 

Make a list of your action steps. Writing down the specific things you need to do can help you clarify your plan, give you achievable steps, and guide you through the process.

  • Schedule Everything

Put everything on your calendar. Decide when you will do the action steps on your list, when you will accomplish each goal, and when you will evaluate your progress in meeting these goals.

  • Take the First Step

It is time to begin. Many of us procrastinate taking the first step. It can be scary to begin, and you may not start it perfectly. That is okay, just start!


7. Lose the black and white thinking.

It is easy to give up when we fail. If we haven’t met our goal completely, why bother at all? But for change to last, we will have to give ourselves grace. Many people think that if we “let ourselves off the hook” we will not achieve our goal, but it can actually be the opposite. 

According to chief mindfulness officer Sarah Rudell Beach, “When we fall short, we can gently and non-judgmentally bring our awareness back to our intention. That’s really the purpose of setting resolutions - bringing a kind awareness to our behavior, recognizing when we’ve wandered, and beginning again.” 


8. Practice self-care

Taking time for self-care is not a frivolous thing to do. It is actually an important step in achieving any goal that will last in a meaningful way. Self-care provides vital energy and keeps us from burning out. It also makes us able to enjoy our success when we achieve these goals.

"When you feel energized and cared for, it’s easier to resist temptation," says Gretchen Rubin, author of Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits.


9. Speak kindly to yourself

Think about your self-talk. Is it verbally abusive? If you wouldn’t say it to some you love, ask yourself why you are saying it to yourself. We all know that children achieve more when they are encouraged rather than spoken to harshly. Why would we be so different? 


If you are ready to use the principles above to plan your New Year’s Resolutions that is great! I’d love to hear about both your goals and your process. 

For those of you who don’t like to set resolutions, you may enjoy reading this refreshing article on why traditional New Year’s Resolutions don’t work and what to do about it.

Dr. Jamie