How to Make and Keep New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year! It’s 2012 and it’s the end of the world as we know it. We all feel fine.

Or not. There are so many reasons why this is not the year of the apocalypse (any more than any other year) that I won’t waste space with it. And maybe we all do feel fine, end of the world or not.

Many of us take the end of one year and beginning of another as a moment to assess our lives. Are we fine? Could our lives be better? Are we where we want to be in life? Truth is that there’s no such thing as a perfect person and we could always use improvement. The new year is just as good as any time to assess and set goals.

For as long as I can remember, even back into my childhood, I have set New Year’s resolutions. And, for the overwhelming majority of my life, I have kept them. There are some notable things that I’ve never resolved at New Year’s, one of which is losing weight. However, over the years I have made resolutions for such things as reading more fiction books, journaling daily, paying off a car, and curbing spending-for-entertainment. Certainly, there have been resolutions that I haven’t managed to keep or have only kept for the year, but for the most part, I think resolutions are a good idea.

But there is a trick to it. This isn’t unique to me, so if you’re about to say to your computer screen, ‘well, duh! I’ve heard all this before!’ my response to you is, ‘well, yeah! That’s why it works!’

First, resolutions have to be goals. Even if it’s something like, I resolve to recycle more frequently, it needs to be framed as a goal. So instead of some amorphous, boundary-less feel good idea like saving the planet through recycling more frequently, it should be stated as a goal. For example: my resolution is to recycle every plastic and aluminum item this year that would previously have gone into my trash. This isn’t my resolution. It is for demonstration purposes only. Anyway, you get the idea.

Second, and this often begins to flesh out with the phrasing in goal form, a resolution needs to be specific. Once again, mushy generalized ideas are just fine, but if you don’t specify exactly what you want to do, change, stop or add to your life, you won’t do it. So, make it specific and, if it’s reasonable, include in the resolution what WILL be happening. This is particularly important if you are ceasing a habit. Don’t just say what you won’t do, say what you won’t do and what you will do. Another example: I will no longer throw away empty plastic bottles and will, instead, recycle them.

Third, the resolution needs to be time bound. That means set a time frame. Even if you ultimately want to keep on recycling for the rest of your life (not a bad idea at all!) you need to start out with time parameters. Beginning on January 10th and continuing throughout the year I will recycle all plastic and aluminum items that would previously have been thrown in the trash by putting them in the weekly pick up bins. You might say to yourself ‘but if I limit it to only a year, I won’t keep doing it.’ Actually, the odds are that you will. It takes 12 to 16 weeks to form a habit so by the time you’ve done about 52 weeks worth, you’ll be good.

Fourth, the resolution needs to be measurable. How do you know you’ve succeeded? How do you know you’re doing a good job on this resolution if you can’t measure it? If you’re thinking about a resolution and you can’t figure out a way that you can, somewhere around June, check in with yourself to see if you’re doing what you wanted to do, then your resolution isn’t specific enough and/or is not time bound. There are tons of ways to do this and if you’re a visual person then all sorts of things are helpful for this. Mark the calendar, put stickers on a calendar as you accomplish a portion, etc. If you are recycling aluminum cans, you could pull of the tabs and put them in a glass jar. Seeing how the jar fills up helps you see how you’re progressing. It gives you encouragement! A visual representation of how much you have NOT sent to the landfill! Be creative with this section and think to yourself: how do I know if I have or have not kept this resolution?

Fifth, a resolution needs to be written down. There are several reasons for this. Primarily, it’s because a resolution is a contract with yourself. You could even sign it if you wanted to or hang it up where you can see it. Another reason is number six…

Sixth, make a list of what you need to do to make the resolution happen. Using our example of recycling, you’d need something to put the bottles and cans into that keeps them separated from the rest of your trash. You’d need to determine how your recycling will actually make it to a recycling center. Picked up by a municipal service? Take it yourself? Some other option? Make a list of what you need to do to make it happen. And then……

Seventh, Do It. Yeah, in the end, it still comes down to that. Do it. But if you’ve done the other things, doing it is far more manageable. Part of item seven is this: give yourself some grace when you screw up. If you forget for the entire month of February to recycle and then, suddenly, you see your resolution posted on the refrigerator door and think, ‘holy crap! I was going to recycle and I totally forgot!’ don’t beat yourself up about it. Start again right then. Every day you have the opportunity to choose how you are going to do many things in your life and if you didn’t do what you wanted to yesterday, you might just have a chance to choose differently today. And that’s what counts most of all.

So, you may ask, what are my resolutions for 2012? Well, some of them are a bit silly to anyone outside of my brain, but one has to do with writing and posting on my (far too many) blogs a minimum of once a week on each.

Good luck to all you resolvers out there and Happy New Year!

“I kept falling over, kept looking backward, I went broke believing that the simple should be hard. But all we are, we are… and every day is the start of something beautiful”
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2 thoughts on “How to Make and Keep New Year’s Resolutions

  1. Pingback: Every Day Is The Start Of Something Beautiful « Life in a Mountain Town

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