Well, so in just 4 days we’ll say goodbye to 2013 and welcome another year, 2014, with great prospects, ambitions and high hopes of a better life. But, lest we forget, at the start of 2013, many were those who wrote down great lines of concise and ambitious “new year” resolutions. Some worked their hearts out day and night; weeks and months to achieve their stated goals while others started the year in high spirits but got swallowed up in the heat of the moment halfway through the year. A couple of us never even hit the road running at all and our resolutions still sit in our diaries as “white horses”.
Here’s the good news, in anticipation for a much better and well fulfilled year in 2014, we have put together a list of practical and key guidelines to help you come up with concrete and achievable resolutions which are time bound. Hope this material will be of great relevance to a successful 2014 and we also hope you may also share your experiences and views on this topic in the ‘comment box’.
Divide and conquer
- If you’re looking for a new job or to change careers, for example, start writing down contacts you can use for networking. Begin brushing up your resume, or investigate classes or other training to make you more marketable.
- Planning to lose weight? Take the more sensible route by writing down healthier alternatives to at least some of the high-calorie foods you usually consume. Now, add to that a brisk 5-minute walk around the neighborhood every day, and you’ll be well on your way to achieving your ideal weight.
- A time-tested way for quitting smoking is to simply keep a record of each time you light up and count the number of cigarettes you have each day. Can you eliminate at least one from your daily habit? If you can do one – how about two the next day?
In short, being gentle with yourself and easing into a personal resolution is a surefire way of keeping it. And who knows? Once you become good at it you may not even have to wait for New Year’s.
Select 1-3 meaningful goals that will make an impact.
When it comes to resolutions, research and experience show that you’re much more likely to be successful if you: (1) lay out a small list of very specific goals, (2) outline a clear plan of action to achieve them, and (3) plan for what will happen in case of setbacks, distractions, and interruptions. So consider this: What matters most to you in the coming year? What are you passionate about and well-equipped to achieve? Choose your battles wisely, and commit to them completely.
For big results, think small
The classic mistake people make when choosing their New Year’s resolutions is to bite off more than they can chew. Even with the help of psychologists, people find it hard to make relatively modest changes. So pick something you have a reasonable chance of achieving. You can always run the process again for another habit once the first is running smoothly.
Make One Change at a Time
Once you understand that you have only a limited amount of willpower, it’s easy to understand why multiple resolutions aren’t likely to work, says Ian Newby-Clark, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of Guelph in Canada. Most resolutions actually require many behavior changes. Sure, some are straightforward, like remembering to take a calcium pill every day — but a successful weight-loss program, for example, calls for more than just a decision to eat less. You have to shop and cook differently, start or ramp up an exercise routine, maybe even ditch certain social or family events. “Thinking through these sub-strategies boosts success rates,” says Newby-Clark. “But it would take too much attention and vigilance to do all that and also decide it’s time to brush your teeth for the full two minutes and become better informed about world events.”
Write Your Ticket to Success
People who put their goals on paper are significantly more likely to achieve them than are those who merely make mental vows, research from Dominican University of California has shown. What’s also key: posting your goal in places where you will see it often, says Marvin D. Seppala, M.D., of Hazelden. “Your will matters most the moment you make a resolution — and you’ll want to be able to recapture the intensity of that moment again and again.” Share what you’ve written, too: The Dominican study found that those who told friends or family about their goals did better than those who didn’t, and people who e-mailed their support team weekly progress updates did best of all. Social approval — as in “You look great!” — gives your brain a surge of soothing oxytocin, explains Joseph Shrand, M.D., of Harvard.