Personal resolutions that work
The beginning of something new, such as a new year or a new semester, is a typical time to make personal resolutions. What makes some resolutions work and other fail soon after?
One opinion I’ve come across is that a resolution cannot work if it feels like something bound to a specific day, for example: starting next week …., from January on….
Actually, I don´t think that the problem is in binding such decisions to a day in a calendar. I mean, why not, if that is the moment when we feel driven to change something or start something new? Holidays and new beginnings have a special motivating atmosphere, and if you feel that it’s the right time, then it probably is.
In my view, what really makes the difference is HOW we formulate the resolutions. Any goals are likely to fail if they are unattractive, or unrealistic, or both. We do not like to ban ourselves. Neither do we want to invest effort into something that is almost (or totally) impossible to achieve. That is not appealing. It demotivates before it even drives us into action, and such resolutions are much more likely to fail.
So let´s plan something we can look forward to!
How to set up resolutions that work?
1. Make them positive – literally.
Instead of deciding about what you STOP and what you WON´T, think of what you START and ARE GOING TO do:
I will stop smoking.
I will not stay up late in the evenings.
I will stop eating frites.
I will not shout at my son.
…try something like:
I will please my body and prepare it for pregnancy.
I will make going to sleep my favourite part of the day.
I will find 13 tasty and healthy snacks that I truly like.
I will explore the world of my son until I can understand what matters to him.
2. Plan how you are going to do it and how you will watch and reward your progress.
Think of details, individual steps, as well as timing. Decide about milestones that you can measure your progress against, and that you will reward yourself for.
I will treat my body like my best friend, and every morning I will think of some tiny treat I can give it today. At the end of each week, I will note down what worked best for me and made me feel healthier, so that I can choose from the things I have tried. I will pick at least one thing each month that I will keep on doing regularly.
I will develop a ritual of going to bed at half past ten and reading a chapter from a good book before going to sleep. I will try it for one month, on at least 3 out of five week days, and then decide whether going to sleep earlier really helped me and whether I want to go on with it. If not, I will try to think of a new approach and test it for a month, until I find something that works for me.
I will check the shops and markets in my area for inspiration on something tasty and healthy at the same time. I will choose some little treat and try to always have one in my handbag in case of hunger between meals. If it helps me reduce the amount of fatty snacks I tend to grab when I get hungry during the day, then once a week I will allow myself to pick anything I fancy and enjoy it without feeling guilty!
3. Watch your progress together with someone else.
Share your plan and progress with somebody who will encourage, but not patronize you with advice or control. What works quite well is to find somebody with the same or similar type of resolution and share your progress. Keep each other posted by whatever means work for you: a diary, e-mails, blog, FB posts, coffee meetings. When you are evaluating and sharing progress, focus your attention on the times when you succeeded in doing what you had planned. Enjoy every progress together.
I have signed up for a dance course with a friend of mine, who I like seeing but hardly ever find time for. It will doubly motivate me and probably help me resist the temptation to skip the course on busy or rainy days.
Next month I will organize a gathering with my friends who have the same ambition to eat more healthily: each of us could create and prepare some small healthy treats for each other, in “handbag packages”. We could then keep each other posted about how it is going and how many times we really went for one of the healthy snacks instead of grabbing some fastfood. The winner(s) could be rewarded with something we agree on at the gathering.
And so on.
How will you know whether you have formulated your resolution ”correctly“? Well, that´s very easy to cross-check. Firstly, it should be clear to you what you are going to do, and when and how you are going to do it. Secondly, when you think about it, you will feel excited and look forward to it – and then you’ll know it´s right!
Add Your Comment
What do you think about resolutions? What has been effective for you? Are you going to make resolutions for the New Year?
Share your opinion and, if you like, your resolutions too.