How to Make (And Keep) New Year's Resolutions
So here we are in a new year.
And let me guess, new year, new you right?
How's that working out for you?
Have you managed to stick to your new year's resolutions? Chances are you're already wondering how to keep New Year’s resolutions and struggling to stick to the ones you set not so long ago. I can totally relate, and evidently so can many others because statistics show that only 8% of people are successful in achieving their resolution.
During the lead up to New Year's Day, we're surrounded by talk of resolutions.
We think of the unhappy situations we’re planning to leave behind, all of the bad habits we’re going to give up and make a list of all the positive changes we are going to make. New Year’s Eve we celebrate and we're filled with optimism. New Year's Day, many of us are recovering, but feeling good about the year ahead. Then, we return to work, life goes on and before we know it, we fall right back into life as it was on December 30th.
Despite our best intentions, the challenge of changing an aspect of our life is often too much for us to commit to long term, especially if we cannot see immediate results.
For a number of years I set resolutions and year after year I failed to stick to them.
Each year I thought I'd cracked it. I became more intentional about the resolutions I set. I was very specific and made them measurable. I shared my resolutions with friends and family in an attempt to hold myself accountable. I made my resolutions realistic and achievable within the year using the resources I had or could have available to me. But even after doing all these things, I still struggled.
Then two years ago I discovered a free online mini end of year program called Unravelling by Susannah Conway. It takes you through a process of reviewing the year that is coming to an end and then planning the year ahead.
This is teamed with another free mini program also by Susannah Conway called Find Your Word - and this has transformed the way I approach New Year's resolutions. An alternative approach to New Year's resolutions. Now, I no longer set goals-based resolutions. Instead I choose a word or theme for my year which focuses on how I want to feel and experience life each day of the year.
What I found with the traditional approach to New Year's resolutions was that they felt like something I should do, rather than that I wanted to do.
They always seemed to focus on something I'd failed to do or achieve the previous year, which immediately put me in a negative space of feeling inadequate, before I'd even started the New Year.
Additionally, the traditional approach to New Year’s resolutions can feel quite restrictive. I.e. go to the gym twice a week. What is the actual purpose or motivation here? To lose weight? Increase body confidence? Have more energy? What if I want to increase my body confidence and stay fit, but I don't really enjoy going to the gym, but I don't realise this until 5 weeks into the New Year?
The moment I stop going, I fail my New Year's resolution.
With my alternative approach, if my theme for the year is to increase my body confidence, I can try the gym and if I don't enjoy that, I could go to a burlesque class a friend just happens to mention when I complain about the gym. Or, I could work with a style coach or completely change the way I wear my hair, and that could give me exactly what I need. Not only does this approach give you the flexibility to respond to real life, I feel that it also focuses on long-term sustainable change.
It gives you a method that enables you to integrate that resolution as a way of life.
Resolutions vs Intentions
Resolutions tend to be goals-based and goals are different to intentions. Goals focus on an external outcome and can leave us feeling under pressure and obligated. Intentions however, go deeper and encompass the overall vision we have for our lives. Intentions also allow us to detach from the outcome and be open to opportunities that come our way and align with our overall desires. So, rather than making a resolution set an intention or overall theme for the year focusing on how you want to feel and what you want to experience. Most of our actions and goals are driven by a desired feeling. Look at any resolutions you have already set and ask yourself what is driving your desire to achieve that goal. For example, for someone with a goal of financial freedom, their overall desire might be security. For someone with the resolution to drop 2 dress sizes, their overall desired feeling might be self-love or increased energy.
So the first thing to do is to identify how you want to feel every day in 2017 and what you want to experience. Once you have identified your overall intention, here are 5 tips that can help you to keep your new year’s resolutions:
Focus on one intention
I recently read the book The One Thing by Gary Keller and it shares how focusing on one thing can increase productivity and "deliver extraordinary results in every area of your life-work, personal, family, and spiritual." In today's society there's a temptation, and sometimes even a requirement to multitask in an attempt to achieve multiple things at once. However, Keller’s view is that focusing on one thing (resolution) increases your chances of achieving and even surpassing your desired results. So, keep it simple and choose one overarching intention as your main focus for the year.
Make your intention part of your daily life
You need to make your intention the main focus of each day and there are a number of ways you can do this:
Write daily mantras or affirmations that incorporate your intention for the year and say them aloud each day.
If you meditate regularly, focus on your intention during your practice.
Create a vision board that reflects your intention and put it somewhere you can see it daily.
Make it your phone and desktop screensaver.
Change your passwords to include your intention.
The idea is that you are reminded of your intention every day, as often as possible so it becomes part of your sub-conscious.
Set milestones and track your progress
A year is a long time and to maintain your motivation you need to feel like you're moving forward. You need to know where you started and be able to see a positive difference. Setting milestones and logging your progress is a great way to do this. The most practical way to do this is to use a calendar, diary or planner of some sort to set the milestones and if you journal, you can use this to make a note of any achievements. Ideally, it needs to be visual as being able to physically see your progress is more likely to keep you motivated.
Check out Austin Kleon for a creative way to keep track of your daily progress.
Work with someone else
Get yourself a buddy or “cheerleader” who will encourage you to stay committed to your overall intention for the year. Not only will they act as motivation, they are more likely to congratulate you on your progress than you are yourself. They will also point out how far you've come when you're having a particularly challenging day or period and you're feeling as though you've made zero progress. Share your vision for the year with your buddy or cheerleader, as well as any milestones you've set and ask them to hold you to your word. You could even agree to let them give you a forfeit if you start slacking.
Try different approaches
The great thing about setting an intention or overall theme for the year is that it allows for flexibility in your approach.You're more likely to fulfill your intention if you're enjoying the process. If you've started the year trying one approach and it's not working for you, try something different. Don't quit because you didn't get on with the first method you attempted. Perhaps, you only need to make a few tweaks or maybe you need to change tactics completely. Either way, with an intention you can do this without it jeopardising your success. For example, if your overall intention is self-love and you've decided that for you this looks like 30 minutes of self-care each day. You might start out with a daily meditation practice but find that you just cannot get into it. Instead, you could try mindful colouring-in as an alternative. Change your approach, not your intention.
By implementing these 5 tips, you'll dramatically increase your chances of not only sticking to your New Year's resolution, but also making it a positive habit in the long term.
Looking at the resolution(s) you set this year, what one word represents your overall intention for 2017?
Leanne Lindsey is a freelance blogger, qualified careers adviser and certified life coach who loves inspiring and motivating women to live happy, healthy lives they love by sharing simple and practical insights on self-care and wellbeing. She is a native Londoner who is currently trying out life the beautiful island of Tenerife. You can connect with her in The Self-Love & Wellness Lounge, at her website www.leannelindsey.co.uk and on IG @leanne__lindsey.