Sunday, December 29, 2013

Three Rules for New Year’s Resolution Success

It is that time of year when people are picking new year’s resolutions, so I want to take this moment to repeat my advice on the subject. A new year’s resolution is a powerful way to focus your intent for an extended period of time, but you must avoid getting muddled along the way. Staying clear and focused is the biggest challenge, when you remember how long it takes for a year to go by. For best results:

  • Pick just one resolution. Think in terms of a change you want to make in your personal life — but a large change, something that may take a good part of a year, not something you could imagine completing in a couple of days. Pick something with a sense of importance about it. On the other hand, don’t pick a change that is so large that you can’t easily imagine completing it before the year is over. Maybe you have a whole list of changes that you are committed to. Great! Pick just one of them as your new year’s resolution. The one you choose doesn’t have to be the most important change you are working on. It is more important that it fits the format of a new year’s resolution, having to do with your own decisions and actions over the course of a calendar year.
  • Pick a new resolution. You don’t get the same sense of newness if you try to repeat a resolution you have ever used before. You can approach the same problem as before if you wish, but change the resolution and your plan of action just enough that it feels new.
  • State the resolution very clearly in terms of your own action and results. Memorize it. Be prepared to explain it to close friends in ten seconds or less.

If you look at resolutions that fail, most of them don’t follow this approach. Last year’s resolution to lose weight went nowhere, so people try it again, and they get the same results again. Some people accumulate resolutions as the years go by, things that they try and fail at year after year. You often see people writing a list of ten resolutions, then forgetting all of them. It is hard enough to remember just one! This is also why you need to tell people your resolution. There is a certain power in secret plans, but new year’s resolutions that you keep to yourself are more likely to be forgotten.

New year’s resolutions rely on a gimmick. It is a gimmick you can use every year, but only at the new year. The change of calendar on New Year’s Day is as emphatic and irreversible as any change you might want to make. Pick one area of your life that calls for a similar change, and make that change!