Let’s be real. It is estimated that 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions don’t even make it past the second week of February. That means most people really only make January resolutions. They are not really committed, just following a New Year’s tradition that soon becomes Auld Lang Syne — loosely translated to “days gone by.” It’s really time to stop making New Year’s resolutions.
DITCH THE LIST
Honestly, you don’t need a new year to create a new life. Jan. 1 is a convenient starting date, but there’s no time like today to begin the changes you need to transform your life. Ditch the New Year’s resolutions and begin the “new you” decisions.
Resolutions by definition are “a firm decision to do or not to do something.” However, we often shortchange this act by making them aspirational. A true decision is a powerful action. It is a choice to cut off all options but the one that leads to your goal. A true decision is laser focused on the outcome. This means choosing to do or not to do actions that only will result in the new direction. It’s like putting blinders on, but this time, these blinders block out procrastination, fear, anxiety and the ubiquitous option to quit.
Your decisions need a strategy.
An aspiration is just mere recitation of what you wish you could do. A strategy is a detailed road map for how you will do it. You need these critical components: a mindset fixed firmly on the desired outcome, a detailed layout of the needed resources, anticipated obstacles, critical success factors, solutions for overcoming the obstacles and a blueprint of how it all works together. This way, you are not navigating aimlessly, but following a customized map.
DON’T START THE NEW YEAR ALONE
Let’s face it — you need help. Even the Lone Ranger did not work alone. We also need to be real that you are more accountable to others than you are to yourself. Think about how you will show up for someone else and skip out on yourself. Use that to your advantage and enlist help in getting your goals accomplished. You can engage an accountability partner, coach or group of people going in the same direction. Don’t recruit people who are not really going to hold you accountable. You need a partnership with someone who will not let you give up and will give you just the right mix of encouragement, criticism and coaching to keep you headed in the right direction.
READ YOUR PLAN EVERY DAY
Seriously, review it daily. Write up your plan and publish it. Put it on your mirror. Record it and listen to it. Have it as your screensaver. Put it in your wallet. Reviewing your plan daily tunes your mind to the frequency of progress. It conditions your mind to actually believe that you should be doing something. It becomes your conscience telling you that you need to keep moving when you want to quit. It becomes your motivator, reminding you of how far you’ve come. It becomes the celebration singing your praises of what you have actually achieved. If you really want positive reinforcement, share the list with someone else. Publication is the best accountability tool. No one really wants the embarrassment of admitting that they did not do what they said they would do.
DON’T BE RIDICULOUS
Don’t set yourself up for failure by setting a goal you can’t reach. There are stretch goals, and there are “you’ve gotta be kidding me” goals. We often can’t keep our resolutions because we plan to go from couch potato to marathon runner in 30 days. Sometimes that is a literal goal. The fact is that you’ve got to break your goals into reasonable increments that allow you to build up the strength, discipline and stamina to have sustained performance. Research what it really takes to accomplish the goal so you can appropriately plan out what works for you. Challenge yourself to do more, but don’t push yourself to the breaking point where you can’t reasonably achieve the goal.
MEASURE IT TO MAKE IT
Set a real goal, not an aspiration. A real goal is measurable in quantifiable terms. “I want to be rich” is aspirational. What does “rich” mean? I want to have a net worth of $100,000 is measurable. You can quantify $100,000. You can measure it, know when you’ve hit it and calculate how far away you are. “I want to be successful” is also aspirational. What does success mean? How will you know when you get there? Be sure to state your success goals in measurable terms. For every goal you set, identify at least one action that it takes to accomplish it. When you state your goals in action terms, it is easy to get moving.
MAKE IT COUNT
Truthfully, we bail on our resolutions because they are not really that significant. Set a goal that really means something to you. You need to understand the compelling reason for completion. How will your life change as a result of achieving your goal? How will your life suffer from staying the same? Rather than setting 50 million goals, set one to three. That’s right — one to three goals. Why? You can only focus on one direction. Human brains were not meant to multitask. Pick the most significant goals and laser focus on them. You always can set new ones when you finish. You will get overwhelmed looking at a list of 20 things rather than focusing on a list of three things. Make it meaningful, and make it focused. And if you have 20 things you want to accomplish, break them down into quarters and focus on them in increments.
It’s time to get real about resolutions. Don’t put the pressure on Jan. 1. Start acting on them now. Get yourself an accountability mechanism. Focus on what matters. Put more emphasis on action than on aspiration. Do something every day; it takes 21 days to form a habit. Set your plans in 30-day cycles, 21 days to form the habit and nine to make it stick. Statistics have proven that most resolutions only last about 30 days anyway. Use the momentum of the resolution power to make powerful moves towards your goals — 30 days at a time.
Stephanie D. Barnes is an attorney, author, speaker and career strategist. She can be reached at stephanie@drstephaniedbarnes. com, or visit www.drstephaniedbarnes.com.