A lot of us made New Year’s resolutions this past weekend – we screwed up our courage and said out loud (if only to ourselves) that we’re going to do better in the coming year. We promised ourselves we’ll eat better, exercise more, be kinder to ourselves and others, stop procrastinating, save more money, earn more money…we promised ourselves all sorts of things!
But our track record on moving from New Year’s resolution to genuine change in our lives over the course of the year is solidly one of defeat. Most of us don’t keep to our resolutions much beyond the first week of the year and we notoriously abandon our shiny-new gym memberships by the end of February. We’re not very good at creating genuine change, and that’s understandable because, Change is Hard!
The New Year is a fine time to adopt change – sometime just changing the date gives us fresh energy for desiring change but it takes more than a desire to alter your habits and invite real change into your life, here’s some tips on making your resolutions into actual movement toward the change you wish for in your life:
- Make your declaration of change about the ACTION you will take, not the outcome you hope to achieve. Outcomes are often not in our control, but ACTIONS are – we choose what we will or won’t DO.
- Be clear about where this action fits into your priorities. We arrange our priorities to get the things that matter most to us DONE. So, as you choose the action(s) you want to take, also determine what priority they can have in your daily life!
- Turn those ACTIONS into SMART goals. SMART stands for:
- SPECIFIC – what exactly are you going to do that’s different from your usual?
- MEASURABLE – how will you know if/when you’ve achieved the goal?
- ACTION-ORIENTED – name what you’ll be DOING!
- REALISTIC – honestly matched to your current capabilities!
- TIME-ORIENTED – know WHEN you plan to make time for this goal!
So, if you made the resolution: “I’m going to exercise more this year!”
It might look like this if you turned it into a SMART goal. . .
- I will exercise for at least 30 minutes, three times each week.
- I will accomplish this by participating a class at the recreation center every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Now you know WHAT you plan to do, WHEN you plan to do it, WHERE you plan to do it and it will be simple to audit your calendar each week to see WHETHER you do it with the regularity you intended. Remember, it isn’t about PERFECTION — it is about holding yourself accountable for the choices you make!
Self-care is every conscious action you take that feeds your soul, nourishes your body, nurtures your spirit, or replenishes your relationship with yourself!
Once you see how easy or hard your SMART goal is to carry out, you can adjust your plan accordingly.
- Was it EASY? Maybe in February, you can up your game and add a different class or a new form of exercise.
- Was it DIFFICULT? Maybe you can adjust your self-expectations and start with two days a week as your start-up goal, remember you want to be realistic!
What else can you do to make your resolutions stick? You might also write a number of sub-goals that help you get to the big SMART goal you set for yourself. If you had written the exercise goal above, you might add sub-goals like. . .
- Establishing a membership at the recreation center, so you’re good to go next week!
- Pack your work-out bag & put it in the car, so there are no excuses when it’s class time.
- Put your water bottle in the car too, to remind you of your M/W/F commitment.
- Find a friend who also wants to take these classes, a buddy will add accountability!
You get the gist. Helping yourself move from idea to action is what is key here! You can see how each of these steps leads you to success in the over-arching goal.
Without this kind of detailed planning, most of us let go of our good intentions and simply drift back to our old habits. Change requires effort, but if the change is important, especially for your health, it is worth taking the time to plan for a successful outcome!