by Sam Mednick
Hands up if by the time you’re reading this, 50 percent of your New Year’s resolutions have fallen by the wayside. What about 80 percent?
A recent article in the New York Times says that by January 8 – one week in – 25 percent of resolutions have lost their lacklustre and by the time the year ends, fewer than ten percent have been fully kept.
The article says that the problem with our resolutions is very much the problem with life itself: We tend to value immediate pleasures than look towards the future.
It says that what keeping our resolutions is really about is self-control and tapping into our ability to use “social emotions” such as gratitude and compassion, which support the positive aspects of social life.
The article got me thinking as I, along with millions of other people, went around the table on New Year’s Eve talking about our resolutions.
Why do we wait until the first of January to decide to make changes?
It’s similar to people who don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day or other commercial holidays where you’re told to express your love: Why wait for one particular day to give someone a gift or tell them you care? Why not do it every day or every week?
The problem with waiting for one day to change EVERYTHING is that it’s not realistic. It puts a lot of pressure on yourself to make big shifts. This year I heard resolutions which included changing jobs and industries, starting a family, buying a house —and a lot of that would often be from the same person.
I’m all for going big, but it’s a tall order to accomplish and can be daunting to the point of inaction.
So this year, we challenge you to forego new year’s resolutions and try these tips instead:
A Better Resolution #1: Weekly check-ins
A while back, I wrote a blog about the importance of the high-level meeting. Use these weekly meetings to check in with yourself and ask questions, which will prompt you to see if you’re on track.
For example, coaching guru, author and speaker, Marshall Goldsmith has someone call him every morning to ask a series of questions. These include:
Did I do my best to:
- set clear goals?
- make progress for achieving my goals?
- find meaning?
- be happy?
- build positive relationships?
- be fully engaged?
You can design your own questions, but weekly checkins ensure that you ‘stay on top of yourself’ throughout the year so that, when the next year rolls around, you can continue your progress rather than feeling like you need to completely start afresh with a mound of new challenges you hadn’t visited in months.
A Better Resolution #2: Break it down — but REALLY break it down!
Don’t just break larger endeavours down into bite-sized chunks, but schedule the ‘chunks’ in your agenda.
For example, if you want to buy a house. Instead of writing down ‘look for properties’, break it down even more to:
- Write a list of websites, companies and people who can help get the property search going
- Next step could be to contact or reach out to two of those people daily or every other day etc…
This might sound tedious, but we often tend to think we’re breaking something into smaller pieces when in fact we’re not. A good litmus test to see if you’ve chopped it down enough to prompt action, is to see how you feel when it’s written on paper.
When you read, ‘Look for properties’, how do you feel? Overwhelmed? Tired? Excited? If you’re not feeling motivated by what you see, it means it’s not working for you.
A Better Resolution #3: Connect with your feelings:
This isn’t as cheesy as it sounds. Many of us spend our lives on auto-pilot or are too busy to stop and see what’s going on inside of us. My coach would always say to me:
If you don’t know what you’re feeling however, it’s hard to navigate that bus in the best possible direction. This year, take five minutes out of your day to ask yourself what you’re feeling. Learn to name the emotion because, the more we’re able to identify what’s going on inside of us, the better we’ll be able to steer ourselves and take control of our lives, all year-round, not just come the first of January.
How do you feel about New Year’s resolutions and how do you plan to tackle them this year? Share our thoughts in the comments below
Check out other great articles about making changes and positive life shifts: