How to Make That Resolution Stick
Updated: Mar 26, 2019
I know. People HATE to talk about, or even think about, New Year's resolutions. I mean, who's idea was it anyway to start off the year by trying to do something difficult and challenging and new? What is the point of telling yourself you are going to do something only to forget all about it by - well - right about now? Studies show that only about half of us make resolutions and of that half, less than 10% actually succeed. So what gives?
We need a new approach. These are a few of my ideas for making resolutions that stick:
1. Stop calling them resolutions. That word is so scary for some. So final. So frustrating because we have all made them before and failed, so hearing that word closes our mind to the possibilities. Instead of resolutions, just call them ideas. "Hey - these are a few of my great ideas for what we can do this year!" I don't even bother to call them goals. Goals are shorter term for me - to get dinner cooked by 6pm, to get to boot camp tomorrow morning, to read this book on vacation. An idea is bigger and grander. An idea might not even have all of the specifics ironed out, but ideas spark passion and buy-in, and more ideas. Ideas for a new year release us from the demand that it happen for 2019. Ideas are ongoing and perpetually works in progress. Save the goals for the daily or weekly tasks but generate great ideas for how to make your year fantastic.
2. Get real. Part of the problem with resolutions is their lack of a connection to reality. If my resolution is to work out every day and I spent much of 2018 becoming one with the sofa, then I'd say that my resolution is not based in reality and it is highly likely to fail. Again, saying it is a resolution demands a big and dramatic change. But ideas help us keep it real. "I have a great idea: I'm going to watch television less by getting exercise during the week." We don't really want to go to gym. What we probably want is to get rid of our love handles, so going to the gym is just one way to get there. You can lose the love handles by doing a variety of things, but getting off the sofa is the key. Make getting off the sofa part of your brilliant idea because it is much more realistic than heading to a gym you hate anyway. Keeping your resolutions realistic for you, based on what you care about and where you are starting, is key. There is no other measuring stick.
3. Give yourself credit each day. There are hundreds of people right now, lamenting their lack of willpower over that chocolate cake tonight, already violating their resolutions to not eat sweets, lose weight and stop eating dessert. And tomorrow, they are going to wake up and say to themselves, well, I already blew it so I guess I'm done. And that's it. What a relief, right? First of all, when it comes to eating, every time we put a bite into our mouths we have an opportunity to change. Three meals, 2 snacks, and several drinks a day. So eating chocolate cake during one of those opportunities is not perfect, but its not so bad. And how about some credit for the previous 6 days of non-cake, non-sugar eating decisions you made? We are far too hard on ourselves when we make a single mistake and we never seem to forgive ourselves for doing what we do. We need to spend a lot more time giving ourselves a pat on the back for trying, and then be kind enough to ourselves to encourage us to try again. No one else is going to do it for you. And if your resolution still fails after trying so hard - - well - I have to say that when we really TRY, our efforts rarely fail. And that leads me to my next tip:
4. Actually try. I saw a lovely interview with actor Leslie Odom, Jr, star of Hamilton and the handsome crooner on those sappy Nationwide commercials. Years ago, he was about to quit acting when his agent told him that he can't do that until he has first really tried. Going to auditions and waiting was not enough, so he started studying and practicing and performing for himself and taking himself seriously....and now he is an actor who is paid. We often quit before we try. Trying is looking at each failure as an opportunity to do something else. "But I tried to eat healthy but when I go out, I can't help it!" Did you ask to go to a healthier restaurant? Did you split your meal in half before it was brought to the table? Did you pour your water on your plate after you said you were full? Did you stop going out to restaurants? Did you make your friends take your food away before you had a chance to finish your plate? Did you drink a gallon of water before the meal, keeping you in the bathroom and away from your plate? I mean, yes, much of this is ridiculous, but the dogged determination to find another way to not eat those extra calories is worthy of inspection. We are all super-smart. Use those smarts to try and try again. If you really want it, you will.
5. Decide what you want and generate great ideas based only on this. Do not commit to resolutions that you read on the internet or your best friend is doing, or worse yet, you think it might be good for you. Those will all fail. When making resolutions, think about what is closest to your own heart. Think about what kind of year you want to have and what it would take to get there. Think about the smallest changes or adjustments you can make to feel better each day. Little changes lead to big changes. Little changes are easy to do when we care about them and when we understand how it serves us well. I say it all of the time and nothing could be more true - we get to decide what kind of life we are going to lead. The lives we lead are built upon daily choices, decided by us, connected to what we care about, and realistic in nature.
Generate great ideas, get real, give yourself some credit, try, and most importantly, stay committed to what you care about most. And if you slip up and eat that cake, just enjoy it. And move on. Tomorrow is another day. It is never too late to start. Turn the page on this past week, or year, or lifetime, and get started on making 2019 your best year ever.