A new year, a new me! We often start a new year with energy, optimism and ideas about how we'd like to improve ourselves & our lives. Hence, our tendency to make new year's resolutions. These pledges towards betterment have existed in our society for thousands of years (possibly as far back as 4000 years ago!). Ironically, we've really stuck to the habit of making resolutions, just not sticking to the resolutions themselves. Research shows that a mere 16% of people are able to adhere to their resolutions and most people give up in 1-6 weeks.
Why do we find it so hard to follow through on our resolutions?
Too often we start out with vague intentions, no specific plan or method of accountability or tracking our results, too much pressure & not enough compassion for ourselves.
What can we do instead to actually make meaningful change in our lives?
Here are our 8 steps to sticking to your resolutions.
1) Don't start on January 1st.
We put so much pressure on ourselves to hit the ground running that we can fail before we even start building a new habit. Consider spending the 1st of the year visualizing how you want the year to look, how you want to feel at the end of it, what your goals will be and how you will go about achieving them. Make the 1st a day of dreaming and manifesting positive feelings about the year to come. Choose a day after the 1st and start working towards your goals then.
I liken this to how I start a new sketchbook-I never write or draw on the first page. I start on the second page, thereby eliminating the pressure I can feel about beginning "perfectly".
2) Be clear about the "why" of your goals.
Firstly, think about WHY you are considering a change. Is your goal intended to improve your health, your relationships, to add to your life? Or are you setting a goal because you are comparing yourself to others & think you "should"?
Beware of the "subtle aggression of self-improvement". Bob Sharples, a meditation teacher, coined this helpful expression. Behind our desire to improve is often a sense that we are inadequate as we are.
If we can start with a mindset of self-love and acceptance then we can see our goals as simply ways to add to our lives and increase our joy. You are a beautiful, worthy being just as you are.
Ask yourself how you want to feel rather than what you want to do/or not do. If you want to feel more peaceful, perhaps a new meditation practice is a good goal. If you want to feel more energetic, then maybe a new exercise regime is the goal for you.
Spend some time visualizing how you will feel after having achieved your goal. This can be a powerful, motivating exercise.
3) Set realistic expectations.
Slow and steady wins the race, as they say.
Make sure your goal is achievable. If you set yourself an impossible task you will only become disappointed and disheartened. You can always re-think your goal or add more goals as you move forward.
Make sure your goal is specific & quantifiable so that you can create a roadmap to get there. Break tasks into smaller chunks if possible.
For example, I know that meditating is really good for my mental health but I find it challenging to stick to a consistent practice. So in trying to build this new habit again I know that setting myself a task of meditating every day for a half an hour is a recipe for failure. So I might set myself the task of meditating 4 times a week to start and for 10 minutes a day.
4) Make a plan.
You know the phrase, I'm a lover not a fighter? I like to say I'm a planner, not a fighter. But enough about how I think I'm funny😂
Start with 1 goal/change/habit at a time and don't overwhelm yourself with changes. Aspire to consistency before adding on new changes.
Write down the small, actionable steps you are going to take to move towards your goal and then put these steps into your calendar (digital or physical). Having a physical reminder can be extremely helpful. Personally, I find it much too easy to forget, ignore or skip the new task I'm trying to incorporate into my life unless I write it down.
Plus, being able to cross off tasks as you complete them gives you an actual emotional boost because your brain releases dopamine when you achieve a goal. Since dopamine allows you to feel pleasure and satisfaction and improves motivation, even accomplishing a small goal can lead to a positive feedback loop that creates even more motivation to pursue more goals.
5) Build in accountability.
Stating your goals out loud to someone else makes it much harder to just ignore them or put them off.
Get an accountability partner(s). Someone who shares your goals and will help keep you on track. Make sure this person aligns with your motivational style, someone who will both challenge AND support you.
Depending on what your intended goal or habit is your accountability partner could be a single person or a group. I had an amazing accountability group that consisted of a group of fellow women jewellers (shout out to pod awesome😘). We would meet once a week and speak about our wins for the week, our goals for the upcoming week and any roadblocks that we had. The group then had the chance to brainstorm suggestions or help as needed.
I have personally found this a very effective tool for sticking to my goals & I'm sure you will too. I did not want to show up to our meeting not having attempted my goals.
6) Embrace 'failure'.
"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." -Thomas Edison
Nobody wants to feel like a failure but re-framing an unsuccessful attempt as simply the results of an experiment can be hugely helpful. If we can separate our self-worth from the results of our attempt to do something differently we can look back and really analyze what worked and what didn't and use this as a learning tool. Sometimes a small shift in how we were doing something can change the results the next time.
"See failure as a road and not a wall." -Scott Adams
As a textbook perfectionist, this one is a challenge for me. So I try to build failure into a lot of my attempts to do something new. When I'm learning a new metalworking technique I will sometimes start my project in a way that cannot turn out as a finished piece. For example, when learning a new stone setting technique I will try it out on a scrap piece of metal rather than a finished pendant or ring. This way I give myself space to try, fail and learn.
If you are working on creating a new habit for yourself (like going for a walk every day) remember that consistency, not perfection is the goal. So if you skip a day don't feel like your plans are ruined. Being a perfectionist is only going to lead to disappointment and likely to you giving up in the long run. Be flexible and compassionate with yourself.
But when building a new habit try not to skip twice in a row. As James Clear states "One mistake is just an outlier. Two mistakes is the beginning of a pattern."
7) Track your results.
It can be really hard to see growth, improvement or change in ourselves. This is why it's really important to track your results. Looking back at where you started and seeing proof of consistency and growth builds confidence and is a great motivator to keep moving forward.
Try google spreadsheets, tracking apps or simply a dedicated journal to track the results of your work.
I write a little note on my desk calendar on the days I've done yoga so I can look back at the week/month and see how consistent I've been.
**Just a note about tracking results-it can be really easy to get attached to daily results & lose track of the big picture. If this is the case for you (like it is for me) try tracking your results mindfully-just make a note of them with a compassionate & somewhat detached mindset. You are simply reporting results, not judging them. Try this for a couple of weeks or months before you look back at your results to evaluate how you did and what changes you'd like to incorporate going forward.
8) Reward yourself!
"I just said 'let's get to work.' How else do people enjoy things?"
Classic words from Leslie Knope from the great show Parks & Rec.
As a lifelong workaholic I very, very much relate to this. But I'm learning to take time to reward myself.
It's exciting having an incentive to work towards. So plan out in advance how you are going to reward yourself if you reach your goal. Write it down on your calendar. Don't forget to celebrate your wins and your efforts. You deserve it.
Treat yourself to a new stack of books, a new piece of jewellery or a holiday (or all three!).
We hope these suggestions help transform your approach to resolution making.
Cheers to sparkling new beginnings🥂✨
P.S. We've made a set of 8 affirmation & motivation cards just for you! Print them out or keep them on your phone for a quick positive reminder.
Grab your free downloadable postcards here