When I think of New Year Resolutions, I think of the story of the little girl and the ham. The entire family was at the house, including the little girl’s great grand parents, on Christmas day. The wrapping paper had been cleaned up and the toys were stacked in little piles. The kids were each playing with their favorite toy and the grown-ups were watching the Christmas Day parade on TV. Susan, a 7-year old girl, wandered into the kitchen and started watching her mother make the Christmas ham. Her mother got the ham out of the refrigerator and placed it in the roasting pan. She poked cloves in the top and Susan asked, “Mommy, why are you putting those things in the ham?” Her mother responded, “These are cloves and they make the ham taste like a Christmas ham.” Next, the mother cut the ends off of the ham. Susan asked, “Why did you cut the ends off of the ham?” Her mom said, “Because my mother always did it this way.” Susan had a puzzled look on her face and got up and left the kitchen. She walked into the living room and said, “Grandma, why do you cut the ends off of the ham?” Her grandma said, “Because my mom always did it that way.” Susan went into the dining room where her Great Grandma was setting the table. “Nana, why do you cut the ends off of the ham?” Her Nana replied, “I never had a pan long enough to hold the entire ham.”
This year, as you are making New Year Resolutions, don’t get caught in the same trap of making the same resolutions that you did in the past only to stop trying two weeks into January. Follow these simple steps below to make next year different.
How to Set New Year Resolutions
- Understand you are really setting goals and nothing more. A short while a go, I wrote a couple of articles about goal setting. Take a few minutes to read both of these articles before you get started. the first article will help you understand different types of goals and the second article will help you set SMART goals.
- Make sure your resolutions are SMART resolutions. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, and Time-Related. Lose weight is not a SMART resolution. Lose weight rewritten in SMART format looks like this – I will weigh 185 pounds and have a 32 inch waist by September 1st, through eating 6 servings of vegetables a day, cutting out processed foods, and only eating desert on the weekends. My family will support me by keeping processed food out of the house and only eating desert on the weekends.
- Diversify and Combine your New Year Resolutions. Make sure your resolutions revolve around the different areas of your life. Even though you looked in the mirror this morning and thought to yourself, “I look disgusting,” your resolutions should not all revolve around losing weight. However, they can have weigh loss as a side-effect. For example, you could plan to read 12 books next year by signing up for an audible account and listen to the books while you walk. You could resolve to be more active with your children and so you go outside and play more with your kids (and burn some calories). You could resolve to feel better about yourself so you buy the book, The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown and listen to it while you walk. Nothing beats killing two birds with one stone.
- Give yourself an easy resolution to reach. One of the biggest reasons people give up on their New Year Resolutions is that they do not get any instant gratification. Consider building a New year Resolution list of 30 resolutions that you meet in the first 30 days of the year. Write these down and assign a date to each of them. Here is a sample list to get your first week started 1) Eat dinner together as a family, 2) Get up at 5:00 a.m. and go for a walk, 3) Write a thank you note to my parents, 4) Spend an hour playing with my kids (see my list of great family gifts), 5) Read 3 chapters in a book, 6) Order water at the restaurant instead of soda, 7) Write my next 7 days of goals. By giving yourself easy resolutions to achieve and repeating it daily, you are building up a habit of setting resolutions and reaching them. Tip – Always make your last resolution to plan your next set of resolutions.
- Develop a plan to reach your resolutions – Nothing kills a resolution faster than the lack of a plan. That is why resolutions like lose weigh or make more money always fail. Without a plan, it seems like a mountain. A good plan can turn the mountain into a small hill. If your goal is to make more money, then you need to first determine how to make more money (change jobs, get a promotion, work more hours, start a second job, etc). The next step is to research how you can accomplish the first step. After that, you need to plan action steps based on your research.
How to Keep New Year Resolutions
Setting New Year Resolutions is the easy part – although it may not seem that way sometimes. Keeping them is another story. Following the steps above can help you keep the New Year Resolutions you make, but adding the steps below will put you over the top.
- Get an Accountability Buddy – You will be much more successful if you do not go about achieving your New Year Resolutions alone. Talk to your spouse, your best friend and even your kids and tell them your plans. You will quickly find out that you are not alone. Having the physical and emotional support from those closest to you will help you stay on track. If you are too embarrassed to confide in someone close to you, google your problem or resolution and you will quickly find that at least 1 in the other 6 billion people on earth share your same desire. You can find chatrooms for support and other communities to help you.
- Review daily – Every now and then my wife and I fight over something that I need to change (I’m smart enough to know the only person I can change is myself). When this happens, I identify and clarify what I need to change and write it on a post it note and put it on my mirror. I also do this with my goals at work. My top three goals are written on the top of my daily to-do list. This constant reminder helps keep me on track.
- Plan for failing – If you are truly stretching to resolve to become a better person, you will fail and fall off track. That is okay. Plan for it. By planning for failure, you can better handle it when it happens. Lets take an example of resolving to weigh 120 pounds by May 1st and come February 1st you have not lost any weight. Plan ahead on how you can get back on track. You can plan to hire a personal trainer or go see the doctor if you are not reaching your goal on your time line. The key is to know what you are going to do to fix something before it breaks.
- Break large resolutions into smaller ones – I currently weigh just under 265 pounds and my goal is to weigh 185 pounds. That is an 80 pound mountain I need to climb. Yikes! I could rewrite my goal to lose 10 pounds each month for the first 6 months of the year. If I don’t reach my goal the first month, that is okay because my next month’s goal is to lose 10 pounds no matter what I start at that month. If you are trying to save money, you can resolve to meet your $10,000 savings goal by saving $800 a month. If your car breaks down and you can only save $400 that month, you’re next month’s goal will be to save $800. While this is not the fastest way to reach to your resolution, it will help you to not be discouraged by your past failures.
- Have consequences – This is my favorite. Remember when you were a kid and if you did not clean your room you did not get to go outside and play. As adults, we don’t have a parents setting consequences for our action (or lack of action). We have to do this ourselves. In the book, The Willpower Instinct, a story is told about a group of people who set weight loss goals. Before they started their journey, each of them stripped down and put on a reveling bathing suit for a quick snapshot. If they failed at their goal, the “before” picture would be shown on national television. Every participant reached their goal! Take the before picture. One way to do this is to create an event on Facebook and invite your friends. If you don’t accomplish X then you will do Y at this event. For example, if you don’t pay down $5,000 in debt this year then you will post your credit score for everyone to see. Even better, check out www.stickk.com who has built an entire website around this concept.
Get Started With Your New Year Resolutions Today
The time is now. Get started today. If you are having trouble getting started, post a comment below and I will respond to help give you some direction. Happy New Year!
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