It’s never a bad time to make a change for good. That’s why the idea of waiting until January 1 seems ridiculous to some. For others, the beginning of a new year is a logical reset - even though research shows the average resolution is abandoned after two weeks. Past failures are no reason to stop trying. What’s important is figuring out WHY our past resolutions have failed, and approach this year’s resolutions differently. Truth be told, it often comes down to a lack of accountability.
Think about it. What do friends and family say when we tell them we’re going to workout more, train harder, stop drinking, go on a diet, start traveling, read every day, etc.? Maybe we hear, “Oh, that’s great,” but sense a tone of ‘here we go again.’ Maybe we hear nothing because we’re too embarrassed from past failures to tell another soul about the positive changes we’re planning to make. Get over it. We’ll never move forward if we’re stumbling over the past.
Accountability is our friend, and it’s instrumental in making improvements that last. Here are a few suggestions for greater accountability and more success as we plan our New Year’s resolutions.
Write it Down
It’s not enough to have some hazy concept of a goal that we’re quietly thinking to ourselves. Let’s think through and materialize our hopes by writing them down. We’ll be very specific about what we want to do or stop doing as well as our reasoning behind it. These reminders come in handy on the days we contemplate throwing in the towel. We should also craft a concise description of what success might look like and how we plan to get there. That’s not to say these goal posts can be moved - especially as we learn more about ourselves and the process.
Find a Partner
This comes easier for some than others. However, we all have a greater chance for success when we can confide in at least one person who cares about us. That’s the key. They don’t have to share our goals (though that would probably help). They just need to care about us and recognize how important the resolution is to us. We must give our accountability partners permission to ask hard questions and verbalize relevant observations. It will take courage on everyone’s part (theirs and ours), but great accountability partners actually hold us accountable in a firm, but loving (shame-free) way.
“Well, you didn’t call. So, I…”; stop right there. It’s important that we don’t put our accountability partners on a pedestal or use them as a crutch for our decisions to give up or give in to temptation. Counseling 101 says nobody can really make us mad, make us fail, or make us anything. It’s our decision how much power we’ll give others. So, we’ll recognize our accountability partners as part of our support system, but the power to succeed is ours alone.
Join a Group
We have more opportunities for connecting with others than ever before. In-person meetings are especially encouraging. However, even during the global pandemic, the world wide web makes it easy to find groups with similar interests and goals. We’ll find that every member of the group has his/her own story, experiences, and wisdom. As we get to know our groupmates better, we’ll learn from one another and become invested in each other’s success.
Mark the Calendar
“One of these days” is never soon enough. We are more likely to accomplish our goals when there’s an end in sight. Rather than simply wanting to “get healthy,” we’ll mark the date of a 5k or Spartan Race for which we’ll need to train. If there’s not an obvious date to work towards, let’s make one up. Decide to read 5 books by May 31 or run 100 miles in the month of December. If our resolution is one of quitting something, we can pick a day to reward ourselves...responsibly (more on that later). The point is to have a finish line or a date to work towards. On our darkest days, seeing the light at the end of the tunnel may be the only thing that keeps us going.
Sign-Up and Pay
Signing on the dotted line (even virtually) moves our resolution from an idea to a commitment. The firmest commitments will often require a nonrefundable financial investment. That’s called having “skin in the game.” Once we register and pay for an event, a class, or a trip (especially if we signed up with a friend), we’ll feel more obligated to follow through to the end. There’s no turning back now.
Journal the Journey
Maintaining a New Year’s resolution is more than a decision. It’s a journey. And like any journey, there will be many lessons learned on the way. Journaling the process helps us recognize and remember our patterns. It’s a great exercise in self-awareness. Knowledge is power, and knowing what circumstances contribute to us being at our best or worst will undoubtedly inform future decisions.
Feeling a sense of accomplishment is more than allowed; it’s encouraged. In fact, don’t wait until the end of the year to celebrate successfully maintaining your resolution. Let’s acknowledge our progress frequently and responsibly. That doesn’t mean we’ll celebrate by undoing all of our hard work or revisiting what we vowed to stop. We will, however, plan some healthy mini-rewards as we soldier on. Then, when the year nears its end. We’ll celebrate with those who stood by us throughout the year.
Do it Again
We’ve proven to ourselves that we can, in fact, keep our resolutions. Now what? Do it again, of course. We’ll glean what we can from reviewing our journals before tackling our next resolution with newfound wisdom and confidence.
BEST OF LUCK IN THE NEW YEAR!