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5 Keys To Making New Year’s Resolutions Stick

Forbes recently published advice from executive wellness coach Naz Beheshti. She says instead of doing resolutions, you should think about “GWI,” or goals with intention. The idea of intention honors effort and process, and not just results. Beheshti suggests resolutions don’t last, but with “intentions” you can take the pressure off and develop good habits instead of making a big ordeal about laborious resolutions. There is no failure. As long as you form a habit it is a success.

Five Tips To Form Small Habits

On average, it takes more than two months before a new behaviour becomes automatic and up to six months to make that a personality trait. So promise yourself to manage your expectations and commit to developing small, “affordable” habits that you keep out of discipline. Not sure where to start? Keep reading and find out the five steps to build a less stressful, more realistic and far more likely to succeed strategy: the New Year’s Small Habits.

1. Plan it out.

Stop making resolutions. They are useless and mean nothing. Your goal is not a desire, but the result of your actions. You need to know exactly what you’re moving towards and figure out the next steps to get there.

Chose a few reasonably reachable goals and turn them into Small Habits, rather than undefined, ephemeral –and therefore, low in personal relevance– resolutions. It may be useful to follow the S.M.A.R.T. method for goal-setting.

Once a behavioural goal is set, write down a well-thought-out plan of attack. Don’t have a vague path like “I want to do better in my career”. Instead, you should figure out the concrete steps with specific deadlines that you can take to make the longer-term goal happen within your existing schedule. Ticking off smaller milestones closer together will keep the motivation throughout the year and be more rewarding. And embrace longer timelines, bearing in mind that the first two months are actually the most important ones. One thing that can help a lot in that regard is to have some sort of role model to look up to.

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” —Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Drawing up a plan includes having a backup plan. Realise that you can change your goals or the Small Habits at any time. Include if-then strategies in case you falter or don’t want to follow through. Remember to “strive for consistency, not for perfection” (Mark Metry).

In this point, knowing yourself is key, especially if you’re trying to break an old habit. According to Gretchen Rubin, author of multiple books on happiness and habits, the most important thing you can do is understanding your tendency (people typically fall into one of four tendencies: Upholders, obligers, questioners, and rebels), and then tailor your plan for keeping your resolution to the way your brain works. If you’re not sure what category you fall into, check out Rubin’s quiz. Simply put, know yourself and don’t overcomplicate it.

2. Be really motivated.

The reason behind the Small Habit can be as important as setting goals. Write down the “why” of the need to achieve your goals to make sure you have a concrete vision of what you ultimately want and why you need to achieve it. Reflect on your intrinsic motivation–motivation from within to change your behaviour– for this goal: goals ought to be in alignment with who you are. The start of the year is a great opportunity to ask yourself a few questions to reflect on the life you want to live: What does success look like to you? How much better your life will be once you’ve formed your Small Habit? Where will you find support when you fail to persevere?

You also need to keep track of your progress. Documenting your progress every week or month not only is important to keep you motivated, but also to have a visual of where you are in the journey to your goal. There is an app called StickK, but there are lots of ways to do it such as spreadsheets or a word document.

Make sure to put your Small Habits, your motivation and your plan for action in a place where you can see them to remind yourself and stay connected to your vision. The hardest part of New Year’s Small Habits is keeping them in your mind.

3. Start today.

If you’re serious about sticking to a goal in the New Year, tackle a Small Habit from day one. Psychologically, there’s a significant advantage to actioning an intention immediately. However, it doesn’t mean doing it all at once. Maybe you have thought of one habit that requires more commitment than the rest; if so, once you have got it under your control, you can begin a second Small Habit.

Developing self-discipline is a process, and the right time to start doing it is NOW.

4. Forgive yourself and avoid self-blame.

  • PAST: There’s no shame in having failed in the past. If you’ve done it, offer yourself some forgiveness. Focus on new resolutions and set new intentions in a more realistic way.
  • FUTURE: The same logic applies to the cases you falter or don’t want to follow through at some point in the New Year. It’s inevitable that when trying to change or start a habit to experience a setback or two along your journey. Sometimes you even deserve to indulge occasionally and skip a day (Will eating one more slice of pizza or skipping a day at the gym really break your resolve?). Rather than giving up the first day you have a slip, you should allow yourself to be imperfect and not get into the all-or-nothing mentality. Mess-ups should strengthen your resolve.

Reassess your goals if you discover they aren’t working for you and refocus your energy for getting back on track quickly. Stay positive and focused on your successes and accept that mistakes are part of the learning experience. Krista Roesler, a life coach, and psychotherapist at Psych Company, even suggests writing down your feelings of anxiety and fear whenever they come up to acknowledge that they are a normal human reaction to change. In the same vein, it can also be helpful to follow Tim Ferriss’ “Fear Setting” strategy as a tool to overcome the fear of making difficult choices (check his TED Talk to learn more about it).

5. Don’t measure success by results.

People normally expect to see results much more quickly than they actually do. Accordingly, they start to lose their motivation early on. One of the biggest barriers to sustained behaviour change is indeed not seeing results.

Realise that habits are a process and not an event. Real lifestyle changes take time and patience. So better use “commitment” or “motivation” as a measure of success. When you’re so emotionally invested in the process that the outcome ceases to become important, then is when you won’t need to force yourself to keep the habit anymore. In other words, if you’re maintaining the habit and reaching smaller incremental goals, you’re already a winner.

It is much better to put in an 80% effort with 20% of a plan than it is to put 20% effort into an 80% plan = Effort is what’s important. ( Application of the 80/20 rule)

Bonus tip: Keep yourself accountable.

Accountability is the secret to sticking to resolutions. Find support for what you propose to do by telling your friends, family and social networks about your intentions. That will definitely provide you with positive feedback and encouragement along the way and improve the chances of success.

Source: Borja Jimena Tomás on LinkedIn.

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