Making new year’s resolutions is an established component to modern life. Every year, everyone is reminded, by friends and the media, of the time-honored tradition. It’s an opportunity to take stock of ourselves, or lives, and our habits; an opportunity to establish a commitment to self-improvement.
Anyone who is keen on improving themselves and their life might pose the obvious question: “Why wait until the new year to initiate these positive changes?” It’s a rhetorical question, of course, one worthy of contemplation. But if we didn’t have this annual reminder, many people might never address the issue of personal development and self-improvement.
New year’s resolutions are not just a component to modern life. The tradition has been around a long time. Historians claim that the ancient Babylonians were the first culture to make annual, new year’s resolutions, 4000 years ago. They believed that if they kept their resolutions, the gods would look upon them more favorably. If not, they risked the wrath of the gods, a chilling proposition for an ancient Babylonian.
Researchers claim that the top ten new year’s resolutions for Americans are:
- Exercise more
- Lose weight
- Get better organized
- Initiate a new skill or hobby
- Live life more fully
- Save more and spend less money
- Quit smoking (insert alternative destructive habit)
- Spend more time with family and friends
- Travel more
- Read more books, watch less TV
Resolutions #1 and #2 are, of course, interrelated, with activity being an essential component to weight control. With two thirds of Americans being either overweight or obese, it’s logical that #1 and #2 would rise to the top of the list.
Regrettably, the percentage of people who need to lose weight doesn’t appear to change much from year to year, so the obvious conclusion is: people don’t tend to keep their resolutions, or at least they don’t keep #1 and #2.
Most People Fail at Their Resolutions
The first step in making new year’s resolutions is to write them down. This creates a level of manifestation, and manifestation is the name of the game. Until we act on our resolutions, they remain in the realm of thoughts and theory. Thoughts and theory are a good starting point, but if we don’t resist that extra donut, they are clearly not sufficient. What is required is action. If we don’t act on our resolutions, what’s the point?
According to a 2002 research study, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, only 46% of the people who made new year’s resolutions, were able to follow through successfully. The other side of this coin tells us that the majority of those who make new year’s resolutions, fail.
The same study also looked at a population of people who did not make specific resolutions, but who did have a goal that they wanted to achieve in the new year. Surprisingly, the study concluded that only 4% of this population were successful in reaching their goals. Doing the math, those that actually made a tangible resolution were ten times more likely to achieve their goal than those that had the goal, but made no specific resolution to achieve it. The obvious conclusion is that the act of making the resolution has significant value.
How to Create Positive Habits
In general, the establishment of a new habit benefits from these four steps:
Make it easy – Whatever behavior you want to foster should be easy to adopt. This includes the process you utilize to establish the habit.
Make it obvious – Your contemplation of the habit you want to adopt should be conceived and written down in a way that makes it completely clear.
Make it attractive – The habit itself should be one that is desirable.
Made it satisfying – The new habit should have a clear payoff, with respect to its likelihood to create a tangible benefit to your life.
The Secret to Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions
There are a number of specific helping factors which can be used to initiate and maintain your resolutions, including:
- Establish the right mindset. Before establishing your new resolutions, take stock of where you are with your current goals and habits. Did you create new year’s resolutions last year? If so, how did you do? Have you succeeded in applying them to your life? Have you met some or all of your last years’ goals? Will this year’s resolutions be a continuation of some of the ones you initiated a year ago? If you did make progress, give yourself credit. Try to set realistic goals for yourself, perhaps in stages. Don’t expect sudden changes. Remain positive.
- Set goals that will help motivate you. Don’t adopt goals or resolutions that are dictated by people around you. Focus on you, and your own aspirations and needs. Choose resolutions that you feel enthusiastic about adopting. They should resonate with your personal goals, aspirations, dreams, and priorities.
- Limit your resolutions. This means not only the number of resolutions you list, but also the process required to achieve them. If you think you have too many resolutions, write all of them down. Then rank them in order of priority. The ones at the top of your list are the resolutions to go after. Remember, it’s better to have complete success at one resolution than failure at many.
- Make your intentions clear. Be specific about your goal. Try to quantify what success will look like to you. Make sure that the goal is attainable within a realistic timeframe. And make sure that attaining the goal is appropriate to you and your life and needs.
- Break up bigger resolutions into smaller, manageable tasks. Perhaps a monthly scorecard will help. Prioritize these tasks and establish benchmarks. Focus on each step, rather than the total resolution.
- Create tangible, visual reminders. Write your resolutions down. Create a picture or graphic you can place at your desk, in your car, or on your wall that reminds you daily. Each time you are reminded of your resolution, do something that very day that contributes toward your goal.
- Make your resolutions known to others, especially those in your life who play a supportive role. Now, you’re on notice. How will it look to your friends and family when you come up short? Be accountable, not only to yourself, but to your associates. Guilt can be a strong motivator.
- Embrace technology that will support your resolution quest. The app world is replete with organizers and calendars with reminder beeps and to-do lists, and the like. Utilize whatever you need to help you stay on track.
- Revisit your resolutions regularly, daily if feasible. Approach your resolutions like an accountant. At a minimum, audit your progress on a monthly basis.
- Don’t give up. Even if you find yourself off track on your resolutions, keep at it. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Breaking Your Bad Habits
Resolutions can involve adopting new, positive habits, and it can also involve eliminating negative, destructive habits. In general, breaking habits involves:
Make it invisible – If there is something in your life that stands in your way of self-improvement, especially something tangible or physical, try to eliminate it, or put it out of your everyday view or routine.
Make it unattractive – Spend some time in contemplation about the habit in question, paying attention to how this habit impacts you and your life in a negative way. Write these observations down.
Make it difficult – Sometimes you can put some distance between you and a habit by simply making it more difficult for yourself to engage in it, somehow.
Make it unsatisfying – In your self-analysis, take time to consider whether or not this habit actually provides any satisfaction in your life. Be honest with yourself.
Some New Year’s Resolution Possibilities
For those who don’t already have a laundry list of possibilities for new year’s resolutions, here are some to consider.
All day long, we do and do and do. We’re busy juggling our careers, our families, and our personal interests. We go, non-stop. Try not-doing. Meditation is the art of not-doing. This means both physical and mental not-doing. The great Chinese sage, Lao Tzu, called it ‘Wu Wei’, or actionless action.
Find a comfortable spot with no distractions. Put the dog outside. Chase the children away. Turn down the lights. Sit quietly for 15-30 minutes. Once you adopt a posture, don’t move, physically. Close your eyes and gaze within, as if you’re looking at a screen, your inner screen. Without putting any stress on your face or eyes, pinpoint your attention in the center of the screen. Keep your attention engaged on seeing within. When random thoughts arise, ignore them and continue with your inner gaze.
Spend some time thanking yourself and the universe for what you have. We spend too much time stressing over what we don’t have. Gratitude is an expression of love. Love is the panacea for everything.
Make it a point to spend more time out in nature. Breath in the clean air and enjoy the plants and scenery. Get out of that stuffy office or apartment and feel alive!
Writing down your thoughts and reflections is one of the most effective methods for achieving self-transformation. There are few activities you can engage in that are more beneficial for anyone seeking self-improvement. Describe what happened during the day. How did your thoughts and actions impact your resolutions, for better or worse.
Embrace healthy activities
Keep your body healthy and vital by supplementing your diet. Try experiencing cold exposure with a cold shower or bath, recognized as a powerful immune booster and stress buster. Be good to yourself.
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