The Secret to a New Years Resolution that Sticks
Published on December 28, 2015
by Dr. Caitlin Gordon

The Secret to a New Years Resolution that Sticks

Published on December 28, 2015 by Dr. Caitlin Gordon

caitlin gordon blowing on a dandelionI have made and failed to carry through many a New Years resolution and goal. I use the two terms interchangeably, even though a resolution is more a firm declaration of intention than a goal. This advice applies to both. In the past, I would say I was going to start working out every day (!), then make some 11:11 wishes and hope for the best. However, in the last couple years I got serious and revamped my goal and resolution making system, and have found it to be a huge success. I don’t reach every goal I set; I’m human just like you. Yet, I have much greater confidence in achieving my goals. I know I CAN do it, if I want to, and I know how to give myself the best shot possible. I dream bigger now, and my self-esteem has benefited from seeing tangible forward progress on the things that are most important to me. Here’s how:

1. Feelings to Actions

When coming up with your list of New Year’s resolutions, I encourage you to start with a list of feelings or states of being. How do you want to feel? How do you want to BE? Maybe you want to feel lighter, or more grounded, or maybe you want to feel closer to your family. When we focus first on feelings, we get to the root of why we want to make a change. This connects us to a meaningful motivating factor.

Now that you have your list of how you want the new year to feel and how you want to be in relation to your world, you can look at actions that will help you get there. When do you most feel those emotions, what people/places/activities bring out the state of being you’d like to embody? If you want to feel lighter, maybe one way of doing that is by reducing the amount of responsibilities you have, or cutting back on your workload. If you want to feel more grounded, maybe that means spending more time outdoors, or taking time to do something physically based more frequently. Want to be closer to your family? Setting aside a day of the week to do a family activity or making a point to video chat with your parents more are great action steps. We are going to get more specific later, but it’s okay to start with broad actions initially as we make the switch from feelings to doings.

2. Write Down Your New Years Resolution

This is essential. You must write down your New Years resolution! Digitally or pen and paper, it’s no matter… but there has to be some evidence they exist, and something to reference, outside of your head. You should keep them somewhere that you can easily find them. If it’s in paper form, maybe next to your bed, on your destypewriter and paper for writing out a new years resolutionk, or on your bathroom mirror. If you go digital, keep your Goals/Resolutions file on your desktop, or home screen where you can see it.

Part 2 of writing them down is the way you phrase your resolutions. Write them out as “I will” statements. “I will go to yoga twice a week for 1 month. I will make a date to hangout with my sister twice a month. I will hike a 14er in July.” There is tremendous power in intention. You enlist the energy of the universe (hold the eye roll) when you behave as though you’ve already reached your goals, when there is no doubt about their manifestation. This might seem like a “new-agey” suggestion, but beyond referencing law of attraction theories, there is a true cognitive shift when we make statements in “I will” form. Try it and see!

3. Make Your New Years Resolution Specific

The more specific you make your resolutions, the more likely you are to reach your goal. It’s great to say, “I’m going to eat healthy this year.” I think that’s a fantastic goal. But, what does that mean? How will you keep track? Try to get detailed— “I’m going to avoid all processed sugar for 5 out 7 days a week.” Instead of “I will take a beach vacation”, Try “I will buy a flight to Mexico for a minimum of 5 days.” You can make what might otherwise be 1 goal or resolution into several more specific goals, but don’t get too ambitious. You want to feel good about your progress, not discouraged. Especially with resolutions around habit changes, don’t expect them to happen overnight.

4. Make Your New Years Resolution Time-Based

Step Four gets even more specific. We want these goals to have a deadline. Most of us have experienced the tendency to talk ourselves out of starting our resolutions, or to make excuses for why we haven’t reached our goals yet. The less ambiguity in the goal, the less wiggle room for us to get in our own way. Choose a length of time or deadline for each of your goals. Instead of, “I will watch less TV”, try “I will watch TV only 3 hours a week for the entire month of February.” It can ultimately be a yearlong goal if you’d like, but start with an amount of time that feels achievable now. You can always extend your goal, or do it again. One week to one month is a good span of time for most goals to be tracked. I don’t recommend attempting to go longer than one month for any new habit. You need some success to stay motivated! If you really want to buy a new car this year, maybe your goal is to save a certain amount of money each week for the next 4 weeks (start low), and then increase that amount the following month.

5. Break Your New Years Resolution Down Into Steps

Goals can feel overwhelming. The bigger the goal or resolution, the more important it is to break it into smaller action steps. To use one of the examples above, if you say “I will take a beach vacation”, there are a lot of steps that need to take place for that to happen. By breaking it down, you are more likely to make tangible forward progress towards your goal. This forward momentum is the key to success. Here are some examples of smaller goals that will help you get to your bigger one: “I will request time off work this month for mid-March. I will find and book a dogsitter for 7 days. I will save an extra 100$ each week for the next 4 weeks. I will not go out to eat on the weekends the month of January (to save money for my vacation). I will buy a flight to Mexico in February with the money I’ve saved.” You get the idea. Even the most ambitious goals start feeling very do-able when you tackle it step by step.

6. Use a Unit of Measurement & Keep Track of Your New Years Resolution

I want to reiterate that it is crucial to be able to track your progress. You need a unit of measurement or some concrete step that you can track to keep yourself accountable. One of the secrets to sticking to your resolutions is checking in with them on at least a weekly basis. Every Friday, I pull up my word doc and track my progress that week, add or adjust steps to reaching goals, and leave myself the occasional note about what is or is not working out.

Writing out, “I will do more yoga” is no bueno for accountability. Writing, “I will go to yoga twice a week during the month of January” is much better. Then you can lookup a schedule at a local studio and pick two classes a week you’re going to attend– put them into your calendar. At the end of each week, track how many times you actually went. At the end of the month, reflect: did you do it? Were you close? Awesome! Take some time to really soak up your achievement. You deserve to feel great about your success, however small it may seem. Don’t diminish it! Maybe you’re ready to do another month with the same goal. Maybe you want to go to yoga three times a week next month. Perhaps there’s a different goal relating to the original feeling goal (“I want to feel more relaxed,” for example) that you can tackle.

Did you fall short? That’s okay, too! Spend a few minutes investigating what the biggest obstacles were and see if your goal needs tweaking. Maybe you were too ambitious and it felt overwhelming to get started, maybe you could do a better job of breaking it down into smaller steps, or maybe you realized you don’t actually like yoga, or it doesn’t make you feel more relaxed (is that possible?!) and that resolution was a bust. Don’t continue to dwell once you’ve done a few minutes of reflection. Move on to the next resolution or goal– pick something you feel inspired to do. Beating ourselves up tends to kill our confidence, and you need some confidence to stick with resolutions and goals and to make them in the first place!

You’ve Got This!! Go be the better version of yourself in the new year and feel amazing doing it. 

For help with setting goals, Schedule an Appointment for individualized holistic health coaching. I will share my organizational, list-loving, goal-tracking brain and enthusiasm :)

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