Have you ever made a New Year’s resolution only to give up as Feb 1st hits? The Dec / Jan transition period is usually a big time of reflection and inspiration deeply woven together. We review our achievements and failings of the past year as one year comes to a close and resolve to “do better” next time, as though we were in High school preparing for our finals. We mix our somber reflective mood with the excitement the new year brings with it. A new year we tell ourselves, a new us, a new slate wiped clean, this year we will achieve our goals. We start the new year with big ambitions of Gargantuan life changing resolutions only to be shot down by February as we fall back to our old ways. Here’s 5 top tips to keep your New Year’s resolutions going until Christmas.
- Lower your sights.
One of the biggest mistakes people make when making new years resolutions is to aim too high. By having big resolutions like writing that book we’ve always dreamt of or getting promoted or finding that special someone, we almost plan to fail. Our brain is hardwired to crave success and achievement. When we do, our brain’s release dopamine which triggers a sense of Mental and Physical wellbeing. The big dreams we have, however, often take months or even years to come to fruition. If we don’t notice immediate success, we often just give up for another year. Patience is not something most of us have in abundance. By aiming within our sights, we’re more likely to get rewards quicker and be motivated to aim for the next step.
- Set Monthly goals
Instead of setting a New Year’s resolution, set monthly resolutions. By resetting every month, we can take stock of what we achieved the previous month and set some goals for the next month. By doing it monthly instead of annually, we can afford to reduce the size of our goals. Instead of “finding that new partner”, we can say “go out and meet 3 new people”. Instead of saying “write a new book”, we can say “write 5000 words” or “write another chapter”. By breaking our annual goals into monthly chunks in this way, we are achieving more. The more we achieve, the more we’re feeling that dopamine hit which in turn spurns us on to create more success. Success is addictive and the minute we get a taste for it, we crave more of it in our lives.
- Don’t give in
One of the best and shortest speeches ever given was by Winston Churchill. He said simply “Never give in. Never give in, Never, Ever, give in.” I also like the old adage “It doesn’t matter what speed you go, as long as you keep moving forward”. Successful people aren’t born successful. Winners aren’t winners because they never lose. They’re winners because they never gave in. Every successful person that has ever achieved anything in their life has gone through the “desert phase”. The phase of thirst and hunger but the phase of barren land, arid desert, drought. The phase where so many turn it in and go back to mediocrity. But this season in our lives is a test of our character. If we can weather the storm of drought and keep walking, we will come out the other end eventually, stronger, happier and more resilient. That season of lack is the birth of a new us if only we don’t give in.
- Track your progress and celebrate micro achievements
It’s important to have a reward system to spur us on. I used to struggle with Agoraphobia and spent 10 years as a recluse in my teens, seldom leaving the house. Every step I took in my recovery journey, I would reward myself with a DVD. By the time I got through my phobia, I had hundreds in my collection. Our brains are hardwired to run towards reward and if the rewards are big enough, it becomes a big motivator to achieve our goals. Choose something you enjoy, maybe a DVD, maybe a holiday away or a night out but choose something that you love and shower yourself with it whenever you reach a milestone. The combined effect of achievement and dopamine will motivate you to smash more of your goals and keep you going in those dark nights.
- Keep your goals within your sphere of influence
We can’t control other people’s behavior towards us and so a New Year’s Resolution such as “getting a promotion” isn’t very effective. We should instead focus our resolutions around things that we have control over. If your end game was to get that promotion, your resolutions could be “spend more time on work related projects” or “network more with decision makers at my office”. “Finding that special someone” isn’t effective either as we have no control over other people’s behavior. We could say instead “to go out more”, “join dating sites and meet new people” or “working on behaviors that are natural magnets such as confidence and emotional and financial stability.”