WE’VE all been there. The resolutions we sought to achieve in the year start to falter as early as a few weeks in. Excuses are made, and procrastination is a parasite that latches on and doesn’t let go. Soon, it’ll be December 31 again – and the vicious cycle continues. How can we really keep to our resolutions?
The goal itself doesn’t really matter. Maybe it’s to start hitting the gym more often, or to save up for the sports car that has stolen your heart. Whatever your aims for 2019 are, here are some tips to help you make it stick. We’re all in the business of seeing you succeed.
Make specific plans and set a time frame
How many of us have heard the phrase, “If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail?” You might have had a rough idea of what your resolution is, but you also need to go into it knowing how you are going to achieve that goal. Assess what your short-term goals are in accordance with your long-term plans and plan accordingly.
If your aim is to be fitter this year, then set aside time to go to the gym – don’t just pledge hypothetical times (e.g. “when you’re free.”) Be specific. Block out your Thursday mornings, set your alarms to wake you up earlier.
When you create a routine for this type of goal, you’ll become more inclined to fulfil them. You can also break out of your comfort zone by signing up for a marathon (we’d probably start with a half marathon, or a 10K) later this year, creating a commitment that isn’t as easy to get out of.
Another great example: dealing with one’s savings. Telling yourself “I want to save more money this year” is vague. Set an amount you aim to save every month. If you haven’t already created a savings account, now is the best time to do so.
However, you shouldn’t be setting yourself up for failure. It’s good to be ambitious, but remember to be realistic. Start small and work your way up. Ditto that for the marathon. If you’ve never run in your life, don’t kid yourself into thinking you’ll complete the full, 42.195km Singapore Marathon that happens at the end of this year.
Setbacks will also occur, and you should be prepared for that. Just because you missed one gym session doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world, and it certainly shouldn’t mean the end of your regimen. You know the Grylls mantra: Improvise, Adapt, Overcome. Your response to failure will determine your reward. Reframe your mindset and turn that negative moment into a positive learning experience. For example, having let the one session slip, you could make up for it with two instead, or devise a quick workout such as step-ups and burpies that you can replicate in a stairwell near your house.
Tell your friends, family, and everyone
In this day and age of social sharing, why wouldn’t you want to let your friends and followers know what your New Year resolutions are?
Sure, you could chalk it up to just the usual sharing habits. But there’s also a benefit to letting the world know your goals for the year: they can hold you accountable.
It can be an effective way to make sure that you don’t fall off the wagon halfway through the year. Just get your friends to shoot you a reminder in February to see if you’re still keeping up with your goals (80% of resolutions have failed by then). A good mate will make sure you’re still on track till the end of the year, or at least until you’ve achieved what you set out to do.
Who knows, while sharing your resolutions, you may also find a group of like-minded peers. Maybe they’re the regulars at the gym you go to, or you all go for the same fitness class together. This makes achieving your goals a lot less intimidating as you now have company and motivation from external sources.
Be proud and compassionate about your goals
We know this sounds tacky but bear with us. David DeSteno, professor of psychology at Northwestern University penned an op-ed in the New York Times about how the cultivation of social emotions will lead to greater perseverance on difficult tasks. He suggests that using sheer willpower to keep yourself motivated will tire you out over time. Instead, success is gained by forming strong social bonds with others.
“Making people feel proud — not arrogant, but proud of the skills they have — makes them more willing to wait for future rewards and more willing to take on leadership roles in groups and work longer and harder to help a team solve a difficult problem,” cited DeSteno as an example of how we can use positive social emotions to reap long-term rewards.
Similarly, traits like compassion and gratitude can actually lead to greater self-control, which will manifest to combat the thoughts of quitting when they creep into the mind.
“In nudging the mind to be more patient and more selfless, they benefit everyone whom our decisions impact, including our own future selves,” said DeSteno. “In short, they give us not only grit but also grace.”