With 2017 upon us, many of us are thinking about what we’d like to achieve in the coming year. Below is a five-step process to develop and set New Year’s resolutions. This process balances desire and accountability to ensure you’ll be motivated and committed over the whole year. Consider using this process to set and follow through on your resolutions.
Step #1: Set goals around activities you enjoy
It’s too hard to commit yourself to something you hate! The more you enjoy an activity, the easier it is to make it a part of your daily routine. For example, if you’re looking to be more active in the New Year but hate exercising indoors, a resolution that involves running on the treadmill isn’t likely to succeed. Zero in on the things you like and either make them your resolution, or include them as part of the process in the form of a reward. These types of “behavioral-chains” are more likely to achieve success than just committing to doing something more. Additionally, incorporating a reward gives you something to look forward to and increases the likelihood of on-going success. So instead of committing to running on the treadmill more, commit to ordering your favorite coffee after each workout, but only if you workout. Simply put, if you incorporate fun into your resolution you’ll be more likely to keep it.
Step #2: Make a plan & share your goals with a friend
It’s easier to follow through on something if you feel a little accountable. Consider sharing your goal publically or with good friends. By involving your friends and family, they can provide support and encourage your progress. Write down your goals, create an action plan for each step to achieve them, and then share the plan with a friend. Consider giving the friend a weekly progress report, as they’ve been proven to make a difference.
Step #3: Be realistic with your resolutions
It’s great to see the New Year as an opportunity to press the reset button on your life and develop new habits. However, too many people overwhelm themselves with too many resolutions and try to conduct an absolute overhaul of their life every January. Experts say that starting small with a few realistic goals yields much better results. Additionally, don’t forget to be kind to yourself. If you miss a day at the gym, for example, no sweat! Just get there tomorrow.
Step #4: Track your progress
Consider using an app like Habitlist or Goal Streaks to track how often you complete your chosen activity. These types of apps are helpful to show much you are actually doing and inspire you to chain together as many days as possible. It becomes surprisingly motivating to keep a streak going instead of dropping the ball on a day when it’s tough to complete your activity. These types of habit streaks have other benefits over occasional habits as well.
Step #5: Celebrate your wins!
It’s exhausting to feel like you’re constantly pushing a rock up a hill. When you hit important milestones, don’t forget to celebrate! Harvard Business Review conducted extensive research on the impact of pressure and fear on achievement, and concluded that people are far more productive and committed to achievement when they feel positive. Contrary to negative reinforcement as an approach to motivate, people achieve more when they feel recognized for their work. You can take this same approach to managing yourself to achieve your goals. For example, if you hit your meditation goal for the month, or run a mile further than last week, don’t forget to acknowledge it and celebrate yourself, even in a small way. Recognizing the small wins is what helps you get to the bigs ones!