Vive Les Résolutions
Thoughts and tips for making ch-ch-ch-changes.
Ah, the new year, a fresh start, a clean slate, time to face the world anew, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. On January 1, we can imagine we are no longer burdened by the mistakes and concerns of the past. With resolutions in hand, we step boldly into the undiscovered country of a new year.
But if past experience holds true, it'll be a lot more 'second-verse-same-as-the-first' than drastic sea-change from a broken today to a shining tomorrow. Let's face it : New Year's resolutions aren't famous for panning out well. With The New York Times reporting that 80 percent of resolutions don't make it past Valentine's Day, it's easy to be cynical and dismiss the whole resolution game as a fool's errand. As Robert Burns, who helps us usher in the New Year with "Auld Lang Syne," reminds us - our best laid plans go oft awry.
At the same time, we're well aware that humanity's most celebrated achievements could easily have been confronted with the same argument. Almost everything worth doing seemed impossible at first glance. And these days there's a booming industry of self-help media encouraging us to harness the power of positive thinking and discover our inner strengths, so why do we still find change so hard?
Well, for starters, it's probably best that you can't completely reinvent yourself overnight. Imagine trying to maintain a friendship or family or relationship when each day you could be talking to someone else. As it is, the immense effort involved helps ensure that you only strive for changes you're sure are beneficial.
That being said, January 1 is a great time to begin new things. Since at least the days of ancient Babylon, people have timed their projects to the New Year. Perhaps we hope to hitch along with the general tide of good intentions for the New Year. And in fact, it's not so outlandish that our endeavors might borrow some momentum. All resolving at once can help us prod each other into staying on our respective wagons.
Popular resolutions include everything from weight loss to vacations to volunteerism, but experts agree that no matter your goal, the correct mindset is the key to success. Ensure your accomplishments by keeping these tips in mind:
- Be specific - Write your goals down and keep them visible. That way, you'll know exactly what success will look like and have a good idea of how close you are. And keep at least a few people in on the plan. Going it alone can make it easier to quit midway through unnoticed. At the same time, an over-hyped goal can bring too much pressure. A few friends can provide support and motivation.
- Be realistic - Nothing kills success faster than feeling like a failure. When you miss the moon, you land in the stars, but you still feel like you missed. Conversely, the feeling of accomplishment derived from even small victories can be a great fuel to keep you going when the going gets tough. It's important not to stretch yourself too far or too thin. Set one or two goals and know you can achieve them. If you find them too easy, set higher ones next time, and keep up your momentum.
- Plan your attack - Here comes the all-important how, the meat-and-potatoes of resolutions. If you want to get more fit, knowing when and how you will exercise will eliminate ambiguity and excuses. Set specific milestones for yourself so you don't get lost out in the resolution trenches, and reward yourself as you pass each one. But make sure your celebrations reinforce your progress instead of setting it back. Don't applaud your good dietary habits with an ice cream sundae.
- Do what YOU want - This one seems pretty obvious, but a big killer of resolutions hopes is simply that the source of the goal is external. It's tough to make real sacrifices for something somebody else wants for you or thinks you should want. Positive desires can be more powerful than negative aversions. It's not your distaste for cigarettes that helps you quit, it's the greater desire to lead a healthy life.
- Be flexible - The situation on the ground may dictate that you change your tactics or even your goals themselves. Perhaps your strategy is good on paper but doesn't hold water in the real world. Perhaps changing circumstances have shifted your priorities. Allow your resolution to adjust to these realities.
As noted before, there's a ton of material and media out there to help you realize your dreams. The U.S. government even posts popular goals with links to more information about achieving them here.
So make some plans, gather your friends, and start the New Year right. Bonne chance and vive les résolutions.