The turn of the year is traditionally the time for New Year resolutions: Those promises to ourselves to eat healthier, come to the office earlier, save more and so forth. This is the time to look ahead.
Have you ever written down your New Year resolutions and re-visited them one year later? If you have not, it is time to start: It is a most useful exercise.
When we hear the term “New Year resolution”, many of us make a funny face because we know how few of those promises will actually become reality. They are the best examples of wishful planning: We promise so many things to ourselves on New Year’s Eve, only to sober up from our resolution and go on with our ‘normal life’.
Now here is the good news: Taking out that piece of paper (or opening that file) where you wrote down last year’s resolutions, and finding out that you have accomplished at least half of them, is one of the most invigorating feelings you can experience! It gives you a great feeling about yourself, proved that you have spent your time well and gives you power for further positive change!
There are a number of things you have to make sure if you want your New Year resolution to come true. Here is my top list:
If you do not have a written record of what you wanted to accomplish in 2010, find a quiet spot and think back to 1 January, 2010. What were your dreams at that time? What were your worries? What did you want to do better? What did you want to stop doing? What did you want to start doing?
It is best to write it down, because your memory plays tricks on you. We often change our goals retroactively, depending on what we accomplish. That is okay as long as we are aware of the changes.
Now, after the previous exercise the average person will find out that she/he accomplished 30-50% of those New Year resolutions. 70% is already an excellent result.
Think it through: What was the reason you did not do what you decided to do a year ago? The reasons could be many: You wanted to travel but had no money; you wanted to arrive earlier in the office but things always came up at home. Very often you just forgot about your resolution, and you slap you forehead now: “Oh, I should really do it this year!”
The most useful part of this exercise is to realize: The same factors will be at play in 2011, and you will have to deal with them.
The secret of an achievable New Year resolution is to plan realistically. It is better to set a realistic goal and over-achieve than to set a goal that would be enough for Superman and then fail. Think a bit more carefully and set a target that you are sure you can achieve under the circumstances in 2011.
Now, don’t just make a resolution; resolve to achieve! Decide that you will make this happen, look at the different ways you can achieve it, and set quarterly or monthly milestones. Again, stay realistic, don’t push too hard! Should you miss one milestone, there should be enough flexibility in the plan so that you do not have to abandon the plan altogether.
To help you keep the energy up, pay a mental visit to January 1, 2012 the way you have just visited last year. Sit down, close your eyes and imagine you already have the accomplishment you specified in your New Year resolution. Experience what it means to you and how it changes your life. You can do this every time you lose faith in your goal, or your ability to reach it.
Again, doing this is not easy, but believe me it is worth it! Looking back and see that you have actually kept your promise to yourself is the best way to close the old year and start the new one!