Or “Five Steps to Stop this Year’s
New Year’s Resolutions
from Becoming Last Year’s Pipe Dreams”
Making and then quickly breaking New Year’s Resolutions is an American tradition. Each year, more than half of us say we will make important changes in the coming twelve months. Often with the best of intentions, we declare things like:
This will be THE YEAR…
I get healthy
I stop smoking cigarettes
I stop smoking the marijuana
I get a great job
I get into a relationship
I get out of a relationship
I stop wasting time on the internet
I write the great American novel
I cut down my drinking
I stop overspending
I start saving
or a thousand variations on these themes.
The Art of Making and Keeping
New Year’s Resolutions that Make a Difference
What happens after a person solemnly makes a New Year’s Resolution? Sadly, typically not much. Most New Year’s Resolutions fail within three months. Some don’t make it through New Year’s Day.
We get defeated. Put them off to a better time. We give up or even forget we even made ever made them.
As a hypnotist and hypnotic coach, I help people turn their dreams into reality, often after years of failure. But you don’t have to come to a hypnotist to greatly improve your chances of success this year.
Over the years, working with people who want to make important personal changes, I have come to conclude there are at least five steps to the process of successfully making resolutions that stick.
I have found following these five simple steps will significantly improve your chance of success in making changes from stopping smoking and losing weight loss to dozens of specific, individual issues.
So, take a look before you tell friends and family that this will be the year you______________________________.
And maybe next year you will be able to look them in the eyes and say “see I told you I could do it.”
STEP ONE – Get Real.
Look carefully at your values and challenges. Know what you really want before you declare you will spend the next year achieving it. To be successful your resolutions must reflect your true desires not someone else’s wishes for you.
Most Popular New Year’s Resolutions*
Exercise regularly: 37%
Work harder or smarter: 23%
Eat a healthy diet: 13%
Stop or reduce smoking,
drinking, caffeine or
the use of other drugs: 7%
All others: 20%
*Source: University of Washington Psychology Department
Every once in a while I turn down a client because he or she has been sent to me by a wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, mother, father, daughter, sister, brother, even once an employer who wanted someone to change who didn’t want it themselves.
You must be the one who wants to stop smoking, for example, not your spouse who is worried about you or your children who think it is stupid. So ask yourself before making a New Year’s Declaration, is this what YOU want? If it is, then – and only then – proceed to Step Two.
STEP TWO – Keep your goal reasonable and specific
Avoid general New Year’s Declarations like “I will lose weight in the next twelve months.” It is far more motivating to set a specific date and weight target. Avoid being too ambitious. It’d be nice to regain the waist size you had when you were in high school, but is it realistic? Vague, general resolutions don’t lead to action steps and overly ambitious resolutions are nothing more than empty pipe dreams. It is clear from the start that you never intend to achieve these superhuman goals so why bother to try?
And please one big resolution at a time.
Remember, the guy in the Airport Movie? We started out after the stress of a hijacking to say “This is not a good day to quit smoking.” But before the movie is over he is saying “this is not a good day to quit smoking, stop drinking alcohol, stop having sex with flight attendants, and stop cocaine and more.” Don’t be that guy. Pick one major New Year’s Resolution at a time and you will have a much better chance of actually making it happen.
When you have a reasonable goal that is also specific such as “I will lose 5 pounds a month and by June 1st I will be 25 pounds lighter than I am today” then move to Step Three.
STEP THREE – Develop a plan to achieve your goal
Decide how you are going to support the change you want and begin to establish short-term objectives – what behaviors you need to change – new attitudes to embrace. The clearer you are about how you intend to carry out your resolution, the better your chance of success.
Get smart about what you want to accomplish. Do some homework. Find out what the best strategies are to achieve your goals. You don’t have to reinvent the solution. Likely others have gone before you and mapped out a path of success. Learn from the successes and failures of others who have dealt with this issue before.
Avoid using techniques that have failed for you in the past. Don’t become an example of the cliché that doing the same thing over again expecting different results is a sign of insanity.
Be willing to work. Research shows that if you go into a personal change expecting it may be difficult you will have a greater chance of success than if you tell yourself it will be a walk in the park.
Make the plan daily. Life occurs a day-at-time and please make sure your plan itself is something reasonable for you. Create a plan that has an honest chance of working for you, include short-term targets and behavior/attitude changes. When you have then go on to the Fourth Step.
STEP FOUR – Plan where and with whom to go public with
Your New Year’s Resolution
Plan to share your resolutions with at least one other person. Once your resolutions are out in the open they assume a life of their own. Breaking a promise to a spouse or friend is more difficult than breaking a secret commitment to ourselves.
Many people find it helpful to have an “accountability partner”. A professional, therapist or coach, can serve that role. But it can also be a buddy who either has the same issue or simply has your best interests at heart.
And don’t wait till 11:59 PM on December 31st to start planning. People who wait till New Year’s Eve party to make their resolutions usually don’t keep them very long.
Here are a few questions you should consider
before committing to any New Year’s Resolution.
- Are your resolutions realistic for you?
- Do your resolutions reflect your true values?
- Are your goals specific and measurable?
- Do you have one major resolution (one
strong one is better than many “nice ideas”)?
- Do you have a plan to achieve your resolutions?
- Are you prepared to “go public” and ask to be
held accountable for your resolutions?
- Are you prepared to revisit your resolutions just about
everyday in the coming year to make sure you
achieve your goals?
Now you are ready for Step Five.
STEP FIVE – Work Your Plan One Day at a Time
Starting with Day One.
Personal change occurs a day-at-a-time. Maybe your Day One will be January One. Or maybe you will decide to make your 2017 resolution right now.
But whether you wait until the Times Square ball falls at midnight or decide to start right now, the funny thing about making a change a day-at-a-time is it is always today. Not tomorrow.
When people succeed at making personal changes, they move from of thinking I will take care of this one day to deciding I take care of this today. Living “one day at a time” is great advice – just make sure that “one day” is today not tomorrow.