How to Nail Your New Year’s Resolution

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Sophie Bousset – December 12, 2018

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The New Year is such an exciting time! You’re wiping the slate clean and preparing for a brand new year filled with endless possibilities for growth, success, and happiness. Before you jump headfirst into 2019, invest a little time in preparation. Choosing a great resolution that’s aligned with your innermost desires and predilections is key to success.

Abraham Lincoln put it best, “Give me 6 hours to chop down a tree and I’ll spend the first 4 sharpening the axe.”

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First thing’s first: we know you probably have lots of ideas and are anxious to get them out of your head, so go ahead and spend five minutes writing down every single idea that comes to mind. We invite you to continue jotting more down as they come to you throughout this exercise.

There’s only one rule in brainstorming: no judgement. There are no stupid ideas. Write down all of your goals and the habits & tasks that could help you get there, no matter how silly or impractical they might appear. The point isn’t to come up with the winning idea straight away, but simply to get your creative juices flowing and come up with as many ideas as possible. Who knows? That wacky idea you almost left out just might turn out to be your favorite. It’s ok to include resolutions from previous years too. Each year is different and your circumstances may have changed in such a way that this goal will be perfect for 2019.

Don’t have any ideas yet? That’s alright. Keep reading and they’ll come to you.

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Before you pick a new resolution or goal, it's important to review the year that just passed. Spend some quiet time (doesn’t have to be a lot; five minutes is plenty) reflecting on the last twelve months. What were some of the highlights? Did you have any big “aha” moments or lessons learned? Now think about last year’s resolution. Do you remember it? How did you do? If you’re happy with the outcome, what helped you get there? If not, what got in your way, and what insights can you take from these experiences to help you in 2019?

For example, that March slump when your friend bailed on Spin classes might suggest that you need a committed workout buddy to hold you accountable. Consider last year’s resolution and be honest with yourself. Were you ever really going to wake up at 6:00 every morning to go to yoga? Or does the mere thought of Barry’s bootcamp make you cringe? On the flip side, did you zip through that online design course in record time?

Being aware of what comes easily to you is just as important as knowing what doesn’t. You can leverage your predispositions to structured resolutions in a way that will help you stay on track, but more on that in Part 2 of this guide: Sticking to Your New Year’s Resolution.

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Before looking at the “what” (your main objective) and the “how” (the resolution you’re setting to help you reach your mark), it’s important to understand your “why” (why this overarching goal is important to you). Why are you drawn to particular resolutions — both current and past? Do your motivations tend to revolve around proving to yourself that you can meet a new challenge, pleasing others or meeting their expectations, or feeling good in your skin?

Spend some time clarifying what you want and why you want it. Naturally, most of us want to look and feel great and lead healthy lives. That’s why “lose weight” and “quit smoking” are popular resolutions year after year. But if you’re choosing to lose weight because you feel pressured or because you think that’s what others expect of you, then you may find it a challenging resolution to keep.

When you understand your “why,” it is much easier to find — and maintain — your motivation. A resolution is something you should feel good about and wake up (almost) everyday feeling amped up to get one step closer. Instead of “losing weight,” maybe what interests you more is taking a monthly hike and spending more time in nature. Instead of looking for a new job, maybe this is your year to start your own business, or even stick with your current company but shift into a new department or role.

Take a moment to think about the “why” — doesn’t have to be just one — that really matters to you and write that down too.

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What do you wish more than anything else for yourself in 2019? Is it to finally get that promotion? Do more fulfilling work? Make more money? Become your own boss? Feel happy in your skin? Feed your creativity? Spend more time with loved ones? Use this intention to guide you as you review the list of resolutions you brainstormed earlier.

Start by categorizing the possibilities. For example, we’ve categorized a few of ours:

  • Physical: losing weight, getting stronger, achieving a new personal best, training for a marathon, joining an intramural sport
  • Mental: reading more books, taking a class, teaching, finding a new job
  • Spiritual: meditating, gratitude, writing, traveling, starting a new creative practice
  • Habitual: drinking water, waking up early, eating healthier, being on time, setting new routines

Now look through your ordered list and highlight the resolutions that call out to you. Are they aligned with the “why” you identified in the previous section? Do they tend to fall in a particular category? Is there one thing that stands out above the rest? It could be that you feel one area of your life needs more attention.

Here are a few more questions to consider as you evaluate your options:

  • Which of these will have the biggest impact on your life?
  • Which will have the most meaningful impact?
  • Are any of these unrealistic?
  • Are you just dying to do a particular one?
  • Would you feel particularly disappointed this time next year if you didn’t accomplish any of these?
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By now, you should be starting to have a good sense as to the resolutions you will be most motivated to stick with and why. Of course, we recommend choosing a resolution that aligns with your “why” and will have a meaningful impact on your life, but we understand that it’s not always this clear cut and easy. If you're simply at a loss, try sleeping on it. It's amazing how much work our subconscious does when we're not "on." You might just wake up with some newfound direction. If it's down to a coin toss, pick the resolution you think you're more likely to keep. The satisfaction of reaching your goal is much more beneficial than struggling along toward a resolution your heart simply isn't into.

Good luck and have an amazing, productive New Year!