Resolutions That Stick

We’re well into 2011, back into our work, school and other routines. So – how are all those New Year’s resolutions you made a month ago working out for you?

If you’re like a great many people, the resolutions have either weakened or faded to black. They just haven’t stuck.

But even though it’s February, you can still revive your resolutions get a sense of accomplishment for keeping to them. Nothing builds confidence like kicking an old habit.  Here are six ways to choose resolutions – maybe you just need to review yours based on these guidelines, and tweak them a bit :

  1. Choose Wisely

It’s important to identify whether you can realistically achieve your resolution.  Aspiring to do the impossible will deflate the best intentions.  For example, many resolutions are written more as descriptions of the end result, such as, “Stop Smoking in 2011”; “Attend fewer meetings”; and the like.  One of the best ways to achieve sweeping resolutions like these is to create mini-resolutions with the goal in mind.  For example, if your resolution is to end meetings on time, break the task down into milestones that you can celebrate.  Ending meetings on time means: Setting clear agendas and sending them out before the meeting date; sending participants reading material in advance; posting a begin-and-end time; starting on time and sticking to the agenda.  By breaking down the end objective into achievable pieces, you are more likely to end meetings on time in the long run.

  1. Tell Someone Else

It’s common to see television ads for weight-loss clinics using celebrities who publicly declare their commitment to lose weight, and many have succeeded. But it is especially effective if you tell people directly affected by your resolution.  So, telling workmates that you are resolving to be prompt with paperwork is a good way to ensure the likelihood of success.  Even if you don’t hold yourself accountable, they will.

  1. Reward Yourself

Along with creating mini-resolutions to support your end result, celebrate your successes along the way.  If you are creating agendas and sending them out, give yourself a treat.  If you’ve sent out the reading material ahead of time, pat yourself on the back somehow and if you start on time, make a celebratory note of that too.  Ensuring that you mark the milestone occasions will encourage you to continue pressing forward to your goal.

  1. Measure Results

If we want to change a behaviour or practice, we need to measure ourselves. We tend to pay attention and change what we measure.  This means creating ways to track ourselves.  If your resolution is to have more work-life balance, measurement will get you there.  For instance, vow to leave work on time, a certain number of times per week, with a gradual increase in the number of days you leave work on time.  Keep a log of the time you leave and how many times a week you leave on time.  Then, measure what you do with the extra time.  If you are leaving on time three times per week, you may log that two of those times you picked your child up from an activity and on the third time you went grocery shopping.  You may decide to forgo the groceries and pick your child up or include your child in the shop.  Tracking your progress is key to making a resolution stick.

  1. Accept Relapse

Relapse is inevitable. You may start a meeting late.  Or you’ll have a cigarette.  Build relapse into your resolution.  Allow three occasions of relapse during the first six months of your effort to change and another three in the last six months.  You get six opportunities in a year to re-start and tell yourself it’s OK.  These are opportunities to do a post-mortem on your resolution plan.  For example, you didn’t leave from work on time for one week because of the deadline set for the big proposal.  Use hindsight to see what you might need to change in your plan.  Perhaps you’ll add talking to other staff in the department before embarking on a big project and organizing people better for next time.  We usually relapse because there was some aspect of our plan that we didn’t think of, and now we can build it in.

6. Make Sure You Want to Change

This is the key: make sure you really want the change, there may be reasons that you aren’t willing to change.  Some people really don’t want to balance work and home because they are unhappy at home, and work has become their refuge.  Some people don’t want to quit smoking because they use it to reward themselves and take breaks throughout the day.  Without replacing the reward reason for smoking with something healthier, quitting will be unsuccessful.

Sticking to resolutions takes planning and discipline. But if we plan properly we are usually motivated to stay the course, especially if the change is something we really want.


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