As I’m writing this, it’s almost New Year – and that means that people everywhere will be making New Year’s resolutions. And as we all know, in a few weeks time, a large number of people will be giving up on their resolutions. So, the question is, how can you make sure you’re not one of them?
New Year’s Resolutions, Same As The Old Year’s Resolutions
Let’s picture for a moment our typical complacent person. We’ll call him Clive.
Complacent Clive makes a resolution because all his mates are, and he’s going along with the crowd. His New Year’s resolution is that he’s finally going to get in shape.
Clive made exactly the same resolution last year, and the year before that – and the one before that, too! Yet, somehow, he weighs MORE than he did three years ago. Why is this?
Well, frankly, it’s because Complacent Clive is not smart, and he is not committed.
Sure, he’d like to change, but he hasn’t really thought through what that means. If he stopped to think about it, he’d find that what he really wants is to lose weight without having to stop doing any of the things that caused him to gain it in the first place, or having to change his lifestyle at all.
He hasn’t followed the Action Steps, or anything like them – he doesn’t really know why he’s overweight. All he has is some vague idea that you’re supposed to exercise to lose weight. So he pays for an expensive gym membership and some fancy exercise clothes, and heads down there to run on the treadmill.
He finds it hard work, and, he thinks, it was such a lot of effort to get out to the gym on such a dark, icy, January morning. He goes again once more, two weeks later, and then gives up, and treats himself to fast food. He doesn’t make it to the gym again.
Six months later, he finally cancels his gym membership. Just like he did the year before.
What Smart People Do Instead
Now, if you’re reading this blog, then you’re not Clive – or, if you are, you’re ready to stop being him. You’re ready to change. You won’t be complacent any longer. So how are you going to avoid making Clive’s mistakes?
I’ll tell you. You’re going to make your New Year’s resolution like the smart person that you are. And here’s how.
Firstly, before you decide on your resolution, you’re going to think about it thoroughly.
Don’t just pick something trivial that sounds nice. Don’t pick the same resolution as the year before, or at least not without thinking about what you’re going to do differently this time. Take a good look at yourself, and identify the key areas of personal development you’d like to work on this year – between one and three areas will do.
Then, once you’ve picked an area to work on, identify the one thing in that area you think will bring you a big improvement. If you want to work on fitness, perhaps it’s your weight. If you need to improve your people skills, perhaps it’s meeting new people in the first place, or perhaps it’s deepening relationships with people you already know. If you decide you need to work on money, then depending on where you are at the moment, your highest priority could be getting out of debt, building up an emergency fund, saving more, earning more, or even learning to invest.
If you know your own skills and you know yourself, you should find it easy to identify something. Generally, if you’re having a lot of trouble with something at the moment, and it keeps coming up in your life, that’s a good place to start.
Now you’ve picked something to improve, you can make that into your New Year’s resolution. But the process doesn’t stop here.
In order to make sure you don’t end up like Clive, quitting just a few weeks later, you’re going to put a few things in place to make sure you stay committed. You can do this before or after the actual new year, but you need to do it before you make any purchases related to your resolution, and before you run out of that initial buzz of inspiration.
You’re going to research the area properly, and identify a set of good principles or techniques that you can work with in order to improve your chosen skill. You’re going to tell somebody you trust about it – somebody who isn’t a crab – so that they can keep you accountable. And you’re going to make it easy for you to stick to the resolution, by working with your own psychology.
Trick Your Brain Into Success
If you’ve decided you need to start exercising, but you hate going out on cold mornings, pick a type of exercise you can do without leaving the house. Make sure you know where all your exercise kit is. Put something that’ll remind you to exercise on your bedroom or bathroom door, where you’ll see it every day. If you find yourself making an excuse, change your environment so you can’t make that excuse tomorrow.
If you’re going on a diet, get rid of all the food that’s in your house that you don’t plan to eat any more, so it’s not in your cupboards to tempt you. Change your commute so you’re not driving past your favourite restaurant. Make a plan, and do whatever it takes to stick to it.
If you’re trying to save money, choose a savings account that you can’t withdraw the money from straight away, and put the money you’re planning to save straight in there when you get your pay cheque, so you’re not tempted to spend it on some flashy impulse purchase. Mute the adverts when you’re watching TV. See if you can set it up so that advertising isn’t sent to your house. Don’t let yourself go in a shop unless you need to, even if you’re only planning to browse.
Do whatever you need to to stick to the plan. If you have to cut out a crabby friend who keeps sabotaging your plans, so be it. It’s not about having superior willpower. It’s about setting things up around you so that you don’t need willpower to meet your goals. That way, you’ve got willpower left for fighting against the true temptations.
I’ll say that again, for good measure: set up your environment so you don’t need to fight in order to succeed. Make it easier to stick to your resolution than to give up on it.
Don’t Be Clive – Be Smart
If you follow these guidelines when you’re making your New Year’s resolution, you’ll be much more successful than all the Clives of the world. And, slowly but surely, you’ll start developing into the you that you know you can be. There’s no need to settle for the same old life as always. There’s a new year beginning, and, with the right mindset, you can make it a new start.