How to make your New Year’s resolutions actually work

New YearHave you noticed that most people set their New Year’s Resolutions, and don’t make it a month before they give up on effecting meaningful change in their lives? We make new years resolutions a big deal, concocting grand plans, which never come to fruition because we set ourselves up for failure. Most people set up their New Year’s resolutions based on their failures from the past year. This begins the year with guilt and shame so the resolutions feel like a punishment and you end up recreating your failures. Not the best way to motivate yourself.

This year try something different: Start with a blank slate. Write down all your breakthroughs, breakdowns and things you didn’t accomplish you thought that you would and read them to a loved one or friend. Forgive yourself your failings and learn from them. Hold a ceremony and burn them. Watch the smoke go up in the sky as they are released. Now you can start the New Year totally fresh.

Instead of making resolutions, select an inspiring new theme. Celebrate and focus the New Year by deeming it the “Year of _____”. It could be anything from the Year of the New Hobby or the Year of Financial Stability to the Year of Transition to A New Career, Location, etc. This makes it fun and gives it an overarching emphasis attached to something currently meaningful to you. Then, with this theme in mind, ask yourself what you want to see happen and what you want to show up in the coming year. Make sure to include both ways you want to be in the world (for example “I am fully present when my husband is talking to me” or “I am a successful business owner”) as well as things you want to do or accomplish. Focus on qualities you want to exude not just tasks to complete. And put them in the present tense so your brain hears it as already true.

Pick fewer resolutions than you would normally. What did you shoot for last year? Try for half as many or a third as many. It’s easier to focus on achieving fewer goals than many and the psychological effect of checking all of them off is encouraging. Would you rather succeed at three out of three resolutions or one out of twelve? Since you are picking (and sticking) to only a few resolutions this year, make them count! What if it were your last year on earth? Would your resolutions be different? Of course they would. Whether it’s to climb Mount Everest, finally take three weeks of vacation (one unpaid), finish a college degree, or mend an estranged relationship, include some of those bucket list items this year.

So now that you have cleared the slate, picked a theme and built a few powerful resolutions around that theme, how do you keep on top of your resolutions? It can be very helpful to create structures to remind you of your intentions. Trick yourself into transformation by setting up reminders in your environment: Repaint a wall in your house a color that represents a goal or with the actual resolution spelled out in huge letters. Set your alarm clock to sing your New Year’s Resolution theme song. Order a case of your own private label wine with your resolutions emblazoned on the bottles. Get a piece of jewelry that serves as a reminder. Change all your computer passwords or your screen savers to keep you focused on your goals. Grab a friend, spouse or sibling for mutual support in sticking to your New Year’s Resolutions and jump into the challenge together. Using an accountability partner is a tried-and-true method and it’s more fun than doing it alone! If you can’t find a reliable buddy, consider hiring a Professional Coach to keep you on track.

Adapted from an article blogged to the coaching community a few years ago by Karen and Henry Kimsey-House. The founders of the Coaches Training Institute where I was trained to be a coach!

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