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January 12, 2016

New Year’s Resolutions that Stick: Part 2

Part 1 of this blog series discussed the foundational steps required to firmly ground your New Year’s resolutions. This important work of identifying fundamental areas of desired change, and isolating which areas align with your values and future vision, helps increase the stickiness of your intentions for the New Year. In others words, those steps shouldn’t be skipped.

At some point, however, you’ve got to put pen to paper and begin crafting concrete resolution statements. Here, in Part 2 of this three-part series, we’ll examine tips for doing so in the most effective way.

Writing anything down makes it more real.  When intentions are kept in the nebulous realm of our minds, they’re too easily forgotten or disregarded. When we take them out of our minds and add some structure and detail, they become powerful guides of our attitudes and behavior.

Here are five tips for writing effective resolution statements:

  1. Make Your Resolutions Ongoing: As I mentioned in Part 1 of this series, effective resolutions have ongoing and habitual implications throughout the year, as opposed to a vague intention or a one-time to-do item. True resolutions involve repeated actions that become a permanent part of how you live and relate to others. For example, you may have a desire to lose some weight in the New Year, but an effective resolution would be to integrate a certain type of physical activity into your daily or weekly routine. As we’ll see in the following tips, pairing resolutions with a concrete goals and milestones can be a powerful combination.
  1. Ensure Your Resolutions are Specific:  Even though your resolutions are meant to be statements of ongoing action, they still need to be specific. Specificity is what translates your resolutions from good intentions into ongoing activities. The details of how you’ll manifest your intentions give you a roadmap, and hold you accountable. Why? Because actions that are specified can be tracked. It’s why we sometimes resist specificity in commitments, as subconsciously we know it means we’ll be held to real change and action.

Here is an example of what I mean:
a. Nebulous Resolution: I’d like to read more
b. Effective Resolution (specific and ongoing): I will read three days every week for at least 30 minutes
c. Associated Goal/Milestone: I will have read 4 books by March 2016

Statement b above is specific and measurable while also relating to ongoing actions. It puts the emphasis on what activities I will integrate into my life on a regular basis.

  1. Augment Your Resolutions with Supporting Milestones: As illustrated and mentioned above, you can augment your resolutions with associated goals and milestones. Goals supplement resolutions by providing a measurable end-state, while milestones provide concrete check-in points along the way. They give you visibility into the pace at which you’re progressing, and provide an opportunity to evaluate your resolutions and adjust them when needed. I recommend quarterly milestones, although they could also be set at more regular intervals. Similar to your resolution statements, milestones should be specific and quantifiable in nature. The combination of resolutions, goals and milestones gives you a complete framework for effectively managing desired change.
  1. Focus on an Attainable Number of Resolutions: It can be tempting for the perfectionist and overachiever in all of us to end up with a long list of resolutions that, in reality, aren’t likely attainable. Because resolutions require that you integrate new behaviors or actions into your daily life, there’s only so much change you can successfully integrate at one time. My recommendation is to choose three areas of desired change, and to develop one to two resolutions for each area. At the most, however, I wouldn’t recommend you go beyond four to five resolutions in total. If you’re committed to true integration and sustainability of new actions, focus on the few resolutions that will create the most transformation and fulfillment.
  1. Achieve a Mix of Lofty and Easy Resolutions: In addition to focusing on a small handful of the most impactful resolutions, be aware of the amount of challenge each resolution represents. I would recommend that you craft at least one resolution that is smaller in scope than the others and that can be put into action relatively easily. This will give you an immediate sense of accomplishment and will propel you forward in the integration of more challenging resolutions.

Next, in the final blog entry of this three-part series, we’ll look at additional ways to increase the stickiness and sustainability of your New Year’s resolutions after you’ve started to put them into practice.

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