Don’t wait until New Year’s Eve to think about your resolutions and goals for next year. Set yourself up for success in the New Year by starting the work now.
If you are like most people, you see the turn of the year as an opportunity for a fresh start on life. The collective consciousness at the holiday season supports the natural urge to grow, expand, and generally improve your life, and yet more than 80 percent of people have given up on their New Year’s resolutions by February.
Whether you want to add new habits or eliminate unhealthy ones, try engaging with the following steps now to improve your chances of success next year and reduce the likelihood of your New Year’s efforts becoming another statistic.
1. Practice Before You Commit!
Many people treat December as their last hurrah (“I will eat and drink whatever I want and then start fresh on January 1”). The problem with this approach is that you widen the gap even further between where you are and where you want to be.
For this reason, try taking December to rehearse your intentions to see if you can actually sustain the self-discipline needed to do whatever you are called to do. If you are committing to starting a meditation practice, for example, rather than waiting until January, try starting meditation now. Work through the details of when, where, and how often you will meditate. Find out now if it is reasonable to expect yourself to meditate before bed at night, or if you discover you are just too tired at that time. By trying your new habits out now, you save yourself the time and discouragement of waiting until the New Year has begun only to find there were flaws in your plan.
2. Assess What Has or Hasn’t Worked in the Past Regarding Resolutions
Begin by reflecting on your New Years’ past:
- What types of resolutions have you set, and how have you implemented them?
- Do you fall into the all-too-common category of folks who have petered out after a month of effort? Any ideas why?
Some common pitfalls when goal-setting are going too big with the ideals (“I will go to the gym every single day, no exceptions”), not having enough willpower to follow through, and choosing resolutions you think you should set, rather than ones that really light you up. Be sure to be honest with yourself as you look back at the intentions that stuck and the ones that did not. You’ll need to know your tendencies well if you do not want to repeat mistakes of the past.
3. Take Inventory of Your Year
Setting the past successes and failures aside, take a full page in your notebook or journal and start a written inventory of your year so far. Include the highlights and wins, as well as the low points and challenges. Ask yourself, What went well? For example, was this the year you finally started riding horses again after all those years of thinking about it? Or did you get started on your manuscript? Or did you win the award at work that acknowledged your highest year of sales to date?
Whatever it is, write it down. And of course, chronicle the heartbreaks, the disappointments, and the roadblocks. You’ll want to look at your life with honesty and compassion. If you broke up with your longtime partner, lost a beloved pet, or drank too much causing a weight gain, this is your chance to hold yourself to the light and see what you’re working with. Try not to judge yourself in this activity, simply look back at 2018 with curiosity and self-love.
4. Identify Potential Areas of Improvement and then Focus On 2 or 3 in 2019
Looking at your life this past year will certainly point you in the direction of self-improvement. If you became too lax with your nutrition, you’ll likely feel compelled to refocus your dietary goals. If you are tired of being single, maybe this is the year you’ll feel inspired to try online dating. Or if you completed the first draft of your novel, perhaps you are ready to hire an editor and look into self-publishing.
Try to consider all of the areas of your life (e.g., career, relationships, health and well-being, home and environment, family, etc.), but narrow yourself down to two or three elements on which to put your focus. Overcommitting to too many resolutions is a surefire way to burn out before you’ve even begun.
5. What Is Your BHAG?
There is more to setting resolutions than improving the areas of your life that are subpar. Rather than only trying to go from below average to average, consider how you engage with your big goals and ideals will take you from average to great.
Do you have a BHAG (Big, Scary, Audacious Goal) that you have been too afraid to pursue? Is there some great idea that you have been procrastinating on because you don’t have enough time, knowledge, or [insert excuse here]? Now is the time! If you really want to start the year with positive momentum, ask yourself how you can take even one step forward toward your BHAG before the year is up!
The feeling you get after you have made an effort toward bringing your dream to fruition will change the trajectory of your year ahead. So, choose something big, and take one small step in its direction before December 31.
6. Start Using Positive Language and Refuse to Be a Statistic!
Now that you have some ideas down on paper, get your head in the game and start using positive, empowered language with regard to your intentions for the New Year. After all, goals don’t just complete themselves. As everyone knows, it takes willpower and dedication to follow through on anything worth having.
In order to set yourself up for when the rubber meets the road, you must be clear that the goals you have in place excite you, inspire you, and have a sense of inherent urgency to them. If you feel “blah” about your resolutions, they won’t likely make it a week, lest a month. When framed in a way that feels like you can’t afford not to pursue them, the mindset is very different. Rather than “quit smoking” for example, you could rephrase it as “take my power back and prove to myself that I am worthy of health and vitality.” By starting before the New Year starts, you have time to phrase and rephrase your intentions in a way that will set you up for success.
As the famous saying goes, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If you are ready to move from the 80 percent who fail to the 20 percent who succeed, be willing to try a new strategy and use the holiday season to prepare for your best year yet. It could be the best gift you have ever received.
Get personalized guidance to create a clear roadmap to self-improvement with the Chopra Center’s Discover Your Purpose Toolkit, which includes a free e-book, worksheet, 1:1 discovery session, and guided meditation. Get your free toolkit now.