By the end of January, many people have made resolutions and already given up on them. You can see this at most gyms and fitness centers — the first two weeks of January are super crowded, but by the end of the month things go back to normal levels. Lots of smaller, less visible resolutions (those that take place between you and your desk, or you and the refrigerator) are abandoned as well-intentioned people find that resuming the routine of work and school after the holidays makes change seem difficult.
Why are so many new year’s resolutions hard to keep?
They’re not clearly defined: If you resolve simply to exercise more or eat better, it’s hard to measure whether you’ve achieved that goal for any particular day or week.
They’re unrealistic: Our goals are born from our desires, but the actions required to achieve them have to be adjusted to the context and commitments in our lives. It’s all very well to resolve to write for two hours a day, but if you don’t actually have the time in your schedule for that, you will only wind up frustrated.
They need support: If you have ambitious goals, then planning how to reach them may not be enough. You need someone to support you in taking action — whether that’s a friend who will cheer you up when you feel discouraged, a coach who will hold you accountable for your actions, or a family member who joins you in your endeavor.
Here’s some good news
It’s still the new year. If you’re reading this post on January 31, only 8.7% of the year has gone by. That’s actually not very much. To reframe that amount: if you apply the same percentage to waking minutes in the day, estimating a day with 15 waking hours, you come up with 78 minutes.
In other words, if you woke up at 6:00 am, at 7:20 am, would you feel that the day was too far along to start something new?
Probably not. So apply the same thinking to 2013 and focus on how many new possibilities still lie ahead this year.
You can start doing something new any day. The start of the year, the first of the month, or Monday mornings may serve as external markers of something new, markers that are shared by many people. But if those don’t work for you, then go ahead and choose to do something differently right now, no matter what day it is.
Try a Five-Day Experiment
If you have a goal you’d like to move forward on this year, try this method to help you get into action:
- Pick a specific, small action you can do each day that will help you move forward on this goal. If you’re feeling discouraged or stuck around this goal, pick a very small action to make sure it’s realistic.
- Decide when each day for the next five days that you will take this action.
- Tell a friend, coach, or other accountability partner what you plan to do.
- Track your progress: put a star on your calendar each day that you take action or email your accountability partner with your successes.
Why five days? Because you can imagine the next five days. You probably have a pretty good idea of what you’ll be doing and how you could make time to take action on your important goal.
Once you’ve successfully taken action for those five days, you’ll have gained some momentum and also some awareness. Maybe you’ll learn that Wednesday mornings are not a good day to go to the gym, or that writing in the evening is better for your creativity. Then, use whatever you’ve learned about yourself and your goal to design your action plan for the next five days!