Creating Sticky Resolutions

It’s that time of year again! We are going to make ourselves all sorts of promises, both at work and at home! We will eat better. We will get organized. We will structure our day differently. We will be productivity geniuses! We are going to be kinder, get stronger, and become enlightened! We are going to be AMAZING in 2017!

Well…and then January 15 rolls in. The real world has taken hold. We are no more organized, we are still eating leftover holiday treats, and we are no more enlightened. In fact, we may be discouraged. What went wrong? How could our best intentions have landed us here? Here are some tips to make sure your resolutions stick and don’t bounce right past 2017:

Be Reasonable. It is not reasonable to expect yourself to undergo some drastic transformation beginning January 1. You cannot assume that when you wake up that day, 5, 10 or even 20 years of bad habits will magically be broken. New behaviors take time to become habits. Give yourself the time and space to create new habits by setting incremental goals for yourself.

For example, if you haven’t been to the gym since legwarmers and Cyndi Lauper were popular, it may not be reasonable to think that you will be at boot camp class at 5 a.m., six days a week. Be reasonable. Remember, the goal is lasting change, not utter exhaustion and an inability to walk upstairs without pain, causing you to give up on your fitness goal completely.

Be Realistic. January 1 is not the day to change absolutely everything. Pick one thing. Or two things. But be realistic. And break down those larger goals into more manageable pieces. Behavior analysts call this “successive approximations.” You have a goal to get to bed earlier, but right now, your tablet screen is still lighting your room at 2 a.m. Don’t torture yourself by instituting a 9 p.m. bedtime. That’s a 5-hour change! Successive approximations! Start with maybe 1:30 a.m. for a week or so. And then inch your bedtime back to 1 a.m. Then 12:30 a.m. You get it. If the goal is lasting change, then avoid demanding that you reach your goal immediately. Be realistic.

Be Positive. It is okay to reward yourself. Sometimes it takes a little extrinsic motivation to get changes moving until your intrinsic motivation takes hold. Help yourself build momentum for your successive approximations. Get yourself new running shoes. Buy a book to help wind down. Find a new journal to encourage yourself to write more. It helps if your reward connects to your goal—but it doesn’t have to. However, your reward should not be counterproductive to your goal. That’s like being consistently tempted by the dark side. Or dark chocolate. Don’t do it.

Be Social. Talk about your goals. Tell people you work with. Tell your friends and family. Or tell your accountability partner. But tell SOMEONE. Sharing your commitment to change allows others the permission to check in on your progress, provide support when you need it, and give that positive reinforcement when you are clearly killing your goal.

Be Patient. This may be the most challenging part of achieving a goal. Be patient with yourself and forgive yourself. It is okay if you fall off the wagon. Falling off is not the end of the world. STAYING OFF is where your goals will end. Pick yourself back up. Dust yourself off. And spend a moment thinking: Do you need to make your goal more incremental? Do you need more support? Do you need more motivation? Is your goal realistic and reasonable? And then get back up there. Go crush that goal!

2017 will no doubt be a year of change. It is up to you to decide what that change looks like. So go think about your own self-improvement journey and take one step toward that goal. And make it stick! Sticky resolutions become habits, and habits frame who you are!

“The only person you should try to be better than is the person you were yesterday.” ~Unknown

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