It is close to the New Year. Many people look at their lives and decide that they need to improve their lives in some way. They decide to make “New Year’s resolutions”. I can tell you now that most of these resolutions don’t work, but you can change that.
It is not by accident that the busiest day in the gym is January 1st. It is also not by accident that the best time to buy a gym membership is after May. If you regularly attend a gym, you will see a massive increase in people the first 3 months of the year, then it turns into a wasteland.
How can you make resolutions stick? It is both easy and difficult at the same time. Just take a couple steps before you make a resolution.
1) Decide why you want to make this change in your life and WRITE IT DOWN! It is very important to write down why you want to make a change in your life because it connects the goal to the change in your head. It is also handy to have something written down that you can reference later.
2) Really think of your goal. What do I mean by this? Let’s say your goal is to lose weight. Do you really want to just lose weight? Would you be totally happy with your body shape if it weighed less or do you want to change the body shape as well? Is it that you want to get in shape or are there activities that you want to do that require a stronger and more in shape body? These types of questions apply to all types of life changes. “Do I really want to just learn to draw, or do I want to draw a specific thing?” “Do I really want to learn how to fix cars, or is it just my car I want to fix?”. Being specific about your goal helps you solidify it in your “mind’s eye”. Vague objectives rarely get met.
3)While an ultimate goal is good, we humans (ok yes, I thought you humans) do better if we have a series of small goals. If you want to run a marathon, you first need to run a mile. If you want to run a mile, you first need to be able to run a quarter mile. Set a series of small goals. “Losing weight at the rate of 1-2 pounds per week” is a better goal than “lose 20 pounds.” Think of ways you can break your goal into smaller parts. This goes back to point 2 of having specific goals. For example, one of my goals was to learn to juggle. Well, I can juggle, but only for a few seconds. My new goal is to be able to juggle for 5 minutes, with a later goal of being able to use different objects than my juggling balls. My original goal was “learn to juggle” but when I (technically) reached that goal, I was unsatisfied because that wasn’t what I meant.
4)Don’t expect perfection. I really struggle with this rule. I feel that I should be perfect every time, even if I have never tried it before. This often results in me giving up because I felt like a failure. The truth is that the people who master a skill do two things more than every one who hasn’t. A) They practice the skill more than others B) They have messed up more than anyone else and learned from it. When we get new people at work, they are always astounded with the amount of information that is in the heads of the experienced guys. I will say things like, “Be careful of this [specific type of switch] because the handle can move and cause an injury” and guys who are new to the industry say “How can he know that stuff off the top of his head?” Well, in that particular case, a few years ago a co-worker got his jaw broken as we struggled to open the switch. How do you avoid the struggle of the perfectionist? First, accept that you have improved (this is easy to prove if you take pictures, videos, or some way to track your progress. Second, don’t allow your inner “meany” to discourage you. Stephen McCranie made a great comic that talks about how to not fear failure
5) For every negative goal, you must have a positive goal. If your goal is to stop biting your nails (a negative or lack-of -action goal), you should also have an associated positive goal (maintain shapely nails or get a manicure). If your goal is to lose weight, you should have a (non-food based) reward like run a 5k, a nice bike ride, or some sort of activity as a present to yourself.
So now I will help you pick your New Year’s resolutions, even though you didn’t ask me to. I am going to help you by mentioning two things. A woman started a website called “Give it 100” http://giveit100.com/ where people try things for 100 days and post videos about it. It is amazing to see the improvement. 100 days from January 1st is April 10th. Try a new life change for 100 days and you will see some improvement if you practice each day. Keep a written log, pictures, or a video.
My last way to help you is to show you my goals for this year:
- Get back on my diet and workout plan and maintain a consistent workout plan of 4-5 times a week. 4 month reward-Schedule a trip to somewhere I want to go (possibly East Coast). Goal: Under 300 pounds at the end of 2014, 1-2 pounds a week.
- Eliminate half of my credit card debt and maintain a savings account each month. 4 month reward- A tech toy that does not increase my debt. Goal: $4500 dollars or half of the accounts at a zero balance.
- Learn to juggle for 5 minutes. Reward-video myself juggling for 5 minutes. Punishment for failure is the same thing.
- Learn to play guitar. Reward- Video myself playing guitar. Punishment for failure is the same thing. Goal: Play three songs by memory at the end of the year.
- Read the unread books in my collection on Kindle and bookshelves. Reward-some more space Goal:Not buying a new book until done with the ones already bought.
- Finish two semesters of my Associate’s Degree. Reward is the same. Goal: Complete the associates degree in one of the programs.
- Complete my first 10 speeches in Toastmasters. Reward is certificate and better association with the group. Goal: Certified Toastmaster
The total amount of extra time for all of these boils down to approximately 12 hours a week. I have a written record of my goal. I have rewards, I have specific goals, I have eliminated the unnecessary goals (even though I still would like to perform Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady” using only belches and flatulence) and I have punishments for not meeting the goals.
This year: pick one thing new to learn, one thing you want to change about yourself, one thing that conquers a fear or confronts an emotion (mine is giving speeches in public), and one task related goal (mine is school). Four goals. You can easily do four things in a year, even if you don’t do them as well as you would like by the end of the year. I believe in you, even if you can’t.