It’s that time of year again. The first time of year. And in many ways the best - because we all have a clean slate. No loose ends dragging us down. We can put those demons to rest and start fresh, looking forward to the opportunities that lie ahead and letting go of the places in our lives where we came up short.
If you’re like me, January is a time to take stock of my goals for the upcoming year. To eat healthier (no more eggnog or sugar cookies!). And to resolve to do some stuff - good stuff - that maybe I know I should’ve been doing all along but have come up short. Or have seen the light and realized I need to move in an altogether different direction.
Everybody’s different so there’s no sense telling you what your New Year’s Resolutions should be (thoughI will say it’s a good idea to have them).
What will be the same for all of us, though, is the challenges and temptations to backslide, to loose traction on the things we’ve resolve to do and ultimately to get discouraged.
When you set new goals, it’s a good idea not just to make them but to hold in tandem how you’re going to realize them. Don’t just see the summit, see the trail that’ll get you there. And the equipment you need for the climb to be successful. It could be argued that preparing mentally for those challenges is as important as setting the goal in the first place.
I’ve given this some thought in the new year - something I haven’t always done in the past, but with age comes wisdom! And I think three things that I need to couple with my resolutions in order to have success are 1) Accountability, 2) Adaptability, and 3) Incentives.
What does accountability look like? It can be three fold. First, you keep those resolutions in the forefront of your mind by making a list and keeping it visible, maybe in more than one place. On a bathroom mirror, in your daily organizer, on the fridge door. I’m not sure I would tattoo them on your forearm (they’ll change next year!) but you get my drift.
Second, you hold yourself accountable. Checkin with yourself on the regular. Take stock of how you’re feeling when you see that list. What challenges have crept up? What’s coming easily? When might you slip and why? Be conscious of what’s going on inside you because you know yourself better than anyone else. And micro adjustments are easier to make than macro ones.
But also, have someone else (or maybe a couple people) who you give your list to who can ask you about it. No matter how strong you are, you will almost certainly find extra motivation if you remember that someone’s going to be asking you how you’re doing with whatever you’ve resolved to do. External motivators are a good thing. More on that later.
The second thing you need to do is remain adaptable.Adaptability with regard to New Year’s Resolutions can be twofold. First, you may have to change your routine throughout your day to remove temptation. If you have a cookie jar that lives on your counter top, maybe put it in a cupboard so it’s “out of sight out of mind.” Will power doesn’t just mean putting your nose in the face of temptation and resisting it; sometimes it’s having the brains to make adjustments so the temptations aren’t in your face to begin with.
Adaptability also means having the wherewithal to change your goals if you realize it’s not working as you want it to. If as you go through the first few weeks or months of the year, you realize you’ve bitten off more than you can chew and the goal may not be as attainable as you thought, don’t be so stubborn that you refuse to make an adjustment here or there. Maybe it’s minor, maybe more major. Keep the apparent “loss” in perspective.Wouldn’t you rather achieve a bigger goal by sacrificing part of the overall than losing out on the whole thing? It’s cliché but true: sometimes we have to lose a battle to win the war. Keep things in perspective and don’t be afraid to move or lower the goal posts.
Finally, incentives. Everybody loves a good reward! External motivation makes the world go round. That’s just the way we’re wired. Give yourself incentives for reaching mini goals along the way. A night out with friends. A special dessert. In the words of Tom Haverford and Donna Meagle from my favorite TV show Parks and Rec, “Treat yo’self!” (There’s even a “Treat Yo’ Self”Day annually on October 13).
But incentives are also about keeping your resolutions with insight. Sometimes we need to set incremental goals when the larger ones seem impossible. When I was going after the AT fastest known time in 2011, I didn’t look at it as a month and a half long slog. I didn’t even break it down into single days. I broke it down into segments of days from one road crossing to the next, usually morning, afternoon and night. That was manageable and attainable. And when I got to the car,Brew gave me milkshakes! I love milkshakes. :) The point is, look at your resolution in bite size pieces rather than being overwhelmed by the whole pie. Gosh, I’m really sounding hungry now. Maybe I should have a treat. No, that’s one of my resolutions! I’m recognizing the temptation, and holding myself accountable is key! :)
Whatever your resolutions, if you couple them with incentives, accountability, and adaptability, you’re likely to be proud of yourself comeDecember 31. Good luck and happy resolving!