So you’ve made all sorts of New Year’s resolutions, and now that it’s almost a week in you’re finding yourself losing traction or maybe giving yourself till February to start. How do you actually make it more likely you’ll do the things you said you were going to do? Here’s five tips for putting yourself on the road to success.
1. Release old baggage.
Often we don’t get traction on our goals because we’re lugging along a giant brick of unresolved issues. We think we can power through anything with pure stubbornness and good intention. These things that we’ve ignored, however, hold us back and weigh us down without our even realizing just how much they sabotage us–because we’re so darned used to them.
The things weighing us down can be emotions we haven’t dealt with, ideas about ourselves we’ve had since childhood, images of our bodies that keep us hiding from success, or even voices of parents and ancestors criticizing us or putting us “in our place.”
Do the work of acknowledging the difficult and hurtful aspects of your past. In order for new stuff to grow, dead stuff needs to compost. You need to work through who you were in the past to change who you can be in the future. This doesn’t have to be awful and ugly – sometimes this just means seeing it and acknowledging it, and thanking it.
This type of process is called “shadow work,” and there are numerous links and aids that your can find. It’s easiest to do this work along with a therapist or a coach, or at least a supportive group of people who are doing the same thing.
2. Be patient and forgiving with yourself.
You wouldn’t yell at your infant for not learning how to walk fast enough, or at your dog for being two slow at fetching that ball. We want to think we can do anything, whenever we want, and if we put enough effort into it we’ll get what we want. And then we beat ourselves up when it doesn’t work! We tell ourselves we suck, we’re lazy, we’re not good enough — that if we had just wanted it more, we’d have done it.
But what if there’s nothing wrong with our desire and our effort or our intentions, or even with us at all? What if life is just difficult and nonlinear, and sometimes it just isn’t the right time? When you’re holding yourself accountable, make sure you’re doing it with honesty and kindness, and if you have a hard time doing this then make sure you have the support of a therapist or coach.
3 Make sure your new year’s resolutions are “SMART.”
Now that you’ve set some goals, review them to make sure they’re SMART. Smart goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. If they’re not these things, then there’s nothing to keep your goal from just being an unfulfilled wish. All of the aspects of a smart goal are needed to make it able to manifest.
There’s all sorts of words written about SMART goals, but the elements are pretty simple. You say you want to eat better, be kinder, or watch less TV? What does that mean? Maybe you want to cook three healthy meals a week, or eat salads for lunch? Maybe you want to be say five kind things to people each day, or turn your TV off at 9 and read for an hour. These things will help you see change in your life.
The only thing slightly confusing is “relevant.” What does that mean? It means that your goal can’t just be an intellectual exercise — it has to really matter to you, right now. You have to want what it would feel like to achieve that goal, to be able to taste it, see it, want it really bad. If you don’t stay connected to this desire, you won’t make it happen.
4. You don’t need motivation – you need discipline.
Your motivation is pretty high early in the year, especially after you’ve psyched yourself up to do something — but that motivation will flag. You won’t feel like doing the thing, and may not remember why you wanted to in the first place. This is where discipline comes in. You don’t need to feel like you want to Do the Thing. Don’t beat yourself up about how you feel or don’t feel, just get to work. Ditch the drama, and just show up.
Discipline will hold you over through the little changes that occur before you see the progress that makes you feel motivated. Remember that little changes can make a huge difference. Those complicated yoga moves can seem totally out of reach, but if you keep at it, you’ll get there. A little change in diet can totally affect your energy level, and even a little bit of movement can affect your mood. Little changes add up, and you never know when you’ll have shifted the energy just enough to maybe even make a big change.
5. Have Support Systems
We often think that we need to do everything on our own without any help or special treats, but where’s the fun in that?
Connect with other people. Sometimes supporting yourself doesn’t work, or isn’t enough. Nothing beats seeing other people check in with what they’ve done, or chime in with a pat on the back for you on your good and your bad days. And, if you forget to log something in your notebook, you’ll have another record of it.
Don’t forget to support yourself! Why not give yourself little rewards or create an environment for yourself that will make working towards your goal more enjoyable? If you want to meditate more, lighting a special incense or scented candle can relax you and ease you into it quickly. If you’re a visual person, putting a gold star in your planner every time you work out can entice you to keep going. A new perfume or necklace can remind you of your commitment to yourself and remind you that you matter when you’re feeling low and like you’re not worth it.