It may be hard to believe, but the holidays are just around the corner. Before you know it, the calendar will flip to 2020 and you know what that means: time to embrace the fresh start a new year brings and make some resolutions.
Inevitably, most of us will struggle to maintain our resolutions and achieve our goals. Whether it’s to lose weight or finally start that consulting business, falling back into the old habits that made us want to make changes in the first place is all too easy to do. Sharing your New Year’s resolutions with others adds to the pressure to succeed and the shame when you slip up.
The good news is you don’t have to wait until the new year to get a fresh start. It may sound trite, but it is also true: every day is an opportunity to start something new or start over. And if you know there are things you want to change or improve, waiting to start is counterproductive. If, for example, you need to get better organized or declutter your home, waiting four months is only going to make the situation worse and harder to improve. Instead, if you get started now, by the time the apple drops you will have some serious momentum.
Making Values-Based Resolutions
Dr. Melissa Walker, a South Carolina-based personal and career coach, has worked with dozens of clients to set goals and create a plan for follow-through and, ultimately, success. And often, rather than jumping straight to an action you want to take or a behavior you want to change, Walker encourages people to first ask some bigger questions, especially if they are having a difficult time identifying a specific course of action. For example, you might be unhappy or unfulfilled professionally, but you’re not sure whether to find a new job in the same profession, change careers, go back to school, or retire.
“When someone comes to me in that situation, they are needing to make some kind of transformation, but they haven’t figured it out yet,” Walker said. “We use tools that allow people to reflect on where they are and what they want out of life. Then we examine what they want out of work and how where they are now might be out of sync.
“It’s important to start with ‘Here are my core values and here are the places in my life where I’m not being true to those core values.’”
Don’t Try Too Much at Once
The process usually leads to a more specific resolution or goal that you are more committed to achieving. Which brings up another point: don’t make too many resolutions at a time. Usually, resolutions fall under one of the big three categories: health, professional and relationships. It is extremely difficult, Walker said, to make major changes in all three at one time. In fact, tackling one between now and the new year is plenty.
Start Small & Set 90-Day Goals
Big goals are great — but for the best results, break them down into smaller goals that are achievable over 90 days at the longest. Then prioritize those goals and set action steps for one of them.
Be Realistic and Honest with Yourself
“If you decide to start exercising and you’re a night owl, and you decide to start working out at 5:30 in the morning, that’s not going to work for you,” Walker said. “Or if you decide you’re going to exercise and you’re going to eat better and you’re going to get more sleep and another thing and another thing — that’s too many things to try to change at once. It takes a long time to make a change a habit. Anything that takes willpower and conscious thought to do is harder than anything that is a habit.”
Finally — Just Get Started
The fresh start that a new year represents is powerful psychologically. But there really is no time like now.
“I like to encourage people to think about other times that they could make a fresh start. … The key to making a fresh start isn’t picking a specific date, the key is to choose just one actionable thing — most people try to choose 4 or 5 — and then build it into your life in a way that works for you. What’s one thing you can tweak this week? See how that goes. What can you tweak the next week? The interesting thing is that once you start to make the shift, you will start to begin to move pretty quickly.”
You can learn more about setting and achieving goals on Walker’s blog at heydaycoaching.com.