On New Year’s Day, chances are you did the same thing almost half of Americans do every year–you made resolutions.
What will surprise absolutely no one is the fact that just 8% of people keep those resolutions. (Good news for folks in their twenties– you’re most likely to keep your resolutions than any other age group.)
Indeed, ditching resolutions is so commonplace that there’s a special day for it. Appropriately named “Ditch New Year’s Resolutions Day”, it falls on January 17th, which is the date that most folks give up their resolve.
So if New Year’s resolutions are destined to fail, how are we supposed to make changes in the New Year? What if we’re not thrilled with where we currently are in life? Or if we’ve had a great year but want to make even more progress in the year ahead?
Instead of rattling off a wish list of attributes (get a perfect body,read more,start volunteering, etc.) try starting by asking yourself meaningful questions about where you are right now and how you got here.
1. Ask Yourself: Did I do anything to sabotage myself in the previous year?
“Self-Sabotage” doesn’t have to mean shooting heroin in a back alley. It means anything you might have done that got in the way of your happiness. Don’t miss the first part of that sentence: anything you might have done. There will always be sad times in life, often caused by situations out of your control. But we also have the tendency to undermine ourselves with actions that work counter to our life goals.
Not going a networking party even though you knew you could make connections there. Never contacting that possible mentor who said you could call her any time. These are the little things that seem irrational in retrospect.
2. Okay, now ask yourself: what was the reason why I did that?
We make damaging decisions because they serve a deeper need – to keep things just as they are. Putting off writing that thesis paper means not having to think about life after college. And it’s easy to think negatively: If we contact that business connection there’s the possibility they may blow us off. Change scares the unconscious. But if we don’t address change, we won’t be able to conquer it.
3. What was one thing (or more) I did that helped me maximize my potential?
Did you ask for a raise at work, whether or not you thought you’d get it? Give your business card to someone that intimidated you? While these seem like small actions, they’re positive steps towards achieving your goals.
Visualize the times you took a step forward in your pursuits and revisit how it felt. What were you thinking right before the moment you took action? What were your surroundings? What was it about that situation that motivated you to move ahead? The answers will help you replicate those elements in the new year.
4. What would success look like to me this coming year?
Imagine a day in the life of a fulfilled you. What kind of people have you surrounded yourself with? Are you working in your own office or another company’s office? What time did you wake up and what did you have for breakfast?
Yes, be that specific. The more detailed your mental walk-through, the stronger the stamp will make on your brain. Envision your day from sun-up to sun-down and revisit it often.
5.) Am I excited for my challenges for the New Year?
It’s easy to get caught up pursuing goals that society says are important (money, appearance, status) rather than what are actually important to you personally. It’s impossible to be invigorated by something you don’t actually care about but think you should.
No matter what went down this past year, this new year should be about your personal development, whether it means making bigger strides at work, expanding your start-up’s reach or taking the dive into a completely different career path.
So celebrate “Ditch Your New Year’s Resolution Day” by engaging in a little introspection. After all, there’s a reason there’s no such thing as “Ditch Your Meaningful Personal Goals” day.
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