Some of us are so cynical we don't even make resolutions anymore. Life is so busy and there are only 24 hours in the day. How can we possibly accomplish all the things we dream of accomplishing? We can't. That's a fact. But what's also true is that people are the happiest when they take bold new actions in the areas that are most important to them. And there is no better time to start, than in a fresh new year.
That's why I want to encourage you to make a few choice resolutions this January and support you in being able to actually succeed with them. You can watch me discussing the top areas people report wishing to do better and my best advice on how to begin on the TODAY show or read about it here.
1) Losing Weight/Getting Healthy
The most important thing to remember is to design health goals you can win at, one day at a time, building on small, doable gains. For example, when I was going from a size 12 to a size 4, the first thing I did was just cut out bread. Then I lost pasta. Then when I was done with all the refined carbs, I worked on timing when I ate and how late I could eat. Then I took on my liquids. If you want lifestyle change and true health, you will be thoughtful and self-loving in your design. Human beings have a very specific response to feeling deprived or punished - they rebel. Do no set yourself up for that.
Make a collage or write a "dream" statement to keep you inspired about how you want to look and feel. Reference it in times of temptation.
Also, call your resolutions "promises" and be very specific, for example "I will stop eating bread of all kind" vs. "I will eat healthier." So you take them seriously and don't forget, tell everyone you know about your health goals. It helps a ton to have team spirit, and healthy group meals, and exercise activities planned.
Let your social network know when you succeed and when you fail so everyone can root for you, support you, and cheer for you when appropriate. You'd do it for them.
Ban feeling guilty if you fail. Instead set up a simple consequence. For example, if you eat bread, you have to do a 20-minute run the next day at 6am.
2) Quitting Something
Start by naming the vice or bad habit something goofy. This begins to take the power away. Name your "final quit date" and plan the right gradient for decreasing the habit. If you are a "Facebook Fanatic" who is on all day every day, begin with a 3 times a day rule for under 20 minutes, then taper from there.
It's okay to indulge in certain things in moderation (if you are an addict you may be advised to quit completely), but make sure your moderate amount is "in proportion" to your dream for yourself. I am pretty addicted to Scandal. One episode a day is okay, but if I was watching hours on end and it was impacting my effectiveness in life, I'd have to decrease. I don't cut chocolate out of my life completely, but I eat in moderation and as a reward for maintaining my favorite weight and sales goals.
Take some time to think about what quitting would mean. What would be possible in your life? What money/time/energy would you be saving and what could you use it for? What problems would you be able to avoid if you quit and what would that make possible? Make sure you have a nice long list of WHY you should care about quitting the habit so you can refer back in times of temptation. Expect that you will need forms of diversion to help you wean. Gum helps with food, exercise can help a lot when you are quitting or reducing drugs or alcohol.
All the research shows that quitting is much easier when you have others who understand how hard it is to quit and can encourage you when you think you might falter. Because addictions and bad habits usually mask emotions or issues you don't want to deal with, be ready with a support system when that stuff arises. Quitting bad habits or addictions is one of them most difficult and heroic things you can do - one day at a time.
3) Do More Volunteering
Because we are so used to being slaves to our bosses, businesses, social calendars, families and computers, we often give our desire to "give back" short shrift. Do your research to find something that you and your companions will feel good about doing physically and spiritually. Please consider the developmental needs of the children, we want them to have positive associations with volunteering and not be traumatized. Visiting the elderly can be excellent especially if it's for an activity that kids and seniors can do together. Any form of environmental clean-up, beautification or planting is also extremely rewarding for people of any age.
Most important rule, you have to promise to do it and schedule it, period. It will never "just happen." Plan to do it with your family or friends and write it on everyone's calendar, commit to an organization that is depending on you, so you can't back out.
4) More time with Family or Friends
Even though this nourishes us so much and even makes us better in other areas of life, we often let it go by the wayside when other things seem more urgent. We need to make it a must - like brushing teeth, eating meals, paying taxes. On your deathbed, time spent with loved ones is going to be what feels like it was most important, so make sure you are investing now with this in mind.
In order to actually fulfill the resolution to spend more time with friends or family, you'll have to assess how much you already do and then decide how much you think would feel just right. I work with my brother every day, so I felt like I was seeing a lot of him. But after awhile, I realized we needed quarterly alone lunches in order for me to feel really connected. That's not hard to promise and plan in advance. I know I need 2 hours each night with my kids for eating, clean up, homework checking, talking, cuddling and "family time," so I don't schedule other things between 6:30-8:30pm. Every six weeks, I meet up with girlfriends and every week I have a date with my husband. These are non-negotiable parts of my schedule. Just like I show up to work, where I am committed to doing a great job, I show up for friends and family because I am committed to having those relationships grow stronger and stronger.
Even if you aren't working on these areas this year, you can use many of the suggestions. But remember, the biggest pitfall is trying to do everything you may want to do. Don't. Just pick 3 or 4 things to focus on that are most important for 2014. It's hard enough to create new habits. Do not make the mistake of overwhelming yourself and making the defeated feeling in February inevitable.
Make 2014 the best year yet!
P.S.- If you need more advice on how to implement your deepest desires in 2014, register for the Design Your Year: It's Time! teleseminar. If you register in advance you can also "listen later."