Confession: I used to be a New Year's resolutions junkie.
I'd write my goals down on pretty pieces of colored paper, fold them up and throw them into a jar, never to be read again or acted on until I realized that 12 months (often a lot longer than that) had flown by. Those resolutions always read a little something like this:
- Lose weight
- Exercise more
- Sleep better
- Eat healthier
- Stop procrastinating
And then on one guilt-ridden December afternoon (during which I found out that I was at the heaviest I'd ever been) a few years back, I realized that my resolutions were always the same. I also started to wonder if the fact that they were never realized, had something to do with this.
So I decided to do things a little differently the next year, which happened to be a week later. Something had to change--my eating habits were really running me down, and I was rapidly running out of clothes that could fit my sideways-growing body.
After an extensive resolutions review, I put my new plan into action.
After a couple of months, I noticed that I was actually starting to make progress--I was eating better consistently, moving more, and starting to look and feel healthier. My way-too-tight jeans were loosening up. Unlike previous years, I didn't let my goals slip by, so I stuck by my new strategy.
I haven't looked back since.
It turns out that the secret to making successful New Year's resolutions is to not make them.
Instead, I now resolve to do just this ONE thing at the start of every year: Make a step-by-step plan of action, depending on what my desired outcome is.
The 'success' part? It's all in the details, the minutiae that we never really think about, and often leave to chance (actually, winging it was more like it for me). For example, I turned my vague and half-hearted "I want to lose weight" goal, into "I want to lose 10 pounds by doing at least three high-intensity interval training workouts a week, cut out my late-night pasta habit, stop drinking Coke, and fill half my plate with non-starchy vegetables at every meal."
There's one more important component to my new goal-setting, plan-executing process: Everything has a 2-month deadline, not 12. This means that I break everything down into bite-sized chunks, and then review and re-strategize what to do next at the end of every 2-month period.
How's that for specific?
Now, your turn: If you were about to set your resolutions for the New Year knowing that last year's is still untouched on the plate, freeze. Don't move. In fact, I'd like you to take a big step back. Then follow these 4 simple steps to narrow down your priorities:
1. Write down the number one outcome you want to achieve in the next 2 months. Do this in as much detail as you can, including how you want to look, feel and carry yourself.
2. Ask yourself this question: "What's my big 'why'" for this outcome? This is the SOUL of your goal. Without it, your goal is pretty much just wishful thinking with no weight to pull it forward. Sign up for my free Lose 4 Pounds in 4 Weeks Without Going On A Diet course if you'd like more help doing this.
3. Now write down the answer to this question: What are the top 3 behaviors that I can follow through with DAILY to help me get to my desired outcome? For example, replace soda with green tea and flavored water at every meal, run for 30 minutes three times a week, and sleep half-an-hour earlier every night. Feel free to list more than three, but only if you're confident about being able to execute them all.
4. Track your consistency using a journal. Seeing your accomplishments written down on paper and reviewing how you did each week or month will provide a constant reminder of where you are now and where you're headed. And, it can be incredibly motivating to see all your accomplishments recorded in one place.
Once you get going, you'll realize that goal-setting and getting closer to what you want is just a matter of consistent action in the right direction, with an urgent deadline. In fact, the more you do it, the better you'll get at it, and the more success you'll experience. I promise you that.
Now...ready, set, goal!
Photo credit: Angelina Litvin
This article originally appeared on michelelian.com