It’s already the second week in January. Have you changed your life today?
‘Tis the season for fresh starts and positive life changes. Or should I say, it is the time of year when we seem to be most inspired to make fresh starts and positive life changes. Getting our New Year’s resolutions to really stick is another matter entirely...
Some people simply refuse to make resolutions at all. Why set themselves up for the seemingly inevitable sense of failure and disappointment?
Why, indeed. Personally, I think New Year’s resolutions are a nice fit for anyone committed to intentional living – and a powerful addition to your conscious parenting toolkit. You just need to approach them in a reasonable way.
It probably doesn’t need to be said, but I will offer just a tiny reminder anyway: The only person you are responsible for is you. The only person’s life that you can successfully improve is your own. So if you are hoping to reduce family strife or improve family finances, start by taking a good look at your own behavior and see what needs a little sprucing up.
The key to success? Let it be easy. Here’s how.
The (Easy) Three Step Plan for Successful Resolutions
Step 1: Focus on actions, not outcomes. Aiming for big, lofty goals is all well and good. (How else would we ever have landed on the moon?) The trouble comes in trying to figure out how to get there from here. When you are working on resolutions, you might be better served by selecting concrete actions that will move you in the direction of your goal. (Baby steps, people!)
Step 2: Make resolutions (i.e., choose actions) that are 100% doable right now. Forget anything that requires resources or capabilities that are not available to you in this moment. If you need an advanced degree, an infusion of cash, or a new spouse to perform this action, choose something else.
Step 3: Make a 30-day, daily commitment to perform your chosen activity. When you think about it, what you are really trying to do is build new habits that make your desired outcome inevitable. This takes between twenty-one and thirty days of consistent practice (per habit).1 For our purposes, let’s align ourselves with the monthly calendar. You can do anything for just thirty days, right? Four weeks is nothing.
Are you ready? Start today. Don’t worry – you’ve still got over twenty-one days left ‘til the end of January. And besides, on February 1st you get to start the process all over again. Mark it on your calendar and prepare to celebrate. Once you’ve finished commemorating your initial victories, you can make a couple new resolutions (or select a couple new habits), to work on in February.
Just keep working in thirty-day increments, taking small steps that will move you closer and closer to your goals. You will be amazed at how your life will have changed, come this time next year!
Okay, let’s make it even easier. Here are some examples, to get you thinking.
ü If your goal is to get in shape, make a resolution to walk for thirty minutes every day after lunch, for the next thirty days.
ü If your goal is to have more energy and a more positive outlook, make a resolution (for the next thirty days) to put yourself to bed one half hour earlier than usual.
ü If your goal is to eat more healthy foods (or lose weight) resolve to avoid all sugar consumption after 3:00pm, for thirty days in a row.
ü If your goal is to live more lightly on the planet, for the next thirty days, resolve to only purchase items that are necessary and consumable (like food.)
ü If your goal is to be more spiritually centered, resolve to meditate every day at twelve noon, for at least fifteen minutes... for the next thirty days.
ü If your goal is to experience greater family harmony, resolve to meditate every day just before your children get home from school – or just before your spouse comes home from work – for at least fifteen minutes... for the next thirty days.
You see? Nice, easy steps. And now, here are a couple final suggestions, to ensure your success.
First, set up a reminder system. Try posting your resolutions on your bathroom mirror, where you will see them first thing in the morning and before you go to bed. If you are resolving to meditate at twelve noon each day, set the alarm on your watch to keep you from missing out on this precious gift.
Next, consider enlisting some support. Don’t tell everyone you know... who needs that kind of pressure? Maybe tell one supportive friend, who can call you a couple times a week to offer moral support and encouragement.
Supercharge your resolutions with some positive visualization. When you go to bed each night, before drifting off to dreamland, visualize yourself performing the action you have committed to. Even if you failed to complete your resolution that day – especially if you failed to complete your resolution that day – picture yourself doing it successfully and joyfully. Experience how good it feels to keep your commitments to yourself!
Relax. Have fun. You can do this. I am visualizing your success right this minute.
Do you want to build a conscious parenting goal into your New Year’s resolutions? Check out, "10 Ways to Be a Conscious Parent."
Sometimes taking better care of yourself is a necessary first step to improving your life. Read more about self-care in, "The Perfect Gift."
1 Dr. Maxwell Maltz is widely credited with identifying the human brain’s need for twenty-one days of consistent practice, to synthesize a major life change. You can read about Dr. Maltz’ teachings in his classic self-help book (updated in 2002 by Dan S. Kennedy), New Psycho-Cybernetics.