How To Make New Year Resolutions That You Will Keep

drawingpicture1Remember the slogan, A Dog Is For Life, Not Just For Christmas? It was coined 36 years ago by the then National Canine Defence League in the UK to remind us that a dog is a living, life-long responsibility and should not be an impulse buy inspired by seasonal sentiment and a cute waggly tail.

We make resolutions at the dawn of a new year, inspired by…what? A knee-jerk reaction? Convention? An awareness of all our faults and weaknesses?

These and similar motivations help to explain why our resolutions are usually abandoned, like the adorable puppies who turned out to be inconvenient and expensive appendages (it’s okay, pooch lovers young and old — they were ALL found loving new homes).

Want to do it

It’s a fine idea to seize the fleeting mood of self-reflection generated by another marker in life’s journey, and to use it to make changes to improve ourselves and our lives.

But unless these are changes that you really want to make, nothing lasting will happen.

If really want to eat more healthily, or not smoke, or phone home once a week, or write a novel, or learn Spanish, or spend more time or less time with your family, then why aren’t you already doing it?

What’s stopping you, apart from that posse of strong-armed wrestlers who hurl themselves in your way when you are about to eat some fruit, say something nice to your unpleasant co-worker, book a holiday, tidy your closet, whatever?

The truth is that we get in our own way, coming up with reasons and excuses — there’s no time/it won’t make any difference anyway/I tried and it didn’t work — which usually indicate only that we just don’t want the change enough.

Create a positive picture

Here’s a way of identifying changes that you really do want to make. You’re looking for things that really matter to you, not things you know you ‘should’ or ‘ought to’ take on.

Think about relevant areas of your life, such as personal and family relationships, work, health, finance, social and cultural, spiritual, community and so on. Choose one or more areas in which you would like to make a change.

Now imagine yourself and your life once that change has been made.

Write it down. Using the present tense, describe what you are doing and how you are feeling. Put everything in the positive, what you are doing rather than what you have stopped doing.

  • It’s early evening, and I am going for a short walk. I’m enjoying the exercise, and am winding down after a busy day.
  • We’re clearing up after a family meal, and everyone is helping. I feel good that I learned to delegate and got everyone to adopt this different routine.

Make the picture as bright and vibrant as possible. You could draw or paint or create a montage which represents this state of being.

Do one thing

  • Decide on one action which will move you towards this picture. Do it.
  • Do it again, or do it differently

If it doesn’t work first time, have another go. If you really want something, it’s worth a second or third or fourth shot.

Keep doing it

The ideal outcome is that your behaviour becomes a habit.

You don’t have to think about it or force yourself to do it, it’s just part of who you are.

Without realising it, you have become someone who has a pretty healthy diet (note, not someone who never eats cake — are you mad?) or someone who has an orderly work space or attractive kitchen (some great ideas on Pinterest) or someone who has a regular date with good friends (why on earth did I think there wasn’t time?).

Be gentle with yourself

Sometimes the language of change can be a bit daunting.

‘Resolution’ itself is a tough, strong word. Goals and targets are helpful tools, but they can make us feel rubbish when yet again we fall short.

Just think in terms of giving it a go. And another go. Good things are worth waiting for, and worth putting in some effort for.