For those of you experiencing winter right now, the often cold and dreary days are ever so gradually beginning to grow longer and the anticipation of spring lifts our spirits. The darkness of winter—when animals and plants tend to enter a state of dormancy—invites us into stillness and reflection. As we slow down and go inward we become more present with what’s important to us, and within this space, we are inspired to transform, grow, and evolve. It’s from this place that New Year’s resolutions are born.
The process of creating resolutions can be very inspiring and exciting. Resolutions represent an opportunity for us to become more of who we aspire to be, to do more of what brings us joy, and to live our lives more fully. And yet, despite the promise they hold, the energy we infuse into them, and the enthusiasm with which we begin, so many well-intentioned resolutions end up lost and forgotten in the land of abandoned resolutions. A fortunate few may be resurrected from death into the cycle of rebirth the following year, but I venture to guess that most are not so lucky.
As I reflect on what I want this year (and beyond), I feel inspired to share some thoughts and ideas on how you can get the most out of your New Year’s resolutions.
What is a resolution? Resolutions are fundamentally about awakening and living your full potential, letting go of what doesn’t serve you, becoming more of who you aspire to be in the world, and inviting more joy, happiness, and fulfillment into your life. Much more than just high priority items on your master to do list, resolutions have the power to fundamentally transform who you are and the life you live.
Less is more. Resolutions require an investment of your time and energy, both of which are in limited supply. Set too many resolutions and you’re likely to feel overwhelmed, draining the enthusiasm you have for them and running the risk of relegating one or more of your resolutions into the abandoned pile. Instead, consider having no more than 3 to 5 active resolutions at any one time. If you have a significant resolution, consider putting all of your energy into just that one.
Know why. On a scale from 1 to 10, how important is each resolution? Why is it important? For each answer you come up with, peel back a layer by asking “why” again in regard to your response. For that next answer, ask “why” yet again. Repeatedly asking why until you can go no further is a powerful tool for getting to the root answer. Having a deep understanding of why each resolution is truly important to you strengthens your connection to it and greatly increases your likelihood of following through. If you determine that a particular resolution isn’t really that important and that it doesn’t matter much if you succeed or fail, then let it go and focus your energy into the resolutions that truly do matter.
Why now? Why is now the right time? By understanding and articulating to yourself why you’re choosing to commit to this resolution now—not before and later— you reduce the likelihood of procrastination. If you don’t have a strong reason to start now and feel just as content doing it at a later date, then come back to it. Now isn’t the time.
Apply the AIM-SMART framework. At this point you should feel confident that you’ve come up with the right resolutions and feel enthusiastic about starting each as soon as possible. AIM-SMART is a mnemonic and an acronym for an approach to developing your action plan in a way that maximize your probability of success. It goes as follows.
A – Acceptable Minimum: It’s not uncommon to set lofty—and often unrealistic—goals for ourselves and then to feel disappointed when we fall short. What is the least that you could achieve and still feel good about what you’ve accomplished?
I – Ideal: If everything went perfectly, what would the outcome be? Remember, this is your aspirational goal. It’s okay if you don’t reach it, and of course there’s nothing stopping you from overachieving.
M – Middle: In that range between the acceptable minimum and the ideal, what can you reasonably accomplish given all of your life priorities and obligations? This is about balancing enthusiasm with realism.
S – Specific: You can’t be successful if you’re vague about what success means to you. For example, if your resolution is to live a healthier lifestyle, how will you know that you’ve accomplished it? Instead, be very specific. A far more powerful resolution would be, “I am going to live a healthier lifestyle going forward by transitioning to a 100% vegetarian diet over seven weeks, beginning with eating only vegetarian meals every Monday from week 1, then making every Tuesday vegetarian-only as well from week 2, and so on until I’m fully vegetarian every day of the week. I am going to begin this upcoming Monday and maintain this new lifestyle indefinitely.” You could improve upon this even further by describing what kinds of meals you’re going to prepare.
M – Measurable: A measurable resolution is one that has concrete, distinct elements that can be measured in some way. The specific example above does this well in that it clearly states what you are going to do, how often, from when, and for how long.
A – Achievable: Using the earlier example again, if you’ve eaten meat every day of your life and everyone else in your family plans to continue eating meat, then becoming a strict vegetarian in a relatively short time frame may be challenging. What are things that may get in the way of your success, and what do you need to do to clear these obstacles? Be honest with yourself about what it’s really going to take to achieve your resolution.
R – Relevant: Why is this resolution important to you, how important is it, and why is now the right time?
T – Timely: When will you start? How long will it take to accomplish your goal? How much time will you need to put into accomplishing your goal? Is all of this reasonable and acceptable to you?
Be accountable. What does accountability look like for each resolution? If you’re someone who without fail always completes absolutely everything you commit to doing, then perhaps that’s enough. But if that’s not you, then consider asking someone to help hold you accountable—ideally a friend or family member who you’re confident will always be positive, supportive, and completely non-judgemental. Check in with them periodically to let the know how you’re progressing, and if you’re struggling to make progress, ask them for help.
Word your resolutions carefully. With each resolution you are planting seeds for the future, so use words that state what you want in your life, not what you don’t want. By choosing positive, results-oriented words, you plant the seeds of creation and manifestation. Stating what you don’t want takes things away—destroys, but creates nothing in its stead.
Visualize success. Imagine as vividly as possible the full realization of each resolution with all of your senses. What emotions are you experiencing in that moment of success? How will you be different? This is a powerful way to prime your thoughts, attitude, and your entire being for taking the steps necessary to realize your aspirations.
Use the power of mantras. A mantra is a phrase that you say in order to bring energy into an intention. It also takes advantage of your powerful mind-body connection—i.e. you are what you think. For each resolution, write a clear, succinct, positive, and present-oriented mantra. Feel free to weave your mantras together into a single mantra that encapsulates all of your resolutions if you feel called to do so, but not if it makes the mantra cumbersome and awkward. Every morning, before starting your day, go to a mirror and repeat your mantra(s) to yourself three times. Here are some simple examples.
- I am a healthy vegetarian and feel great in my body.
- I am a good guitar player and love playing songs for my friends.
- I am fully conversational in Spanish.
If you don’t succeed, it’s okay. Sometimes, despite your best intentions, you may not accomplish what we set out to do. Let go of any judgement you feel toward yourself. Recognize that you’re on a lifelong journey and that your “failures” are often your greatest teachers and catalysts growth. Take the time to understand what happened, and then decide if you want to try again.
- What got in the way of achieving your resolution?
- What needs to be cleared in order for you to be successful?
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is this resolution right now?
- What adjustments need to be made to your resolution in order to be successful?
- What are you going to do now?
I hope that you’re as excited about the year ahead as I am. If you would like support and guidance on your transformation journey, please contact me to schedule an exploratory conversation. It would be my honor to help you.