5 Questions To Help You Make Effective New Year's Resolutions.
Forty-four percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, and I know I always do. I’m more inclined to make resolutions than ever, in fact, because if my happiness project has convinced me of anything, it has convinced me that resolutions – made right – can make a huge difference in boosting happiness.
So how do you resolve well? This is trickier than it sounds. Here are some tips for making your resolutions as effective as possible. Remember, right now, you’re in the planning stage. Don’t feel like you have to do anything yet! Just start thinking about what would make 2011 a happier year.
1. Ask: “What would make me happier?” It might be having more of something good – more fun with friends, more time for a hobby. It might be less of something bad – less yelling at your kids, less nagging of your spouse. It might be fixing something that doesn’t feel right – more time spent volunteering, more time doing something to make someone else happier. Or maybe you need to get an atmosphere of growth in your life by learning something new. (These questions relate to the First Splendid Truth.)
2. Ask: “What is a concrete action that would bring about change?” One common problem is that people make abstract resolutions, which are hard to keep. “Be more optimistic,” “Find more joy in life,” “Enjoy now,” are resolutions that are hard to measure and therefore difficult to keep. Instead, look for a specific, measurable action. “Distract myself with fun music when I’m feeling gloomy,” “Watch at least one movie each week,” “Buy a lovely plant for my desk” are resolutions that will carry you toward those abstract goals.
3. Ask: “Am I a ‘yes’ resolver or a ‘no’ resolver?” Some people resent negative resolutions. They dislike hearing “don’t” or “stop” (even from themselves) or adding to their list of chores. If this describes you, try to find positive resolutions: “Take that dance class,” “Have lunch with a friend once a week.” Or maybe you respond well to “no.” I actually do better with "no" resolutions; this may be related to the abstainer/moderator split. A lot of my resolutions are aimed at getting me to stop doing something, or to do something I don’t really want to do -- such as Don't expect gold stars. There’s no right way to make a resolution, but it’s important to know what works for you. As always, the secret is to know your own nature.
4. Ask: “Am I starting small enough?” Many people make super-ambitious resolutions and then drop them, feeling defeated, before January is over. Start small! We tend to over-estimate what we can do over a short time and under-estimate what we can do over a long time, if we make consistent, small steps. If you’re going to resolve to start exercising (one of the most popular resolutions), don’t resolve to go to the gym for an hour every day before work. Start by going for a ten-minute walk at lunch or marching in place once a day during the commercial breaks in your favorite TV show. Little accomplishments provide energy for bigger challenges. Push yourself too hard and you may screech to a halt.
5. Ask: “How am I going to hold myself accountable?” Accountability is the secret to sticking to resolutions. That’s why groups like AA and Weight Watchers are effective. There are many ways to hold yourself accountable; for example, I keep my Resolutions Chart (if you’d like to see my chart, for inspiration, email me at gretchenrubin1 [at] gmail.com--don't forget the "1"). Accountability is why #2 is so important. If your resolution is too vague, it’s hard to measure whether you’ve been keeping it. A resolution to “Eat healthier” is harder to track than “Eat salad for lunch three times a week.”
This is great food for thought for me, and something I have been thinking about since Wednesday when I read it the first time.I'm not a huge fan of New Years as a holiday, but I DO like to think about ways to "start over," or make things better, at least once a year. I take MAKING "resolutions" pretty seriously, and have been trying to decide how best to go about it this year. I think I have my goals down, pretty well. I'm not going to go huge, I don't think. For starters, these three top my list:
- Figure out how to be happier at work and not hate my job so much that it makes me absolutely positively miserable
- Lose the other 30 pounds by the end of June
- Eat/cook more healthily/responsibly
I guess I'm not sure how far to go with resolutions - what should resolutions actually be? What are resolutions, what are just plans, what are hopes, what is wishful thinking? Are there any differences between them? Do I throw everything that means anything to me in the pot, or just focus ONLY on the first three I listed above? And that first one, "figure out how not to be miserable at work" - it is the most critical one for me, and the most abstract. That's the one I'm going to try to focus on for the rest of the weekend, so that when I return on Monday, I can at least begin with that. Beyond that, I'm just not really sure... I WISH I could resolve cool and fun things, like "Sleep in 4 days a week;" "adopt more chickens;" " simplify each room in my house," "teach the Border Collie to make my coffee in the morning," but... alas... I think I'm stuck with trying to figure out how to get from now until June without hating my life 7 hours a day, 5 days a week. Oh, I should probably throw in something about dealing with the financial issues in my life as well. Whew. I have a LOT of work to do in the next two days.
So, I'm curious. Do YOU make resolutions? Do you think a lot about them, or just make ones that seem to be quickly appropriate? Big ones? Small ones? Do you write them down? Look at them a lot? Check back on your progress?
I'm not sure exactly what I'm going to do yet, but I know it's important to me to do some of these things. I made some really big changes in my life this past year, changes that have been so, so good for me, that have made me much happier. I want to keep that going, and to continue on that positive path. I'll resolve to check back in, soon, maybe at the end of the month, at the end of every month, to track my progress this year. THAT's the first step, I guess.
Happy New Year, whatever your resolutions are, or aren't!