For the last 30+ years I have made about 30+ New Year resolutions. Some of them worked, most of them did not. Which makes me a world-qualified expert on how not to do it. Here is what I learned so far:
1. Write it. Don’t just “make a mental note to self”.
There are 2 main hesitations for not writing your resolutions:
– What if I write it and not follow it and feel guilty and stupid afterwards?
– Won’t I look greedy or too ambitious to openly want these things, especially if someone finds my notes?
I have definitely been there and done that. If you just make a mental note to yourself, it is a good intention, but you are not really committed. You are prepared to do only what’s convenient. For the last 6 years my good intention was to learn French. I sincerely do want to speak fluent French and there are many good reasons why I should. But the only time I actually completed a course, passed an exam and not dropped out in the middle of the course was when I had a written commitment that was very specific “Convince my employer to sponsor my French classes and complete A1 course with Prolingua”. All other multiple times there were plenty of good reasons why there was no time or the time wasn’t right or the money should be spent elsewhere…
If you are not writing it because you are afraid to openly want something – it’s another problem. I wanted to write a book and publish it for a long time, it took me about 6 years to write it. In the early years I was a shy coward: “maybe I just should write for myself and not tell anyone, maybe nobody would want to publish it anyway, maybe I publish it and it’s a flop and people would laugh at me… “ Essentially, it’s about wanting something and being afraid to fail. For the year 2012 I wrote that I was publishing a bestseller that year. I am not a shrink, I only know what helped me: just go ahead and make the first step. It was not very difficult to send a book manuscript to 15 editors. It’s all it takes – write a cover letter and send 15 e-mails. Honestly, I could have done it several years sooner.
2. Be specific.
This one is especially true when you need to form a new habit – save money, stop buying shoes, loose weight, start exercising, eliminate processed food, etc. Set some rules and non-negotiables and stick with the program. Generic statements won’t help.
I am an owl creature and my natural tendency is to be most productive around midnight. For many years I was suffering from sleep deficiencies and ingrained a bad habit of not sleeping enough, lacking any sense of sleep discipline and catching up on my sleep on weekends, thinking I was a super-human and could get away with it. I got caught by this bad habit while going back to work 3 months after giving birth, working full time and finishing MBA in Rotterdam on weekends. I was not productive, my memory and concentration sucked, I had no energy to exercise, I ate total crap and could not care less. It was not a New Year resolution, but it was “post-MBA-life” resolution: go to sleep at 11 p.m., get 7 hours of sleep daily no matter what. Even if there is a working emergency, even if you cannot put down an interesting book and even if you desperately want to know what happens in the next series of House of cards. No excuses. I was telling myself for DECADES that sleeping disorder was “just my thing” and that “you could not beat the nature”. It took about 3 months and I got myself organized. Yes, the tendency of slipping and not wanting to go to bed early is always there. Sometimes I give in, just because I know I can restore the order the next day and it won’t compromise my schedule and focus. But it’s possible to replace a bad habit with a new one.
I have not written my 2014 resolutions yet: I came to realize that this is a serious undertaking and I want it to be perfect. Because I want it to work. Good luck with your resolutions!