Tip of the Week, December 26, 2010 and January 2, 2011
With 2011 just days away, you, like millions of others, may be setting resolutions for the months ahead. Whether your goals involve getting more organized, adopting healthier habits, taking control of your finances, or improving some other area of your life, you're far more likely to succeed if you do a bit of advance planning.
Here are a few questions to keep in mind that will help set you up for success as you choose your resolutions for the new year.
#1: Does my motivation come from within?
Adopting a resolution because you truly want to make a change, rather than because someone else thinks you should, will make you more likely to do what it takes to achieve it without resenting it. If the goal you have in mind isn't one you'd choose on your own, consider an alternative.
#2: Is my resolution realistic?
Ambitious goals can be motivational, but if they're not tempered by a dose of realism, they can be very hard to achieve. As you set your resolutions, aim to make them challenging but doable: rather than hoping to lose 20 pounds a month, for example, aim for losing 5 or 6 pounds at a time, and then keeping them off throughout the year.
#3: Do I have a plan?
One of the quickest ways to see your resolutions derailed is to try to achieve them without first creating a plan for each. Give yourself a leg up by defining solid steps that will help you work toward accomplishing your goals. Want to get more organized, for example? Take the time to write up a plan for weeding out what you don't need, creating storage for the items you keep, and developing habits that will help you stay organized over the long term.
#4: Do I have a support system?
No matter what your resolution, chances are it'll be easier to achieve if you don't have to go it alone. Find a supportive, nonjudgmental friend, family member, neighbor, or online buddy who can help you get through the rough patches en route to your goal and celebrate your successes.
#5: Am I prepared for obstacles?
No matter how motivated, well prepared, and supported you may be, chances are you'll run into at least a few snags as you work toward making your resolution a reality. To ensure that these hurdles don't trip you up completely, it's important, first and foremost, to be aware that they're likely to appear: if you're aiming to eat healthier, for example, you can expect some moments of temptation when you're faced with less nutritious foods. Believing that you'll be able to accomplish your goal without facing any challenges is unrealistic, and can make it even more demotivating when you do trip up.
The next step in overcoming obstacles is to prepare in advance for how you'll overcome them. If you expect that you might be tempted by junk food, what will you do? If your goal is to exercise more, how will you handle those days on which you'd rather do anything other than hit the gym or go for a walk? Having solutions at hand to overcome the hurdles you think you might encounter will make it easier to deal with them--and then to continue on toward your goal.
Whatever your resolution for the year ahead, use these five questions to create a plan that will make it much more likely that, come late December next year, you'll be celebrating 12 months of success.