Making and Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions

 

“First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.” — Epictetus

If you want to make a change, start now instead of waiting for some arbitrary date on the calendar. Or at least that’s what I tell myself when new year’s resolution time rolls around. Then comes January 17 and March 22 and October 12 and I still haven’t gotten around to setting some modest goals let alone achieving them.

So, 2018 is one of the rare years I’ll actually write down some resolutions. I haven’t done this in several years, however, so I’ve accumulated so many goals that I’ll fill up several color-coded Excel spreadsheets and need to borrow an architect’s plotter printer for the Gantt chart. Hopefully, I can thin down my list before the clock strikes Midnight.

According to US News, a majority of resolutions fail. Despite that, research shows that resolutions are still a good idea since it moves our goals from contemplation to action:

“I was tired of people saying resolutions never succeed, we shouldn’t even try them,” said Dr. John Northcross, a clinical psychologist at the University of Scranton. So Northcross decided to study people who had the same goals as resolution-makers, and who wanted to make a change, but who didn’t make a formal resolution.

What he found was impressive: 46 percent of resolution-makers successfully worked toward their goal, while only 4 percent of those who didn’t make a resolution saw their desired outcome become a reality six months later.

In other words, you might not lose the 25 lbs. you wanted but losing 14 is still an awesome accomplishment. If you make resolutions this year, here are a few tips to make them stick:

Be specific. The most common resolution is “lose weight.” But if you leave it at those two words, it’s unlikely to happen. Instead, say that you want to lose X pounds by X date.

Have a strategy. Break down the goal into bite-sized pieces, such as “get to the gym three times a week” and don’t drive by Darryl’s Donut Drive-Thru on your morning commute.

Monitor your progress. Read through all your goals weekly and track your progress.

Write the reasons you set your goal. Being X pounds lighter will lower my blood pressure, help me be there to see my grandchildren, and when Becky sees me at the high school reunion she’ll regret that break-up in 10th grade.

When you add, you need to subtract. If you plan to invest a few hours a week at the gym, a few hours of other stuff will have to go. Make room for new habits.

One last quote from my favorite old, dead Greek guy:

“Now is the time to get serious about living your ideals. How long can you afford to put off who you really want to be? Your nobler self cannot wait any longer. Put your principles into practice – now. Stop the excuses and the procrastination. This is your life! You aren’t a child anymore. The sooner you set yourself to your spiritual program, the happier you will be. The longer you wait, the more you’ll be vulnerable to mediocrity and feel filled with shame and regret, because you know you are capable of better. From this instant on, vow to stop disappointing yourself. Separate yourself from the mob. Decide to be extraordinary and do what you need to do – now.” — Epictetus

Are you making resolutions this year? What tips to you have for keeping them?

There are 15 comments.

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  1. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: What he found was impressive: 46 percent of resolution-makers successfully worked toward their goal, while only 4 percent of those who didn’t make a resolution saw their desired outcome become a reality six months later.

    This strikes me as a sentence desperately in need of parsing. Use the example of losing 25 pounds. The resolution makers ‘successfully worked toward their goal‘. What does that mean? They tried for a week and then gave up? Whereas the non resolution makers were required to achieve their goal to be counted. Sounds like apples and oranges.

    • #1
  2. Chris Campion Coolidge
    Chris Campion
    @ChrisCampion

    I think resolutions timed around these annual dates are the equivalent of wanking.

    Jon’s tips for taking small bites of things, having very specific goals and milestones along the way (so you feel some satisfaction of achievement) is the only way to make real change. Most change that needs to happen can’t be done in one big bite of the enchilada. The best things worth doing, or having, take some work, every day. Job, relationships, exercise, you name it. There’s no shortcuts and you can’t really take time off from it. It should become part of your life.

    But you can’t do it all at once. I had a brain injury in 2002 that put me in a wheelchair. Ran my first half marathon in 2007. I’ve run 38 of them since 2007, logging something like 4,200 miles in 10 years.

    It was a long, slow walk (literally) from a wheelchair, to standing unassisted, to walking with a walker, then a cane, then walking hands-free, then actually running again for the first time (chaotically down a hallway at rehab, but it was running). None of that came all at once.

    Little bites of work. One at a time. Consistently done.

    That’s the only way permanent change happens. The rest is wanking.

    • #2
  3. DrewInWisconsin Coolidge
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Chris Campion (View Comment):
    I think resolutions timed around these annual dates are the equivalent of wanking.

    • #3
  4. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    You want to join us for a 90-Day Challenge, Jon?

    http://ricochet.com/481859/it-begins-again/

    • #4
  5. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    “First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.” — Epictetus

    That would have been a good subject for an article. In the event, the article, and all the comments so far, and all the comments to come will be on the opposing doctrine:

    “First say to yourself what you have to do, then wonder why you have failed.”

    No need to wonder. Just read the quote from Epictetus.

    • #5
  6. The Other Diane Coolidge
    The Other Diane
    @TheOtherDiane

    Chris Campion (View Comment):
    I think resolutions timed around these annual dates are the equivalent of wanking.

    Jon’s tips for taking small bites of things, having very specific goals and milestones along the way (so you feel some satisfaction of achievement) is the only way to make real change. Most change that needs to happen can’t be done in one big bite of the enchilada. The best things worth doing, or having, take some work, every day. Job, relationships, exercise, you name it. There’s no shortcuts and you can’t really take time off from it. It should become part of your life.

    But you can’t do it all at once. I had a brain injury in 2002 that put me in a wheelchair. Ran my first half marathon in 2007. I’ve run 38 of them since 2007, logging something like 4,200 miles in 10 years.

    It was a long, slow walk (literally) from a wheelchair, to standing unassisted, to walking with a walker, then a cane, then walking hands-free, then actually running again for the first time (chaotically down a hallway at rehab, but it was running). None of that came all at once.

    Little bites of work. One at a time. Consistently done.

    That’s the only way permanent change happens. The rest is wanking.

    WOW. Thank you so much for sharing your experience, @chriscampion. I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve been whining recently about the exercise adaptations I make for nagging plantar fasciitis. Will think of you as I work around any limitations and make progress one small step at a time next year. Hope to meet you at an NC meetup some time!

    • #6
  7. barbara lydick Inactive
    barbara lydick
    @barbaralydick

    Chris Campion (View Comment):
    It was a long, slow walk (literally) from a wheelchair, to standing unassisted, to walking with a walker, then a cane, then walking hands-free, then actually running again for the first time (chaotically down a hallway at rehab, but it was running). None of that came all at once.

    Little bites of work. One at a time. Consistently done.

    I, like The Other Diane, am truly impressed with you determination and ultimate success. Yours is a story that inspires others. Thank you for sharing. And Happy New Year!

    • #7
  8. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    I resolved to quit smoking on New Year’s Day in 2005. I did. I quit and haven’t smoked a single cigarette since. So I have huge, superstitious reverence for the power of New Year’s resolutions.

    I can’t quite recall making or keeping another one, though. Oh, yes: The year after that, I vowed to run a marathon, but I managed to injure myself so badly by February that it didn’t happen. (I did run one, subsequently, but I worked up to it in a more sensible way.)

    I believe in New Year’s resolutions. I reckon I’d still be smoking were it not for their magical power.

    • #8
  9. Chris Campion Coolidge
    Chris Campion
    @ChrisCampion

    Claire Berlinski, Ed. (View Comment):
    I resolved to quit smoking on New Year’s Day in 2005. I did. I quit and haven’t smoked a single cigarette since. So I have huge, superstitious reverence for the power of New Year’s resolutions.

    I can’t quite recall making or keeping another one, though. Oh, yes: The year after that, I vowed to run a marathon, but I managed to injure myself so badly by February that it didn’t happen. (I did run one, subsequently, but I worked up to it in a more sensible way.)

    I believe in New Year’s resolutions. I reckon I’d still be smoking were it not for their magical power.

    It wasn’t magic that made the smoking stop. It was Claire.

    • #9
  10. Chris Campion Coolidge
    Chris Campion
    @ChrisCampion

    The Other Diane (View Comment):

    Chris Campion (View Comment):
    I think resolutions timed around these annual dates are the equivalent of wanking.

    Jon’s tips for taking small bites of things, having very specific goals and milestones along the way (so you feel some satisfaction of achievement) is the only way to make real change. Most change that needs to happen can’t be done in one big bite of the enchilada. The best things worth doing, or having, take some work, every day. Job, relationships, exercise, you name it. There’s no shortcuts and you can’t really take time off from it. It should become part of your life.

    But you can’t do it all at once. I had a brain injury in 2002 that put me in a wheelchair. Ran my first half marathon in 2007. I’ve run 38 of them since 2007, logging something like 4,200 miles in 10 years.

    It was a long, slow walk (literally) from a wheelchair, to standing unassisted, to walking with a walker, then a cane, then walking hands-free, then actually running again for the first time (chaotically down a hallway at rehab, but it was running). None of that came all at once.

    Little bites of work. One at a time. Consistently done.

    That’s the only way permanent change happens. The rest is wanking.

    WOW. Thank you so much for sharing your experience, @chriscampion. I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve been whining recently about the exercise adaptations I make for nagging plantar fasciitis. Will think of you as I work around any limitations and make progress one small step at a time next year. Hope to meet you at an NC meetup some time!

    If they have one – I’ll try to be there.

    C

    • #10
  11. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    New Year’s Resolution: set one small goal on January 1 and follow it through.

    Actually, my goal is one project per week. It can be anything – organize tupperware cupboard, clean pantry, sew a dress, or recaulk the bathroom. The goal is basically accomplish a weekly goal.

    For fitness/weight loss, it’s go to the gym 3x this week and no soda. For the week. I’ll have 52 new year’s resolutions this year.

    On a funny note, this year is the perfectionist’s dream year. January 1 is on Monday!

    • #11
  12. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    I started something several years ago that has worked well. I have two long skinny pads side by side.

    On the right pad is long term. IE get all prices updated on website, scan the boxes of pictures I inherited from my mom, work on taxes.

    On the left is specific tasks related to the long term goals, IE update blade prices, get through one box of pictures, upload pics to the cloud. I add things like clean out closet, pay bills etc.

    Using this system I have managed to get through several seemingly insurmountable projects, settling my mother’s estate, building a new website, completely emptying our two car garage and converting it into an apartment.

    I have found it helpful to remind myself to pay bills, but also to keep long term projects front and center to keep nibbling away at them

    I still forget to make dinner though. My husband is convinced I’m the only person who thinks the world might end before 6:00, so why bother ?

    • #12
  13. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    We expect people to fail when they make New Year’s Resolutions. More so when they are born of booze and hope or hangovers and regret.

    I recommend not making a “New Year’s Resolution” but instead making a resolution somewhere around the turn of the year in sober private reflection.

    • #13
  14. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    “It wasn’t magic that made the smoking stop. It was Claire.”

    Yes, but when Claire (or anyone) believes in magic, it helps.

    • #14
  15. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Claire Berlinski, Ed. (View Comment):
    “It wasn’t magic that made the smoking stop. It was Claire.”

    Yes, but when Claire (or anyone) believes in magic, it helps.

    Not smoking while in France requires serious mojo.

    • #15

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