The Right Questions to Ask to in Order to Make an Effective New Year’s Resolution
What resolution could you make for this next year that, if you were successful in making the change, would really improve your life?
Do you want to give up smoking? Maybe you want to go on a diet, lose some weight and get into shape? Perhaps you want to learn a language? It could be that you want to achieve a better work-life balance, change careers or start a new pastime.
Whatever it is you that want to achieve, you need to do some thinking if you want your resolution to stick and you want to succeed in your goal. Here are some questions that you can ask in order to make your decision more effective.
Why do you want to make the resolution?
What is driving your decision? Why do you want to make a change? Understanding why we want to do something helps us to establish our motivation. This is important, as we need to really value something if we are going to succeed. If we are going to make a change, especially something that will be a challenge, then we need to prioritise it. The first couple of days after making your decision are likely to be the easiest, as you are carried along by your enthusiasm. After that, it gets harder and when it does you will start to question why you made that particular choice in the first place. Spend some time writing down the answers to the ‘why’ question. This will help fix the answers in your mind and remind you of their importance when things get tough.
Where do you see yourself when you achieve your goal?
What are you dreaming of? What is the picture of the thing you want to achieve? Being able to envision the endpoint is a very important psychological aid to success. If you want to change your career then maybe the picture in your minds-eye is of you walking into your ideal workplace for the first day of your new job. If you want to learn a language the dream might be you ordering a meal for some friends in another country. Whatever it is, make that picture real to you. Use your imagination to make the colours bright, the sounds loud, the smells and tastes inviting, and you will be consciously and subconsciously drawn towards that idea.
What is your definition of success?
How will you know when you have achieved your purpose? What is the finish line? As well as having a dream it is important to identify the exact parameters for success so you have something definite to aim for. This is often called a ‘mission statement’ and it should be something short, memorable and clear in meaning. For example, if you wanted to get in better shape your mission could be “To lose ten pounds in weight” or “To run a half-marathon”. However you craft your mission statement, make sure that your terms are specific, so you will be certain when you have fulfilled them.
How will you achieve your aim?
Once you have defined what you want to achieve, you then need to work out how you are going to do it. In other words, you need a plan. One simple way to make a plan is to break down your goal into several smaller tasks. For instance, if you are learning a language – even in just three to six months – it can be hard to measure your progress. Therefore you can set smaller steps that feel more tangible; such as learning ten new words a day or setting yourself a week to finish a particular section of your course. You can then note these steps down in a journal, or on a calendar, and you have a plan. Writing the tasks down in a to-do list will also give you the satisfaction of ticking each thing off as you achieve it. This will help to reinforce your motivation.
Who can help you with your decision?
Who can you speak to that has the experience or skills to help you succeed? There could be someone you know who has already done the thing you want to do. Alternatively, you might just want someone you trust who can support you in your goal. It may be that you want a person outside your normal network such as a professional coach. Whether the person you choose is an expert or not, winning through is much easier if you are accountable to someone else. As soon as you have made your resolution share your decision with another person. Give that person permission to regularly challenge you on how you are doing. If they know you well they will recognise how best to encourage you: whether that is a kind word or a kick up the backside!
When do you want to achieve your aim?
The New Year feels like a time of new beginnings and is opportune for making decisions. As well as picking a good time to make a resolution it is also worthwhile thinking about when you want to complete your goal. A whole year is perhaps too big a time frame, so it is worth identifying something shorter and breaking the goal into smaller tasks if necessary. For example, if you wanted to quit smoking then your mission could be “To not purchase, accept or smoke a single cigarette for the next forty days.” This statement gives clear parameters (not to purchase, accept or smoke a cigarette) as well as a timed measure of success; here being forty days. Forty days may sound arbitrary but studies have shown that you can establish a new habit in twenty to forty days. In other words, if you can create a new pattern in life for that long, there is a good chance that you will have established a more permanent change.
Which things will stop you from achieving your goal?
What are the risks that you face? What could cause you to fail? Whatever it is you are choosing to do, you can be sure that it will not be as easy to achieve as you would like. Take some time to consider the obstacles in your path. Identify the top five or ten circumstances that could hinder your progress and then make a plan to avoid or reduce those risks. Being aware of the potential risks and having a contingency plan will make sure that any setback need not lead to failure.
Now go for it!
If you have addressed all these questions then you should have a very good chance of success with your decision. Let me wish you all the best with your resolution and I hope this next year is a great one for you!