So, are you joining the masses of people who make annual “new year’s resolutions?” If so, you are likely feeling one of two ways about making these so-called “resolutions.” You may be feeling really motivated and hopeful, telling yourself and maybe others, “I’m gonna do it! It’s time I made this change, and I can’t wait!” Others may be feeling cynical and embarrassed, thinking something to the tune of, “I can’t believe I’m actually even making this new year’s resolution. Those are always such a joke. Who am I kidding?! I’m not really going to change. I’m just making new year’s resolutions to feel better about myself for a while.” And, some may be feeling a mixture of both – experiencing hope and doubt at the same time. However you may be feeling about taking this step of proclaiming new year’s resolutions, I’m offering my two cents to you today in hopes that you will truly make the changes your heart is longing for, and that you will sustain those changes as a lasting new way of life. If that sounds good, and you really would like to see yourself make these changes, I’ve got some useful guidelines that will help you turn your “resolutions” into a revolution this year…
1. Make your goal very specific. Let’s take weight loss, for example. If your goal for the year is to “lose weight,” big deal! You lose a pound, you’ve accomplished your goal – why keep going? Or the flipside. If your goal is to “get in shape,” how will you ever know when you have really arrived? However, if you make your goal for the year “losing 35 pounds,” that is a very specific target for which you can take aim.
2. Put it in writing. It has been said that the difference between dreams and goals is that the latter is in writing, and therefore becomes attainable. In other words, by writing down your resolution goals, you are much more likely to actually reach them. This gives you an opportunity to really look at your goal and determine if it is reasonable and specific – if it is truly achievable for you.
3. Write down clear steps to reach your goal. Again, let’s say your goal is to lose 35 pounds. If you leave it at that, you are likely to really work hard to lose that first 10 pounds or so. However, unless you have outlined a plan to lose the next 10, and the next 10, and the final stubborn 5, you are likely to give up in frustration and shame (and may end up packing on more pounds than you had at the beginning of the ordeal). A much better way to approach goal setting is to write down your big, final goal, then to write down a series of intermediate goals. In fact, if your goal is big enough, you may even follow up with a series of even smaller steps to get you from one intermediate goal to the next. Put it all in writing, and make it all very specific!
4. Make sure your plan is YOUR plan, and not just a copy of what some Expert says! Achieving big goals, particularly “resolutions” that have failed in the past, will certainly take a new level of self-discipline, work, and sacrifice. However, some plans for goal-achievement just won’t fit your personality, preferences, strengths, and weaknesses. Don’t commit yourself to a plan until you have really examined yourself to decide if your plan is one that YOU can really follow.
5. Plan to succeed by planning to fail. “What in the bloggosphere could Dr. Butner mean by this?!” Here is what I am saying…you are a human being, and you will make mistakes. You will have times of failure and disappointment. It is part of the package of being a person. If you recognize this at the beginning of your quest for a better you, you won’t be so shocked and discouraged when it happens. Before you sign on the dotted line and put your plan into action, write down some specific ways you would like to see yourself recover from failures and mistakes along the way. What will you do when you gain a pound one week? Or skip your workouts for three days? Or eat a half gallon of ice cream before you come to your senses? You get the idea. By predicting setbacks and having plans to get back on course, you will prepare yourself to continue moving ever closer to that all-important end goal.
6. Include a maintenance plan. Several years ago I lost 60 pounds in about 6 months. I really needed to lose that weight, and if felt GREAT to get to my target weight. However, I failed to plan for maintenance, and eventually put every one of those hard-fought 60 pounds back on my body. Another important distinction between dreams and goals is that goals actually include clear guidelines for what you will do once you reach the promised land. This helps ensure you don’t make it a round trip!
7. Find encouraging people to be your advocates. This may mean paying for a professional guide (personal trainer, therapist, etc) for a time. It may mean talking to someone at church who has successfully navigated this road before you. It may simply be sharing a regular cup of coffee with that friend who has always believed in you. It might include joining a support group. Maybe it will begin with finding a positive Christian community for yourself. Whoever these encouraging advocates are, they need to be people who genuinely care about you and want to see you succeed. They should be people who can realistically see your faults, but choose to emphasize your strengths and successes.
8. Limit your emotional investment in people who bring you down. This may mean learning to manage your emotions, and not being so surprised and hurt whenever so and so says something thoughtless or cruel. It may mean spending less time with certain people. For some, it may even call for you to end relationships with people who have too much potential for dragging you down. For people working on getting clean and sober from drugs and alcohol, this is often one of the most difficult obstacles.
9. Make the most of your self-discipline. For most of us, with most resolution goals, self-discipline will be the heart of the matter. There are many different plans for physical fitness, financial success, and time management (to name just a few examples), but the key to most any good plan will involve growing in self-discipline. Take a look at yourself and see if you can find any areas of your life where you are showing some reasonable level of self-discipline. Ask yourself what motivates you and how you developed that area of self-discipline. Then, take what you have learned in one facet of your life, and do what you can to apply it to this new area in which you are working on new growth. Achieving self-discipline in one area of life can easily spill over into numerous other areas of your life, if you keep your eyes, mind, and heart open to the connections.
10. Remember that this is truly a spiritual journey. Whatever your “resolution” this year, you are attempting to dig deep within yourself, take hold of your best, and leave behind unhealthy ways. Regardless of your religious perspectives, taking such a journey inward, forward, and upward involves being aware of your self, strengths, weaknesses, desires, hopes, and fears at a core level – I would say at a deeply spiritual level. The more you can be aware of yourself spiritually, the greater your chance of revolutionizing your resolutions this year. Reach out to God regularly and receive His strength and encouragement. This may involve a number of different spiritual exercises, which I will discuss at a later time. (You may also want to check out my “poems of inspiration” page and read “Footprints in the Sand” and the follow-up, “Buttprints in the Sand.”)
Bonus: My list would not be complete if I did not mention the value of Reading great books – a great way to get to where you really want to go. I will continue to use my website as a place to introduce you to helpful resources for your life, including great books.
God will be with you in your journey. May He bless you, and may you achieve your very best in 2007!
With Hope – Roger