Every December 31st, many of us start looking back on the year and contemplating what we would like to change in the New Year. However, how many of us are actually successful at keeping our resolutions? I personally like to start on a positive note and think about what was good first. I consider what do I have to be thankful for and what was successful. Then, I focus on what I would like to change. What didn’t work out, what held me back, what made life more difficult? How could my life be healthier, more productive and happier?
American Psychological Association psychologists Carlo DiClemente, PhD and James O. Prochaska, PhD identified 5 stages of change in a study involving 872 people who were trying to change their smoking habits.1 Based on their research, scientists have a better understanding of not only how people change, but also how to help them in their efforts to do so. These stages can be used to develop a number of behavior change programs to help people live longer and healthier lives.
The stages of change are:
In the past, I have written a bucket list for the year ahead, but in reality I usually do not cross too many resolutions off of that list. I started wondering why that is. At work, I always meet my goals. Why was this failure happening in my personal life? The Harvard Review features an article by Heidi Grant Halvorson, PhD who wrote the bestselling book, Nine Things Successful People Do Differently and the first step is: getting specific.2
So I started looking at my resolutions differently. Now, I’m treating my personal goals the same as my work goals. I got specific. I wrote down steps to achieve these goals and timelines to complete each one. I learned promising yourself is too ambiguous and setting specific plans into action will help you accomplish what you desire.
Here is how to do it:
- Step 1: Pre-Contemplation. Think about your goal and consider who you are and your environment.
- Step 2: Contemplation. Research your goal, read and ask people who have experience in the subject. Get a clear idea of everything it entails.
- Step 3: Preparation. Buy the equipment you need and try different organization methods. Get a binder or a journal and break it into sections for each goal. Organize your schedule and plan how to incorporate and achieve these goals into your daily life.
- Step 4: Action. Follow your organized schedule, keep appointments, and complete all to do lists and actions. Don’t make exceptions. Do the plan.
- Step 5: Maintenance. Fix what doesn’t work for you and do more of what does. Tweak your plan and try other options. Always find solutions to achieve your goal.
Here are 10 goals to make for the year:
Plus, ideas to contemplate and make your own plan of action:
- Eating Healthy
Start a food journal and keep track of what you eat. Plan your meals ahead of time and make shopping lists for groceries weekly, so you don’t make poor last minute choices when you are hungry. Before you eat out, look at the menu online and plan to order a healthy option before you arrive at the restaurant. Buy a scale and download a health and fitness app on your smart phone.
Sign up for a gym membership or enroll in physical activities through your recreation center or join a local sports team. Get your muscles to learn something new, try tennis lessons, golf, hiking, or yoga class. Make it a family activity and do something active with a partner or your kids. Commit to certain days and times for these activities that fit into your work and social calendar and mark them in your day planner. Take before and after measurements and pictures each month. Track your progress and record it in a journal daily and reevaluate progress monthly.
- Get More Sleep
Make your bedroom your sanctuary. Change your décor with more calming colors, textures, soft lighting and inspiring artwork. Take out the clutter. Set an alarm when it is time to wind down for the evening. Read a book before bed instead of watching TV. Shut off your mind. If you have things bothering you or making you anxious, write them down. Make a “to do” list next to your bed for the next morning then clear your mind. Put away all electronic distractions, cell phones, iPad, etc. and take 10 to 15 minutes for silence. Tell your loved ones good night and you love them. Make a pact to resolve all issues in the new day. Say a prayer or meditate before bed and right when you wake up.
Stay in touch, connect with and take an interest in the lives of the people you love. Don’t just reach out on social media; call friends and family on the phone. Make a plan to call at least two friends per week even when you are busy. Write it down in your calendar or make an alert in your phone. Meet new people or connect with your coworkers. Join a networking group or fun activity like knitting night, poker night or line dancing. Plan at least one get together for friends a month. Extend an invitation ahead of time and get it in the books.
- Take Time For Yourself
Get to your happy place and cut your stress in half by doing an activity that doesn’t require anyone but you. Choose something you love and make time for it daily or weekly. Make a vision board of things that make you happy and incorporate them into your life. Maybe it is taking a sunset walk, painting, playing an instrument, baking, taking bubble baths, scrapbooking or playing the crossword puzzle. For example if you love playing guitar, set aside 15 minutes a couple nights a week. Choose new songs to learn each month and check them off your list.
- Cut Out Toxicity
Whether it is a toxic relationship, environment or situation, it isn’t healthy and needs to change. Who and what makes you sad, angry, stressed and/or feel sick? Whether these people are consciously or unconsciously sabotaging your happiness and growth or these situations cause you pain, you need to learn how to manage them. Get out of it, cut this person out for a period of time, or create space and boundaries for yourself. Talk to a friend or a therapist.
- Learn Something New
A new skill can introduce you to new friends. Take a class to help with your career or learn a new language. Search the subject or skill you want to learn, look at your local community college courses, or find an online or YouTube tutorial. Enroll in the course and carve out time each week to study and practice. Organize group study sessions with fellow students; make it fun by having a potluck or movie night afterwards.
- Save Money For Travel
Have money automatically taken out of your checking and placed into a savings account each month. Or buy a piggy bank/jar and tape a picture to it of the destination you want to visit for inspiration. Research and plan your trip online. Make an itinerary.
- Cut Back On One Addiction
Limit your intake on things that may not be healthy like eating sweets or drinking alcohol. Only drink 2-3 glasses on the weekend or eat dessert on special occasions. If you have a full blown addiction like smoking cigarettes, research quitting methods and join a support group. Think about all the money you will save not spending it on your addiction and using it for that special vacation or a new item of clothing instead.
Give back to your community. Pick a cause you are passionate about and help out. Nothing makes you feel better inside or makes more of a difference than helping others and contributing something to society. Go be the best you can be!
Happy New Year!
- DiClemente C, Prochaska JO. Understanding How People Change is First Step in Changing Unhealthy Behavior. American Psychological Association (2003). http://www.apa.org/research/action/understand.aspx Accessed 12/20/15.
- Grant Halvorson H. Nine Things Successful People Do Differently. Harvard Business Review (2011). https://hbr.org/2011/02/nine-things-successful-people/ Accessed 12/20/15.