New Year's Resolution or New Year's Plan?
That Time of Year Yet Again
Every January 1st, many of us take the opportunity of starting a brand new, freshly minted year to express our desires to improve ourselves. This usually takes the form of “resolutions” or “goals” for the next twelve months. Typically, we express the desire to stop doing something bad (e.g., smoking, drinking, over-eating) and/or the desire to start doing something good (e.g., exercising, eating fresh fruits and vegetables daily, drinking plenty of pure water).
Predictably, the enthusiasm to change and improve our behaviors falls away as time passes. This is particularly true when we are hit with our first obstacle. This is hardly surprising, since we have merely declared our “desire” for change. Without any concrete plan of action, our resolution will fall apart under the slightest resistance.
Resolution vs. Plan
If your New Year’s resolutions take the form of “declarations,” i.e., formal or explicit statements or announcements, without any detailed proposal for how you are going to achieve your desired results, you might as well save yourself the time and effort of going through this annual tradition.
If, on the other hand, you are serious about changing the future you, then what you need to do is craft a detailed plan that includes the following essential elements:
1. What, Specifically, Do You Want to Change?
I know that sound obvious, but the more explicit you are about what you want to change, the better your chances are of actually achieving the desired result. For example, do you want to just “lose weight,” or do you want to improve your health, strength, stamina, and the appearance of your body? You can drop ten pounds by starving yourself, and wind up feeling like dirt. So, be specific about what you want to change.
2. What Does the End Result Look Like?
For example, do you see yourself with “ripped” abdomen muscles, Michelle Obama arms, and a firm rump? Or do you just see yourself wearing a size 10 dress or 34 inch belt? This level of detail will make a great deal of difference when it comes to step number three.
3. How Will You Bring About the Change?
Resist the urge to jump right to this step. Too many people begin with only a vague notion of what they want to do (e.g., lose weight), and end up paying for a month of Nutrisystem before they’ve even thought about the end result.
So, you don’t need to lose weight. Good for you. You are in the minority (and I personally envy you). However, the three steps outlined above are still absolutely just as helpful for whatever change you hope to bring about.
Let’s look at organizing and cleaning up your home:
- What do you want to change? Is it just your bedroom, or the living room and kitchen, or the garage, or the whole house? Narrow it down.
- What does the end result look like? Do you want a bedroom like Martha Stewart lives there, or do you just want all the dirty clothes off the floor and a made bed? It makes a big difference.
- How will you bring about the change? Are you going to do it all by yourself, or do you need the help, support, and cooperation of a roommate/family member? Are you going to transform everything in one big blast, or will you make little changes over time? Will you spend money for a professional organizer/decorator, or will you do your own research and purchasing?
Armed with these three steps, you can tackle any area of your life that you want to improve. The more specific, the better.
One More Critical Step: A Monitoring Plan
The final step is to set up a monitoring plan. For example, you may want to use every Monday morning (or Sunday evening) to review your plans and assess how you are doing in relation to your overall goal. Then, make any changes you need to make, based on your experience (i.e., the real world).
Otherwise, it will be January 1st before you look at your plan again. Trust me, I know.