My New Year resolution is never to have any resolution; a sentiment we hear from all the disillusioned New Year enthusiasts. The New Year resolutions have become a laughing stock and are termed as those one day resolves that start dissolving on 2nd January. The whole idea of people trying to make self-commitments has become non-serious and ridiculous. The common ones that are bashed and thrown out of the February window are losing weight, controlling diets, spending more time with family, starting exercise routines etc. The problem with New Year resolutions are that the celebrations that start when the New Year arrives are one-night stands and when the stark reality of the daily chores begin, it is like business as usual.
The question is how do you make it business unusual. The answer - like everything else that needs a change, doing and being the same will get you the usual results. It is only when you do something different that you will get different result. Like a birthday wish that you whisper while blowing the candle New Year resolutions are a very personal business. The very fact that it is secret, and personal and mostly undocumented, it is almost destined to disappear in the dark so, do we really need a New Year resolution menu; absolutely! Why? Because imagine leading an organization, a department, a project without goals and resolutions. Of course such an organization will be destined for failure. Let us see what a year-long goal and aspiration can do:
- Provide a direction: Imagine living day to day not knowing where you are going and leaving yourself at the mercy of circumstances. If for professional life we sit down and make annual goals, as we know that without goals we will never achieve anything, how can we achieve anything without goals in our personal life? We see so many people curse their luck, their situation, their circumstances as they are unprepared for the changes occurring around them. Do professional goals happen in the same set of circumstance and situations; absolutely no. However, by aiming at a few important goals the plan envisages what obstacles can happen and gets ready to face them. A similar attitude is required in personal life. Individuals need to aim for certain goals and then make preparations to change when things don't work. If without planning professional failure is inevitable, without planning personal failure is warranted. How many times have we criticized people who just float aimlessly in life. Thus, New Year is the time to get to milestones aimfully.
- To start anew: Normally one is so caught up in work and life that there is no time to stop and think of what to let go and what to hold on to. We are so busy making mistakes and errors not having the time to learn and improve. New Year is normally a time for reflection on the past year and the opportunity to say no to the undesirable and say yes to the improvable. In professional lives people take a 2 day or 3 day retreat away from work to reflect, analyze and redo the plans for the next year. Similarly, if we don't take a break and learn what we need to do different from last year how will we ever have a better life.
- Get a sense of accomplishment: Imagine playing a hockey match without a goal post. Players will run around for 90 minutes get tired but will have no sense of accomplishment. Likewise, most people feel their life is running in circles and rarely get motivated even when things are happening favourably. It is only when you set some targets and you achieve them that you feel a certain sense of accomplishment and motivated to go further. It is the sight of the peak of a mountain that creates excitement for the mountaineer but the base camp 1 and 2 on the way are the milestones that create a sense of satisfaction and keep them going despite almost impossible conditions. When you set a target to learn a new language or improve a relationship you move towards it and once it happens it is a great motivator to do more.
Keeping commitments to yourself is the most difficult discipline and breaking commitments to yourself is most easy behavior. Why? Because nobody is watching, nobody is asking, nobody is judging. However self-accountability is a pre-requisite for holding others accountable. To lead by example to your family or to your colleagues you need first to practice what you preach. The real reason why people avoid New Year resolutions is that they are afraid of failing and getting disappointed. To improve the success rate of New Year resolutions the following must be done while making resolutions:
i) Keep them small and achievable: While it is great to aim for the moon in life, for one year in life, start small. If you want to start an exercise routine don't say walk every day or 5 days a week or Gym for one hour. Instead say once or twice a week for 15 minutes and on days you are at home. That routine may be difficult to follow but stick to it for 21 days as it takes 3 weeks to break an older routine and almost 66 days to get into the new routine.
ii) Keep an accountability partner: We all want check and balance. Till you attain the self-discipline and become auto start, find a resolution buddy who has the same problem. Develop a mutually suitable routine with him or her. Set rules of motivating or waking each other when there is a desire to bunk the routine. There are also wonderful mobile applications available for putting you on track, giving you reminders and progress reports. But nothing can substitute the familiar voice of somebody kicking you where it hurts enough to groggily go back on track.
iii) Reward milestone achievements: As your milestones are small, they will be achieved. Reward yourself, celebrate with your buddy and motivate others to do so. Try to become somebody's resolution buddy or mentor. Helping somebody overcome a psychological barrier is the biggest motivation for remaining on track yourself.
Failure to stick to a routine is normal. The most disciplined person has bad days and weeks. You must not let these slip ups write off your resolution list. Remember it is not failing to do something that is the problem it is giving up that is the core issue. Many people get discouraged by their inability to quit smoking despite being off it for a long period of time. Failure in quitting smoking is normal but quitting to quit smoking is not acceptable. New means something that you have never done before and that is what the whole reason for being is. Last year is gone and not in your control, this year is. You can't change history but you can write a new story for the New Year. What you put in that story is your choice. As Dan Zadra says, "No one can go back and make a brand new start, my friend, but anyone can start from here, and make a brand new end."
(The writer can be reached at [email protected])