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Keeping Resolutions Beyond January

FEBRUARY 11, 2016

So you had a week or two off for the holidays. You finally got a little space, even if not enough, to think and take stock of things. Maybe you were able to take a step back and get perspective on your year. To see what you liked about what was happening in your world. And to question the things that were either missing or not quite right. 

As you rang in the new year, you felt full of resolve. You thought to yourself, "this year I'm going to do more of this, less of this and be better at doing this". Maybe you even jotted down a list of resolutions or goals for the year. 

On January 1st you woke up with the motivation that comes with a beautiful clean slate like a brand new year stretched before you. You hopped out of bed and started taking action on your goals. You followed your resolutions perfectly. All day. And perhaps for the following days or weeks. But then, something came up. Maybe work got busy again or you had new family commitments to take on. You found yourself slightly losing focus on your those resolutions you had been so passionate about just days before. You skip a day. Or a few days. Then you think, "I will get back on track next week". Next week comes and goes, along with many more. Months pass. Suddenly, there you are, back at the holidays, once again writing your resolutions. Thinking, "This really will be the year I implement these things. This year, I really will _________ (eat healthier, get more sleep, exercise, meditate, start that hobby, spend more time with my kids or my partner, etc.)".

Now maybe this isn't you. Maybe this really is the year for you. You are off and running on your making positive changes and achieving your goals. Maybe you do every year. If so, that is fantastic! And I would love to hear about your strategies for staying on track. 

But if you're like me, and many others, you find it really challenging to keep up the momentum of your resolutions or goals through all of the distractions of daily life. You can't seem to close that gap between setting your goals and actually achieving them.

The good news is that it's not too late to try again. If you need another clean slate, start again on a Sunday or a Monday. Or tomorrow. It's only February. You have plenty of time left to make this your best year yet. 

Here are some tips to help you with staying on track:

1) Break your goals into bite-size chunks. Something that has worked for me is setting quarterly goals, in addition to my new year's resolutions. I think about what I'd like to accomplish in different areas of my life in the next 3 months. And set myself a reminder to review them at the end of the quarter and to set the next quarter's goals. You may even prefer to set monthly or weekly goals. Think about works best for you in maintaining focus and clarity on a day to day basis.

2) Environmental markers. Once we get absorbed with our daily lives, whether it's at work or at home, it can be easy to let our goals slide to the back of our mind. We prioritize the urgent over the important. Try setting up environmental markers, or reminders of your goals, to keep them in your present. Print out your goals and keep them by your bed or on your desk. Or for specific goals, set up a reminder to pop up on your phone or email. For health and fitness goals, many people are wearing monitoring devices, such as a FitBit, which rewards them for movement throughout the day and can even buzz them with a reminder to get up and walk around if they have been sitting for too long. Find the type of reminder that works best for you.

3) Know yourself. We all have different tendencies and drivers that motivate us to create new habits or achieve our goals. It's helpful to understand more about what makes us tick so we know how we can be most successful, and what road blocks we can anticipate. Gretchen Rubin has done extensive research on this topic and shares her findings and suggestions in her excellent new book 'Better Than Before'.  She has found that almost everyone falls into one of four categories: Upholders, Obligers, Questioners and Rebels. For example, I am an Obliger. This means that I tend to need external accountability to be successful in achieving my goals. It's not enough for me to just write down a goal for myself. I am likely to talk myself out of it when a challenge is thrown my way. But if I know that I am accountable to someone else, I will complete my goal every time. Examples of external accountability are: having a workout partner who meets you to exercise every morning, making a public commitment to achieving your goal (e.g. announcing on Facebook or to your group of friends), or inviting people to an event where you are going to speak if you are trying to become public speaker. To find out which tendency you are, you can take Gretchen's online habits quiz by clicking here.

4) Create SMART goals. You've most likely heard this before. But it is worth repeating. Make sure each of your resolutions or goals are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. And ask yourself, 'How will I know when I have accomplished this? What will it feel like?'

5) Make sure your goals align with your core values. Are your goals a true representation of you and where you want to go or who you want to be? Or are they what you feel like you should want to achieve? Take some time to check that your goals are a reflection of what you truly value. For example, one of your goals may be to move into a bigger role at work. Because you feel like that's the logical next step. But that role, if you get there, will require more time at the office and away from your family and your personal time. Perhaps it's something you feel like you should want, but if you're honest with yourself, you don't. In that case, it's worth spending some time reacquainting yourself with your true priorities and reframing that goal. Keep it real and stay honest with yourself. When you are aligned with your internal values everything feels right and the result will be way more rewarding. 

I hope you find one or more of these tips helpful. Regardless of where you in your journey so far this year.  And remember, it's not just about the achievement, but enjoying the road to progress and recognizing it along the way. 

If you're interested in working on bridging the gap to your goals through coaching, start with a complimentary coaching call by signing up here. Here's to making resolutions a reality! 

“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reach, don’t adjust the goals; adjust the action steps.” – Confucius

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