The beginning of a new year is a time when we think about our goals for the year to come. The practice of making resolutions for the new year goes back at least 2,000 years to the ancient Romans, and continued in America with the Puritans. Today, new year’s resolutions continue to be an important routine for the personal and professional growth of many Americans. Popular areas of focus are:
• Health & habits (smoking, drinking, eating, sleeping)
• Career and education
• Relationships, family, friends, and social life
• Personal qualities (kindness, patience, helpfulness)
Achieve your resolutions using these strategies:
1. Focus. Don’t try to accomplish everything at once. Unless your goals are interdependent, pick your most important goal and concentrate your entire will on it.
2. Write it down. Putting pen to paper leaves a greater impression on the mind than a passing thought. Write your goal in bold letters on bright paper, and put it where you will see it regularly. A written goal that you see visually is not only a good reminder, but a powerful suggestion to the mind.
3. Be specific. Identify both your long-term goal and the individual actions that you must take to reach it. Focus on the specific actions and steps that you have to take next.
"In human affairs of danger and delicacy successful conclusion is sharply limited by hurry. So often men trip by being in a rush. If one were properly to perform a difficult and subtle act, he should first inspect the end to be achieved and then, once he had accepted the end as desirable, he should forget it completely and concentrate solely on the means. By this method he would not be moved to false action by anxiety or hurry or fear. Very few people learn this.”― John Steinbeck, East of Eden
4. Accept it. Most changes require work and adjustment, which create stress. Acknowledge and accept any feelings of frustration and discomfort you might feel, then...
5. Release the stress. Try these classic relaxation exercises, tips, and recordings.
6. Don’t skip a beat. If you get off track, get right back on immediately. Do not spend time worrying or beating yourself up. Juts focus your mind again on whatever was working best.
7. Share. People who share their new year’s resolutions are more likely to keep them. Share your goal with people who will be supportive. It adds accountability to your goals.
8. Track your progress. Use a visual representation of your goal. If your goal involves progress over time (e.g., losing weight), a journal, or better yet a chart or graph that you see and update daily, can work wonders.
10. Trust that you will adjust. No matter how hard it may seem today, humans break habits and take on new ones more quickly than we expect. Be persistent, and you are likely to feel that it is automatic and normal in less than a month.
A Daily Practice
New Year’s resolutions remind me of one of the best daily practices I could recommend for someone who wants to hold themselves accountable until conscious practice makes unconscious habit.
Pythagoras of Samos (570-495 B.C.) was the first to be called a philosopher (i.e. “lover of wisdom”). He recommended two moments for thoughtful reflection, when one goes to sleep and when one awakens. According to Porphyry (VPyth 40), he recommended singing these verses before going to sleep:
Also, do not receive sleep on your tender eyes,
before you have thrice gone through each of the day’s deeds:
Where have I fails myself? What have I done? What duty have I not fulfilled?
But before getting up, these:
When you awaken from sleep, the honey to the heart,
first watch very carefully, what deeds you want to perform this day.