01.02.08

New Year’s Resolutions: Why Make Them And How NOT to Break Them

Posted in Personal Development at 10:26 am by Haider

The cynic within you is probably asking: Why make New Year’s Resolutions when you know you’re going to break them? The conservative within you responds with: But I’ve always made them! And since you’re here reading my blog, I assume you’d like to know what I think :)

So here it goes…

Why Make New Year’s Resolutions?

Irrespective of your past failures to keep your commitments and achieve the goals you set for yourself, you can never go through life without goals, or a desire to improve, or an achievement you wish to see. You must have something you want out of life, and there must be something in your life that you would like to change. Stagnation is unnatural. If you’re not improving, then the world around you will pass you by, and you’ll end up falling back rather than staying in the same position. To make sure that you’re always improving, you need to make a decision to improve, and a commitment with yourself to actualize that improvement. New Year’s Resolutions are the decisions you make. What you do throughout the year is where your commitment comes in.

New Year’s Resolutions Break By Default

Many people assume that simply by making their New Year’s Resolutions, they will see the improvements they want in their lives. But as I pointed out, the resolutions are only the decisions. You must follow through with a commitment throughout the year to ensure that you get to have a successful outcome. This is why most people never have any success with their New Year’s Resolutions, and assume that the resolutions don’t work. But the resolutions by themselves don’t do anything. They don’t exactly have a choice. They don’t even have the commitment or the courage to see themselves through! That’s where you come in! Therefore, to expect the resolutions to do something sets you on a path to failure. Resolutions break by default, so you must be committed to make sure that you experience the improvement you want. But how can you ensure that you don’t break your resolutions? Read on for the answers…

How NOT to Break Your Resolutions

There is no single rule that can guarantee your success in keeping your New Year’s Resolutions. Below are some important tips to help you avoid the pitfalls:

1- You must want the change

If you don’t want to experience the improvement, then you won’t really commit to it, and your decision will be a hollow one. You need to have the desire to see the improvement. Think of what life can be with it, and how horrible life will be without it. If you want to lose weight, for example, think of the limitations your current weight is placing on you (lack of energy, difficulty moving, discomfort, etc), and what joy and freedom you can experience with the weight off. Yes, this may seem dramatized, but that’s how you need to see the change in order to desire it and achieve it. If you’re indifferent to whether you experience the change or not, then you probably won’t.

2- Treat your decisions as sacred

There’s no point in making decisions you don’t want to keep. In fact, this is one of the reasons why people give up on their decisions: they strip their decisions of their strength and value. Decisions are no longer considered decisions, but suggestions to consider. A suggestion is not a decision, and a decision is not a suggestion. A decision is a decision, so treat it as is. If you make a decision, then you must have the integrity to keep it! Therefore, be very careful when choosing what your decisions will be. Once you make a decision, then you must commit to keeping it (unless you find out that the outcome is no longer advantageous, but that’s another story)!
3- Find out what you need to get what you want

Most, if not all, outcomes have requirements. They can never be achieved on a whim, or simply because you desire the outcome. Find out what the requirements are, and seek to fulfil them, because they are a part of your resolution. For example, one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to wake up early every morning. I know from past experience that there are several factors that influence my energy levels in the morning, and how willing I am to wake up early. Some of these are: how late I sleep, how much water I drink, how much food I have for dinner, if I exercised the previous day, etc. I can’t expect to fulfil my resolution if I don’t take all these factors into consideration. Therefore, determine which factors contribute to the outcome you want, and resolve to fulfilling those as well. Otherwise, the outcome you want will not be achieved.

4- Plan for your resolutions

Not all resolutions have the same complexity. Waking up early in the morning is not as complex as designing a website. You need to plan how you will achieve the outcomes you want. The greater the complexity involved, the more you need to plan. Apart from the requirements needed, you must also determine how long it will take you to achieve the outcome you want, the sequence of actions you need to take and any other factor that can contribute to your success.

5- Concentrate on the result, and not on your failures

There is a possibility you don’t see the outcomes you want the moment you make your resolutions. That’s how life is. It is also possible that you won’t commit fully to your resolution, especially at the beginning, or shortly after. That’s no reason to give up! Rather than focusing on your failures, or anticipating a failure at the end because you are struggling at the beginning, keep your focus on the result you want. After all, your destination is the result, and not your failures, so keep your eyes on where you want to go! The only reason why you would consider your failures is to know where you’re going wrong, and what you need to do to make up for it.

6- Make them Measurable

To know whether you have achieved the results you want, you must know what the result is! If you want to quit smoking, then you’ll know when you’ve done that. But to say: “I want to be more productive” isn’t exactly measurable (not as it stands), because you won’t really know when you’ve achieved that. Find out a criteria you can measure to determine whether you’ve been successful or not. You want to be more productive? OK, so what results are you getting now that you want more of? How much more do you want? How much time do you waste a day? These are some of the questions you need to be asking yourself in order to define your successful outcome, and to monitor your progress. If you can’t quit smoking immediately, then count the number of cigarettes you smoke a day, and try to reduce the amount. Even if you don’t manage to quit smoking by the end of the year, you would have made progress in that field.

7- Choose decisions that span the upcoming year

You want to be able to look back at the year that passed at the end of the year and know whether you have been successful or not in keeping your resolutions. Therefore, don’t resolve to complete a 5-year project, because you will not be able to decide whether you have been successful or not (technically, you wouldn’t have achieved the outcome you want and, therefore, you can be considered unsuccessful. However, the measure isn’t applicable because the project should span 5 years, so you can’t really determine whether you did what you could and needed to do). If the project takes five years to complete, resolve to do a part of it, which you know can be done within the upcoming year.

8- Keep them realistic

It’s one thing to put a five year project in your New Year’s Resolutions, but quite another to think that you can do it within the year! Make sure that you resolve to achieve realistic goals, otherwise you’re destined for failure. Not because you’re a failure, but because you failed to choose the right goal. Especially avoid “solve world hunger”, “bring world peace” and other such goals. Instead, ask yourself: What can I do to help solve world hunger in the upcoming year? You can then do what’s in your capacity to achieve the result you want. But remember to keep the outcome measurable.

9- Review your progress weekly

We tend to forget our resolutions with time. Therefore, we need constant reminders, not only of the resolutions we’ve made, but the progress we’re making. Look back at the passed week, find out what you did right and what you did wrong, then resolve to improve for the following week. Technically, resolutions can and should be done throughout our lives. We don’t need to wait for the new year to make them. The new year is only a helpful opportunity to mark the time we’ve made our resolution. Besides, many outcomes require a stretch of time before they materialize. You don’t develop habits overnight, but with some time. Therefore, you can make your major resolutions annually, but you must ensure that you’re making progresss weekly.

10- Visualise your desired outcomes daily

A weekly review will require a pen and paper (or a computer), and some quiet time to look through what you have accomplished and what’s left to be done. You may not have the time to do that on a daily basis, or your progress isn’t happening daily for you to monitor (if it is, then a daily review is useful). However, what you can and need to do daily is to visualise what your desired outcome will look like. This will intensify your desire for that change, and make it seem more realistic and attainable to you. If you want to quit smoking, imagine what life would be like when you quit, how much better you will feel, etc. Even if you think that life will be difficult without cigarettes (you will experience that emotion when you visualise this), try to change your perspective. See yourself overcoming these emotions, and focusing on having a healthier lifestyle. Visualise a successful outcome, and not a failure. If you expect failure, then visualise you overcoming the failure.

Daily visualisation can be done anywhere, and is one of the ideal things to do in your idle times (stuck in traffic, waiting in a line, etc).

These are my tips for keeping your commitment to your resolutions. If you have any other tips, don’t hesitate to share them!

I wish you a great and successful 2008!

5 Comments »

  1. Blue Dress said,

    January 2, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    First, I’d like to comment 3alla what you said in the first page about blogs and blogging and why you’re not interested in reading them….

    And also how you stated that they are of no use to the writer him/herself…
    Well actually as lame as pajamas party might seem to any blog reader.. i think its valuable information for the writer, i mean its snippets of their lives documented, i once wrote a post about it… ino how they say a picture is worth a thousands words.. Well it’s the same case here except the opposite…
    Ya3ni your blog is your photo album in words regardless of the content…
    When you come back to it in years… You will realize ;) .

    As for the current post… Well said… I always do that..
    I believe in daily resolutions though not yearly… why would anyone need a whole year to figure out something you can do in a day…

    Long post?
    Long comment .

  2. Blue Dress said,

    January 2, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    Pajama parties *
    Yes i actually re-read it ;p

  3. Haider said,

    January 2, 2008 at 11:39 pm

    Dear Blue Dress,

    To get it out of the way first: apologies for the length of my post(s), but I can’t seem to help it.

    Second, pyjama parties might be an interesting event to write about. I actually said what “pyjamas people wear at the weekends”, which is a mundane detail in our lives. Having said that, there may be some comic value in mentioning such details, or it might be a nice memory to look back on, as you said. But I don’t think that our focus should be such details in our lives. It’s too mundane a topic to dedicate a blog to. Many bloggers use their blogs to vent, or to mention any idea that comes to mind. I personally believe that bloggers should aim to contribute some value to the lives of their readers, or even themselves.

    You don’t want to put too much focus on specific details about your life that might not have too much value in it. For example, if you notice my “About me” page, I actually give a summary of the most important stages in my life. But these stages aren’t characterised by what pyjamas I used to wear. They are based on my ideological developments and my philosophical maturity. These are extremely important topics that many people will find useful to discuss and consider.

    I’m not against writing about pyjama parties, but I don’t think it should be the level we remain at.

    As for daily resolutions, I think we should have daily reminders, but there are some things that are impossible to achieve on a daily basis, such as a three-month project :)

    That’s all for now.. longer comment? I think so!!

    Thanks for stopping by, and see you around the blogosphere…

  4. Bashar said,

    March 9, 2008 at 9:15 am

    Problem with new year resolutions is, most people forget what it was few weeks later. They just have it as a temporary inspiration, to talk about what they like, and kind of celebrate the new year with it.

    I didn’t really come up with a year resolution, I had an annual goal last year that started in Aug maybe. Perhaps you know some about it. Point is, you don’t need to be at 1st of Jan to come up with new plans. For companies ofcourse, it makes sense because they are setting annual budget and target goals. For individual, I would say, if you really mean it, start today :)

  5. Haider said,

    March 9, 2008 at 10:14 am

    Bashar,

    Thanks for your input.

    The solution to the first problem you pointed out is to write your resolutions, and regularly refer back to them.

    And although 1 January isn’t a date set in stone, and you can always begin an annual resolution any time, it is always easier to keep track of annual resolutions if they all start from one date. What you *can* introduce to your “resolutions list” are habits you wish to develop or projects you wish to take on that take less than a year to accomplish. That way, by the end of the year (i.e. preferably 31 December), you can look back at all the projects that you wanted to do, and see how successful you were in accomplishing them.

    But you’re right, there’s no reason to put off new projects just because you didn’t think about them at the start of the year!

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