on staying resolved

Two weeks in: how are those resolutions going?


As a lover of lists, the start of the new year is always a fun and exciting time for me.  That having been said, it’s easy to make a list and then forget about most of the items – out of sight, out of mind! – and sticking with projects and seeing them through to completion have never been strengths of mine.  That’s why among my personal challenges for 2014 are learning to stay focused and getting things done.

Since I knew that these would be challenges for me, I did what any go-getter would do, and distracted myself by looking at funny cat pictures on the internet did some research to find out what tips and tricks I could learn to help me stay committed and on-task.  Here are some of the most helpful resources I found, in case you’re in the same boat as I am:

Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, has listed her top posts for keeping your new year’s resolutions.  My favourite is: “Six Tips to Hold Yourself Accountable for Keeping Your Resolutions.” (As a sidenote, I highly recommend the aforementioned book – I found it to be deeply insightful and personally enriching, and have been recommending it widely ever since reading it last year).

New York Times also offers some tips for keeping your resolutions (many of which could be used for building better habits any time of year).

Finally, Martha Beck discusses the value of assembling a motley team to tackle resolutions together

From the experts, I gleaned that some of the most important factors to staying on-track include:

  • Involve Others: Team up with people who share your goals or resolutions but not your personality style; build a support system that includes a variety of personal strengths and struggles, so that you can each bring your best features to the group, while benefiting from the support of others with your shortcomings
  • Build a Concrete Plan: Abstract resolutions are harder to keep because they don’t have clear criteria for what constitutes success or failure.  Concrete resolutions make it easier to develop a plan of action towards achieving them, and thus make it easier to stay on-track.  Be clear and specific about the changes you want to make.
  • Determine the Stakes: This doesn’t have to mean a reward or penalty system (although according to the New York Times article mentioned above, setting aside money for forfeiture if you bail on your resolutions actually helps maintain dedication), but make the benefits and drawbacks of your goals explicit for yourself; are you doing something for the sake of a better relationship with someone?  for the sake of more free time?  to reduce your stress?  By elucidating the motivation behind your goals, you remind yourself of why you wanted to achieve that goal in the first place, and renew its importance for you.
  • Give Yourself a Break: Broken a resolution, or decided to abandon it altogether?  No sweat – as long as you’re doing it for the right reasons.  Sometimes we set goals for ourselves with the best of intentions, but fail to consider that they may conflict with other priorities.  If you’ve broken a resolution because you realized that your motivation for keeping it was no longer relevant, or because your priorities have changed, give yourself a break.  If, however, the reasons behind your resolution still hold for you, and you’d like to get back on-track, see if maybe there’s a way to adjust your expectations to make your project more realistic for you.  And remember: January 1st isn’t the only time for making changes; you can make a fresh start any time of year.  If you need to, revise and try again!

In light of their insights, I decided to revise my list of resolutions (which is still, and will likely remain, a work-in-progress).  I hereby present My Resolutions, 2014:

  1. be more patient – learn to think before reacting, and try to raise my voice less; develop better strategies for dealing with stress (balling up in the fetal position can only take you so far…)
  2. be more physically active – walk more (at least 3 times a week, for at least 15min each time); do something more active/longer at least once every other week (bouldering, yoga, muay thai)
  3. learn to budget – review my finances from 2013 and build an action plan for 2014 that includes both short- and long-term savings (a safety net, a reserve of funds for big projects, and some retirement savings)
  4. read more – commit to reading before bed (for at least 20min, and at least 3 times a week); take part in a book club
  5. de-clutter and become better organized – learn to build a realistic schedule; stick to it; de-clutter and learn to live more minimally (a huge struggle for someone with deeply engrained hoarding tendencies)
  6. worry less about time – stop thinking about other people’s timelines (who’s having a baby, who’s getting married, who’s buying a house), and focus on my own; build better time-management skills

(PS: In case some version of #6 is on your list, check out The Art of Doing Stuff – Karen is dedicating this week to getting organized, and there’s something really motivating about her unique combination of dry humour and seemingly insatiable thirst for tackling big projects).

They’re not huge goals (walking three times a week is admittedly pretty embarrassing as an ambition…), but I’m starting small to increase my chances of success.  Speaking of which, I need to get going on one of those walks…

What are some of your goals for the new year?  How do you hold yourself accountable?
I’d love to hear how you stay committed to your projects!