How to make New Year’s resolutions you’ll keep

It is New Year’s Eve and Charlie Brown says to Lucy:  “Next year I am going to be a changed person.”

“That’s a laugh,” says Lucy sarcastically.

“I mean it,” says Charlie, “I’m going to be strong and firm.”

“Forget it,” says Lucy.  “You’ll always be wishy-washy.”

“Well,” answers Charlie defensively, “One day I will be wishy and washy the next.”

Like Charlie Brown, most of us set New Year’s resolutions that are a little vague – lose some weight, spend more time with family and friends, quit smoking, quit drinking, enjoy life more, get out of debt, help others, get organized and on and on.

Just think, if everyone kept their New Year’s resolutions, the world would be a lot different:  We’d have healthier people that would show up for work on time, smoke and drink less and be more organized.

Why don’t resolutions work?  There are lots of reasons.  Resolutions need to be specific, attainable and personal.  They need to come from your heart.  They can’t be suggested to you by someone else, because those resolutions are often more for the suggester than for the recipient!

And here’s a tip – the fewer resolutions the better.  Too many changes at once, no matter how well-intentioned, become burdensome and confusing.  Then it’s too easy to chuck it all and slip back into old habits.

What happens too often is that people set a goal or resolution and then they falter and just want to give up.  That’s understandable.  Don’t cave in and quit altogether.  Just start up again.  Give yourself a new incentive.

When I set a goal of a New Year’s resolution, I tell other people about it so it puts pressure on me to stick with it.  I’m also a big believer in rewarding myself when I succeed or accomplish something.

imagesThis is a new year.  It’s a fresh start … a new page or chapter in your life.  There will never be a better time to try something new.  Maybe you want to start a blog, research your family history, learn first aid or start running.  How about you just forgive someone?   Or decide to worry less?  Whatever you decide, make sure you can actually accomplish what you set out to do.  Don’t set yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic goals or putting them off indefinitely.

As author and minister Charles M. Sheldon said, “Good resolutions are like babies crying in church.  They should be carried out immediately.”

Maybe this year you want to do something different.  Forget the boring, routine promises you struggle to keep.  Try resolving to be more creative in 2014 with some of these resolutions:

  • Keep a journal.  Spend a few minutes every day or so writing down your thoughts, feelings, dreams, and ambitions – not your daily schedule or your upcoming appointments.  Record positive events, quotes and experiences.  Let your mind wander a little.  You may be surprised at the ideas you generate.
  • Read more.  Vary your reading habits and explore different topics.  If you usually read novels, try a biography.  If you read only history, try a book on modern-day science.  Try and read a good book every month if possible.  You’ll exercise your mind, and maybe find new connections between ideas.
  • Learn something new.  Take a class in something unrelated to your job or your usual hobbies – art, auto mechanics or learn a new language.  Mastering new skills can refresh your outlook on life.
  • Meet new people.  Make a positive effort to make new friends or professional contacts this year.  Look for gatherings of people whose interests match yours and network with them.  The more people you know, the better equipped you are to learn and grow.
  • Create something for the heck of it.  Paint a picture, write a poem, or start a garden – not because you’ll get paid for it, but because you want to.  How about starting a collection of something?  You’ll find satisfaction in achieving personal goals and motivation to keep trying new things.
  • Volunteer.  Find a cause you support, and offer your time and service.  You’ll meet new people, enjoy the feeling of helping out with an important cause and enhance your own skills.
  • Practice gratitude.  Look for small gestures in everyday life that you are fortunate to experience.  And seek out ways that you can be helpful.  You will reap immediate rewards!

 

Mackay’s Moral:  A New Year’s resolution should not be something that goes in one year and out the other!  Happy 2014!

About the Author Harvey Mackay

Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.

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