There are a lot of interesting theories about why people succeed in – or fail to follow through on – their intentions. These range from the Marshmallow Test, which emphasises delayed over instant gratification, to the 21 Days Theory of engraining a habit over 21 simultaneous days. Whatever the method, the answer generally seems to lie in how we approach goal-setting and self-improvement. To make sure you focus on the right goals, follow these six guidelines to ensure you make a resolution that you'll keep.
1. Look at the big picture
Before making a resolution, take a step back and think about why you want to achieve it. Health psychologist Dr Kelly McGonigal, a leading expert on the mind-body relationship, argues that a lot of people know to set realistic goals, but they won't follow through if the resolution doesn't really matter to them. Think about what would make you happy and what you can do to make it happen. For example, if you want to spend more quality time with your children, why not make them a part of your resolution to keep fit? Instead of working out alone, you can take part in fun outdoor activities together.
2. Visualise your success
One of the reasons resolutions often fail is because many people tend to view them as a chore. Instead of forcing yourself into making a resolution, make it all about being nice to yourself. For example, imagine the extra energy you'll get from cutting down on oily foods. Or imagine how your kids will look up to you as the fittest dad amongst their friends. There's so much more you will accomplish with a healthier, fitter body!
3. Be open to change
You might find yourself having to make changes to your resolution game plan if it isn't delivering results. This is why it's important to be flexible instead of obsessing about checking things off a list. For example, if your goal is to save more money and you end up exceeding your budget for that month, don't focus on the fact that you failed. Instead, review your expenses to see how you can succeed next month.
4. Be accountable for your actions
Ensure you stick to your resolutions by having concrete goals. Saying you want to save 20% of your salary each month is easier to track than a vague desire to save more money. To help make things easier, why not keep a logbook of your activities?
5. Make it a habit
The more you repeat an action, the more you get used to it. Start with small, manageable goals. If your resolution is to keep fit, start by going for a walk during lunch and taking the stairs instead of the lift, and gradually increase the challenge of these activities over time. Eventually the habits will become so strong that you just do them automatically.
6. Find a buddy or support group
You don't have to walk alone in your journey. Having a friend or a family member around can give you the motivation and support you need to stay on track, especially when you're tempted to help yourself to that extra slice of pizza or skip your jog and sleep in.
Setting goals that are within reach and then creating effective means of achieving those goals gives you a fool proof methodology. Follow the above steps to put yourself in a position to ensure you achieve your 2014 New Year's resolution.