January 10. That’s the date a recent British study estimated most of us will have ditched our New Year’s resolutions. Wow. I would have thought we’d give them at least a solid 30 days! Not so, even though a projected nearly half of all Americans will make New Year’s resolutions but that nearly half of them will fail at the long-term achievement of them.
What are the secrets to sticking to our new year/new me ideas? Motivational speaker and best-selling author Gabrielle Bernstein told Elle magazine that a key is to start by committing to just 40 days, rather than a whole year. In support of this tangible idea are researchers associated with the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the National Institute of Mental Health who reported that repeating a behavior for 40 days actually reprograms your brain by reversing neutral pathways. Start your resolution January 1 and do whatever it takes to stick to it and your chances of continuing on increase tremendously. As they say, day by day what you do is what you become. How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.
Everyone from Aristotle to Andy Warhol agrees. Aristotle once said “we are what we repeatedly do” and Warhol was quoted as giving the great advice of “Either once only or every day. If you do something once, it’s exciting and if you do it every day it’s exciting. But if you do it twice or just almost every day it’s not good anymore.”
It’s not easy though, as that looming date of January 10 indicates. American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker Jim Rohn shared his rags-to-riches story and influenced the personal development industry with quotes such as “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” It’s that kind of thinking that makes a person successful or merely “goal-ful.”
One of my favorite authors and bloggers, Gretchen Rubin, has “7 Tips for Sticking to Your New Year’s Resolution” and I’d like to share them with you.
1. Be specific. Don’t just resolve to “find more joy in life.” Determine what gives you joy and do that. “Watch at least one feel-good movie a week” or “get a massage once-a-month” are more likely to be accomplished than simply “be happier.”
2. Write your resolutions down. And, keep them somewhere that you can see them…daily.
3. Review your resolutions constantly. If they’re not working for you, change them.
4. Hold yourself accountable. Don’t just say “lose weight” or “eat healthier.” Hire a trainer or commit to healthy eating with a friend. And, track your progress.
5. Try making pleasant resolutions instead of just ones you dread starting. You will find resolutions like “read more” and “coffee with friends” much more fun to keep then “organize every drawer and closet,” yet they’ll still give you a sense of accomplishment. Remember, if you plan to ask a lot of yourself, it helps to give a lot to yourself.
6. Keep your resolutions every day. (We’ve heard this before!)
7. Put your energy toward changes that are both realistic and helpful and make small resolutions, rather than long-term, often unattainable ones.
That last one is something I’m going to do, thanks to Rubin’s “The Happiness Project” book and her advice of having small, monthly resolutions. The book consists of 12 chapters chronicling the author’s lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. I’m starting January 1 on chapter 1. I’m also going to do a monthly reading of the 12 chapters of Heather King’s “Shirt of Flame: A Year with St. Therese of Lisieux” book. My prayer group recently read the book, but I’d like to do the chapters, written by months, one at a time.
Another New Year’s resolution I make every year is to learn something new. In the past, I’ve taken ice skating lessons, an Italian class at UT (I was a Longhorn?!), learned to cross-stitch, started yoga, took golf lessons, and last year I learned how to shoot a gun…just to name a few. For 2014, I resolve to improve this blog by figuring out how to better incorporate groups of photos in it and to also learn how to allow you, my readers, to simply click on something I mention and go directly to a link. Any techies out there who can help me?!
So, how did New Year’s resolutions get started? Initially not timed to beginnings of actual new years, many historians say the custom was started by the Babylonians and grew stronger during the Roman Empire. Regardless of their origins, make your resolutions something you truly want to accomplish, but if you stumble, make it part of the dance.
What are your New Year’s resolutions? Please share!