Three Steps to Restart Your New Year’s Resolutions
January 1 is easy. You’re filled with excitement and hope. And you’re surrounded by other people with the same optimism. January 2-5, you might still be coasting on that optimism and the successes of your past. And January 6 onward is hard. Ok it’s all hard. And that’s why the most important part of resolutions is not starting – it’s restarting. It doesn’t matter if you’ve fallen off so long as you get back on it. Here are some ideas to restart your resolutions.
How to Keep a New Year’s Resolution
There are two fundamental problems we encounter when we try to enact change within our lives: 1) we forget or never really cared about achieving our resolution; and/or 2) we get discouraged when it doesn’t seem like we’re making sufficient progress toward achieving the resolution.
To counter these obstacles, we have to constantly think about our end goals and how we can make progress towards it. So it’s a constant balance between thinking too near-term (forgetting about the resolution or underestimating its value) or thinking too far-term (not appreciating the small progress in the present).
To bridge this divide, I propose that everyday, you think about and answer the following three questions.
Next year, I will really be upset/in a bind/stressed/regretful if today I don’t:
Next month, I will really be upset/in a bind/stressed/regretful if today I don’t:
Tomorrow, I will really be upset/in a bind/stressed/regretful if today I don’t:
Why Do We Make Resolutions?
A typical to-do list is filled with routine tasks that need to be done to keep your life going. And that’s fine. It’s all important. But one should never confuse getting a basic list of routine tasks accomplished with actually accomplishing anything meaningful with your day.
We make resolutions because we want to accomplish something above and beyond our normal to-do list. We have to remind ourselves that accomplishing what we have on our daily list of demands is too short-sighted. If we just follow that list, we won’t be happy. Instead, we demand more for ourselves.
But we need to remember the long-term and the short-term. We have to make sure we are making the little steps that help us build habits and the big steps that mean we are accomplishing something different, new, and unexpected.
What You Need To Do Tomorrow
The secret to accomplishing resolutions is to create habits. And the secret to creating habits is “no zero days.” That means you pick something that moves you to your goal that you can reasonably complete every single day. And then you do that step every day.
The first item “tomorrow” really focuses on doing something everyday to make the next day easier. It seems like there are approximately a million productivity hack blog articles produced everyday but we never seem to accomplish enough. Well, you can accomplish this one thing – you can set yourself up for a bright start tomorrow.
If your resolution is to learn Portuguese, you start with the goal of learning one word a day. You can’t go to bed and say, oh I couldn’t learn even one word because I had no time. No, you open up a book in bed and learn “hello” is “olá.” And you go to bed thinking olá, olá, olá. Then the next night in bed you remember you learned one word yesterday even though you were busy. You have no excuses today. Now you have two days in a row (“tudo bem? tudo bem.”) And the next day – even if you do nothing all day – you still learn your word. And then next few days, you realize you don’t have excuses.
And the days after that, you start to think, I always learn a word or few words everyday – it’s just who I am. Once you get that down as a habit, set a new goal. Rinse and repeat.
What You Need to Do Next Month
So now you’ve been doing your habit for 30 days. You can build on that habit, say three words a day. But you also need to think about bigger growth. Now you have a little bit of momentum, a little bit of self-confidence in meeting your goals. Remember, 43% of people who make resolutions don’t make it past January. You’re in the top 57%. You can aim higher.
Again, let’s not forget that we are balancing the near-term and long-term. If we focus too much on the one-word a day, we can get bored. We’ve already accomplished that. “Next month” is about setting a goal that means you’re reaching a little farther than normal, but is something reachable. Maybe you meet up to talk to a Portuguese friend. Eat at a Portuguese restaurant. Find a TV show in Portuguese that you want to watch. Read a book on Portuguese grammar. Sign up for an online Portuguese class or find a language learning app like Duolingo. Listen to a Portuguese song. This helps to build on your skill, while also encouraging you to reach farther. It keeps you from being a boring new word habit, and is a bridge toward your ultimate goal.
How to Make Your New Year’s Resolutions Stick Into Next Year
Don’t forget where you came from. Remembering the change is so motivating, so important to building your self esteem and believing that you can change in the future. You knew zero Portuguese at the beginning, and now you know enough to do some basic greetings and maybe order some food. It’s very easy to slip into complacency. You work on Portuguese every day, your mind changes gradually, and you don’t even notice how different your attitude was a year ago.
So when you think about a yearlong goal, think of something that is really cool – like visiting Portugal! This is the culmination of your work. It’s a little too scary to think about if you know nothing. But now that you’ve had a few conversations, you want to keep challenging yourself and you want to give yourself something to look forward to. And once you have this piece, you can incorporate your daily, weekly, and annual habits together. They’re all working toward making you a proficient Portuguese speaker.
It’s Never Too Late to Restart Your Resolutions
So this time next year, what do you want to have accomplished that you can remember starting today?