by Melissa Smith
Here we are at that point of the year again — the dreaded New Year's Resolution, or at least previously dreaded in my mind's eye. No one wants to set themselves up for failure, especially at the beginning of the year, so why even try was often my justification.
Yet, over the last few months, I've looked at this ritual in a different light and tried to put it into some perspective. Making a realistic New Year's resolution is like any other project that we encounter, whether it's a monster work assignment (for me, writing my latest book) or something that must be done around the house (preparing for the upcoming arrival of a baby).
When we resolve to better our lives in some capacity, we take responsibility for ourselves and our aspirations – creating the life we want. Making a New Year's resolution can be an aid in gaining that sense of purpose and direction in our lives.
Reflect on your past year and life in general. Is there anything you would've wanted to do differently? Is there anything that you want to change about yourself and life? Are there certain goals you would like to attain? Are there upcoming events that deserve your attention that merit thought and planning now?
Write your plan out and break down your overarching goal into smaller, attainable steps. Don't overload yourself with stating every goal under the sun. Rather, let them link into each other, if you desire to pursue more than one.
For example, if you are trying to quit smoking, look at quitting in a couple of ways. You quit smoking; you give yourself a healthier life; you save money from not buying cigarettes; once you save up $500 from un-purchased cigarettes, buy something for yourself. By achieving that goal, you affect your health and your pocketbook at the same time in a positive way. Think it through and make your plan work for you.
Establish confidence in your plans and yourself, but be realistic. If trying to lose weight, you may not lose that extra 20 pounds right away, but if you decide to work on five pounds as a time in a healthy and safe way, then that 20-pound goal doesn't seem so intimidating and it stays off.
Keep a physical reminder within easy reach that you can refer to daily or in your weaker moments. Keep a picture of clothing you might want to buy when you attain your desired weight or imagine how you will feel once you attain your desired goal. Write about it and remind yourself why you made this resolution.
You are going to have good and bad days. Making a resolution is not only about attaining goals, but also not beating yourself up if you stray from your stated path. Learn to balance the good and the bad. You don't attain your goal by a certain date? Keep working at it—no one is standing over you with a switch if you don't attain your resolution by March 1st. The important thing is your persistence in achieving that end.
Oftentimes we forget that there should be a reward once we reach our stated goal. Concrete resolutions should have concrete rewards—the new clothes, the money in the savings account, the baby locks on all the kitchen cabinets, whatever you deem a desirable reward so that you can achieve your goal.
Look at stating your New Year's resolution more as a continuum to how you want to live your life. Don't set yourself up for failure with unattainable resolutions and look forward to lessons you will discover on your path to achieving your desires and goals.
Photo courtesy iStockphoto.