Pop those bottles of champagne, have your midnight kiss and say goodbye to all the crap that was 2020. Many of us dream of starting this year off right with good intentions and resolutions on how this year will go!
That is the normal new year's way, right?
Don’t get me wrong - I love the concept of a new year...it gives this impression that we have a fresh start, a new opportunity to be better, a reset on bad habits. It’s like looking at a blank slate with your pick in hand, ready to create the life or the change you want this time around the sun.
After the year that we had in 2020 - it’s safe to think and hope that 2021 will be better. I think we all need a little bit of a fresh start now when it comes to our personal relationships, business, fitness, and overall outlook on ourselves and life.
Resolutions are a popular way to enter 2021 with hope and purpose. Resolutions can range but what they all really share in common...is that they suck.
Making a resolution can only get you so far. A resolution is a weak hope and wish on improving an aspect of your life. What you need is a plan of attack.
That’s why I’m here today - to give you an actionable plan of attack that you can use to solidify how you are going to change, how to make it work, and how to improve upon it through the year.
My 3 step plan to making resolutions stick
I want to keep this real simple so that you can’t possibly mess this up when you go about thinking about how things will be different this year. What I find is that people can have all the excitement in the world about making a change, however if there is no actionable, realistic plan to back that up...your excitement will fade within the first few weeks.
Don’t count on excitement and enthusiasm to get you through, those are only temporary feelings!
Step #1 - Break down your resolution into smaller behaviors
Okay so you have this big master plan on losing 30lbs this year. Great! - that’s a start into knowing what it is that you actually care about.
However losing 30lbs is awfully vague and doesn’t really provide you with any boundaries, practical skills, and habits that can support this.
Yes you might inherently know that to lose weight you need to eat better and exercise more. This is one very small piece of the puzzle.
What I want you to do is to break it down and figure out what exactly you need to do to lose weight.
The reason for breaking down the resolution is so that you can gain clarity as to what kind of action steps you would need to take in order to get to your goal.
How many times have you gone into a new venture with no idea on how to actually reach the goal, but instead kind of flail around, do what other people say worked for them and try your best to replicate that?
What ends up happening most times? ...You fail after a few weeks because you never took the time to really engage in a thought process that deepens the HOW you will accomplish your goal.
Instead what you need to do is focus on the small things you can do each day that support your big goal.
Picture this: You arrive at the base of a mountain. At the top of this mountain is your big time goal, let’s say it’s to lose 30lbs.
How can you get to that up there? Can you just take a big jump and reach the top in one go? Is the focus on losing 30lbs enough to just propel you, through the air, up to the peak?
Unless you got some serious jumping ability, I think not!
What you might do instead is start climbing the mountain, step by step.
I want you to picture several markers along the path up the mountain...these markers are the behaviors that build up to that big time goal of 30lb weight loss.
Each marker needs to be passed before you can make it to the peak of the mountain. For example, these markers might be things like
Include X amount of vegetables per day
Keep track of food intake everyday
Stop eating when satiated
Now imagine walking to your first flag up the mountain - let’s say it’s keeping track of your food everyday. The only way to get all the way to that peak of the mountain, you NEED to first reach that first flag. Every step, every single day keeping focused on this first flag will lead you further up the mountain.
So think now - what are a few behaviors you need to do, to reach that big goal?
Step #2 - Make a realistic small goal
Okay so now you have a few behaviors that you need to do in order to accomplish your big goal.
What you need to do next is to start thinking about what is most realistic for you to do day in and day out to hit that small behavior.
How many times have you selected a goal that was just too far out of reach for you to realistically accomplish?
We want to believe that we are always our best selves, that we can accomplish the most extreme tasks, and that we can do anything we set our mind to. Yes these are great sentiments and confidence is important. However we want to actually make a change, not just think about it and dream about it until our excitement drains.
I’ve seen it so many times - making too big a behavior goal, hanging on for as long as you can with this behavior and ultimately falling off, losing motivation, and then starting from scratch with the new doubt and disdain for yourself.
Is this anyway to set yourself up for success? Hell no - so don’t do it.
Do this instead:
Consider ranking a behavior on a 1-10 scale on how comfortable and confident you feel in accomplishing it. A ranking of 1 means it’s incredibly hard and you would need help from a genie, while a 10 means you can do it with your eyes closed while standing on one foot.
Let’s say you choose a behavior of exercising more. How confident do you feel working out 5 times a week? Upon thinking deeply about the behavior, you might find that you rank this a 7 out of 10.
Pretty good right? 7 is a high number close enough to 10!
Not good enough - let’s do it again. How about working out 4 times a week? “Mmm...I’d rank this maybe an 8, I feel pretty good about getting into the gym 4 times a week based off my schedule.”
Not good enough - make it smaller. Okay let’s take it one more notch down and say 3 days a week working out. “I would rank this as a 9 out of 10, I feel really confident that this will work well in my life”.
Awesome! - we are here, your new behavior goal is to exercise 3 times a week.
The purpose of this is to do some serious reality testing on what is possible for you, and what isn’t. If you don’t feel super confident in performing a new behavior you’ll only end up grasping for straws as your plan inevitably falls apart.
Make sure that you can reliably and confidently judge any new behavior as at least a 9 out of 10 to ensure that it becomes something that is consistent!
The time will come when you can upgrade the behavior, make it harder, or move onto your next “flag” that continues your trek up the mountain!
Step #3 - Set up your environment
So you’ve broken down your resolution, chose one behavior to work on, and made sure that you are making a realistic goal.
You are almost done with forming a full proof plan to your resolution!
The last thing you need to do is make it so your environment reinforces your new behavior goal. The best laid plans can go awry without the necessary reminders in your everyday life.
What I would recommend is to physically write down your behavior goal on a piece of paper and put it somewhere that you will see everyday.
For example I use a daily planner which I can write down all my tasks for the day. In this - I can include any new behavior goals I might have. I know that I’ll be looking at this every single day, keeping myself accountable to the behavior goal.
Some other ideas can be writing on a post-it and sticking it on your bathroom mirror, setting a daily reminder on your phone, asking a spouse/friend/coach to follow up with you on how you are doing with the behavior each week.
Use anything that you can “set and forget” so that you leave yourself the best chance to perform that behavior each day.
It sounds overly simple but how many of you can say you’ve done this in the past? Just because it’s simple doesn’t mean that it’s not effective. Simplicity is king when it comes to making changes, and by just writing your intention down on paper you’ll find that you are more likely to accomplish your goals!
My new Year's resolution!
So to give you a real example of how these steps can work - let’s peer into the inner working of my head!
Something that I’ve recently been interested in, and more passionate about it reading more books. I’ve never been a big reader - always opting to watch or listen to educational videos instead to broaden my knowledge.
I’ve realized how important it is to actually read words to gain a deeper understanding of different subject matter.
So for this - my new year's resolution is to read more books.
This is pretty vague and doesn’t give an exact amount of books, a time frame, or even a set goal to achieve. Let’s see how I would go through my 3 steps!
Step #1 : Break down the resolution into smaller behaviors
In order to read more books, I’ll need to do a few things to set up my behaviors to allow for this. A few things that come to my mind are the following behaviors:
Scheduling time to read
Choosing a book that interests me
Limiting distractions while reading
If I do all of these behaviors, I’ll no doubt end up reading more books!
Step #2 : Make a realistic small goal
So let’s do some reality testing here. I think the best one for me to start with is simply scheduling set times to read. I’m pretty good with keeping to my schedule as I have a planner that I use that outlines what I do during each hour of the day.
At first glance I might want to say something like this: I’m going to read for an hour each day. How confident do I feel reading for an hour each day? I’d say I would rank that at around a 6/7. An hour is a pretty long time and with my current habits, I don’t think it’s quite realistic.
Let’s break it down some more...how about reading for 30 minutes? Okay this sounds more realistic, I think I’d rank this as an 8/9.
I’m going to break it down a little bit more and shoot to read 20 minutes per day, splitting it into 10 minutes in the AM (which I’ve started already), and 10 minutes before bed.
This feels like a 9/10!
Step #3: Set up your environment
Last thing I need to do here is to make this part of my environment. What I’m thinking of doing is to first write down in my journal the time every single day to read before sleep. This will be my visual reminder day in and day out.
I’ll also make it simple by leaving the book that I choose to read, on my nightstand next to bed. This way I can visually see the book each night so that there’s no guesswork. I’m going to make this as easy as possible to succeed at.
Once I get the hang of getting in 10 minutes of reading - I know that I’m going to find extra time during the day to read. Maybe I’ll extend those 10 minutes before bed to 15 minutes, 20 minutes...and so on.
Just keep it small…
This is all about setting yourself up for success and making it something that STICKS for good.
Making it small might not seem like you’ll make progress in your big mountain peak goal, but wouldn’t you rather take small steps over the next year and accomplish that goal by 2022 or would you rather go all out and jump for the stars and be do disheartened by March 2021 that you give up entirely and start 3 steps back from January 1st?
Make this year different - I’m giving you the tools to do so. Only you can have a positive influence on your big mountain peak goals. Don’t be ashamed that your progress is slow, be proud that progress is happening and that you are in CONTROL of each step along the way.
Cheers to all of you who are deciding that 2021 will be different. I promise that if you follow these small steps, you will reach the top of your mountain peak and be ready to crush another one!
It’s time to get to work!