How to keep your new year’s resolution

So Uncle Larry, have you made any new year’s resolutions for next year?

Aghhh… I’m not good at new year’s resolutions.  Your Auntie Karen is better at that.  She makes a list of goals and she hits every one.  Me, I used to make new year’s resolutions, and then I would never keep them.  Until a few years ago.  I just make one, and I’ve kept it ever since.

What is it?

To not make any new year’s resolutions.

new years resolutions

New year’s resolutions are funny things.  Many people make them, but only 10% of people actually do them.  (Check out this radio piece for more fun facts about new year’s resolutions.)  With such a low success rate, it seems perfectly acceptable not to follow through on these annual goals.

But what if there is a change you’d really like to make in your life?  What can you do to be part of that 10% who actually keeps their new year’s resolution?

Give yourself a head start.

One research study investigated what happens when people are given a head start toward a goal.  One group of people was given loyalty cards which entitled them to a free car wash after getting eight stamps.  Another group was given loyalty cards that entitled them to a free car wash after ten stamps, but the card already came with two stamps.  The required purchases (eight) was the same in both cases, but almost 75% more people in the head-start group earned the free wash than those who were not given a head start.  People are more motivated to reach a goal if they feel like they’re already part of the way there.

So how do you go about greasing the wheels for yourself?

I found an exercise in Tama Kieves’ book, Inspired and Unstoppable, particularly helpful.  It’s called, “The Win List.”

It’s pretty simple.  Just write down ten “wins” you accomplished today.  They don’t have to be big.  They don’t even have to necessarily relate to your goal.  Just write down ten things you did that you are proud of.

  1. I told someone about my new venture today. 
  2. I told them about my website. 
  3. They visited my website. 
  4. I found out something I can do to improve my website. 
  5. I thought about blogging. 
  6. I turned on my computer so I could write. 
  7. I wrote for 45 minutes. 
  8. I have a good start to a post for new year’s. 
  9. I wrote down an idea for another post. 
  10. I wrote my win list.

The first time I did this exercise, I felt like I was on a roll! (Even though all I had really done was sit and write for five minutes.)  I went from lying on the couch to running around my apartment getting things done.  Now I have eleven things on my win list!  Now, twelve.  Now, thirteen!  My fiance eventually had to tell me to stop and go to sleep.

The momentum from that little exercise prompted me to take concrete steps toward my goal.  All it takes is five minutes.  You can repeat the exercise daily, or just whenever you feel you need a little nudge toward meeting a goal.

Go on.  Give yourself some momentum.  Give yourself a headstart.  What’s on your win list for today?

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