For starters, I’d like to move the conversation away from “resolutions” and more toward “solutions”. To me, thinking of something we want as a resolution seems so lofty — like we set it and forget it. Solutions require us to show our work (thinking back to my school days) with a step-by-step path written out that takes us from the problem presented to the answer.
Often times there are many ways to write out the work that leads to the correct solution and even multiple ways to write the solution itself. The same can be said for reaching our goals. What makes the toughest of problems easier is not just knowing or thinking we know the steps to get from start to finish, it’s writing them out one by one until we reach the solution.
I’m no math teacher (and I’m also not particularly good at it) so let’s break this idea out in real life along with five other straight-forward, no-frills ways to get from where we are to where we want to be.
Show Your Work
Whatever your goals, resolutions, solutions, or any other word you’d like to use are, let’s start by mapping out step-by-step how we plan on getting from where we’re at now to the finish line. An easy way to do this is thinking in terms of SMART goals, which stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. For example if our resolution is to lose weight, what is the solution for us to make it happen? “I want to lose five lbs per month for the next six months by doing a workout for at least 20 minutes five times per week.” Sounds pretty SMART to me.
Gimme One Good Reason
The more personal meaning something has behind it, the more effort we put into it. So for every solution, let’s not forget to write out the meaning for solving it — the deeper the better.
Get Scientific to Form Habits
A key takeaway I always try and remember is that new daily habits are more likely to be successful if they are placed into things we already do. For example, if watching TV is something that keeps us from your weight loss or gain goal — let’s do it while we exercise. If work get in the way and we find ourselves with a long conference call on our calendar, let’s take a walk while we’re on it.
Real change takes time and comes from good habits that we’re able to keep up day after day without stopping or taking long breaks from. So, finding a way to make them as enjoyable as possible is crucial.
One of Clear’s most helpful concepts for me was one about lagging measures: a thing like being overweight is a lagging measure of what you have eaten over time. One night of eating pizza won’t do it… pizza every night and over a long period of time however will drive that weight up. Our savings accounts are lagging measures of how much we have saved every month. It takes time, but consistency is the key to real change and it can be disappointing to be consistent when we don’t see immediate results. Don’t give in to that disappointment. When it comes to forming good habits, slow and steady wins the race.
Let’s make things easy at first with short term goals. If we make them too hard, we will avoid them and not have the drive to succeed. For me, for instance, I wanted to be on my phone less, so at the top of every odd hour I give myself 15 minutes to catch up on texts, news, and anything else in that addictive glowing box of mine.
Back to exercise, which is one of the few habits we all should have in common: One of the most frequent problems I see is with clients new to working out and wanting a big weight drop or gain really fast that would require them to train at a professional athlete’s level to achieve. My advice: Make goals of how many times per week you workout and the time you spend doing it before driving toward a number of pounds you want to shed or gain. These things you really have full control over either accomplishing or not. You’re also forming a habit and the weight lost or gained will be a bonus that comes much easier.
If we are trying to eat better, let’s find someone who will cook with us online or in real life. Let’s get a healthy meal delivery service with a friend and compare recipes. If we want to go to sleep earlier, let’s get your mom to text us every night at a specific time asking if we’re in bed — it’s a lot harder to lie to her than ourselves… Hopefully? Whatever your goal may be, be expected by someone if you want to reach something unexpected for yourself.
Be Honest with Yourself and Others
If you aren’t exercising, is it because you can’t get started, or feel too isolated at home? That first moment of getting ready to workout is never fun but what is stopping you?
Almost any change will at first seem most like a sacrifice. What’s your sacrifice, why will it be difficult, how can you get through those difficulties, and are you ready and willing to make that sacrifice? Being brutally honest will help set us up for success.
Don’t be Afraid to Fail or Change Your Path to Victory
Whether you have your new year solutions in mind or not, think of this weekly column as a weekly checkpoint for yourself. No matter what I’m yammering on about that week, take measurement (yes, put a number to it) of where you’re at. Ask yourself the tough questions.
When it comes to achieving our goals we have to weigh out what makes us happier in the short term vs what will make us happy long term. Long term goals take many short term sacrifices. The most important thing to remember though, is that failure is temporary — it’s giving up that’s permanent. Have a plan in place to get back on the horse if you ever fall off and keep on keeping on. If you want it bad enough, you’ll get it.Photo Credit: Drew Quizon, @dq_fotography