New Year. New start. Thousands of resolutions being made. But how many of them last more than a week? Not that many at all. Making plans and working towards our goals is an art and sticking to a resolution till the end is a success in itself. If you happen to often make new, ambitious plans to then abandon them after a week, having quickly run out of motivation – this post is for you.
Yesterday, I posted a few ideas for making 2019 your year. Today, I’m coming with a list of simple rules that will help you stick to your resolutions.
Small, sustainable goals
Most of us love huge, spectacular resolutions. ‘I will lose 20 pounds by next Wednesday!’. ‘I will learn Chinese in a month!’. ‘I will switch from eating junk food 24/7 to only cooking fresh, healthy meals in a day!’. ‘I will quit smoking altogether, going from 2 packs a day to zero – right now!’.
The first two of the above certainly are unrealistic. The latter pair – could be done, depending on your determination. For the majority of people, however, drastic changes generally don’t work. We stick to our new plans for a while – let’s say, we cook our meals from scratch and only eat healthy foods for a week. And then, a moment of weakness comes and we binge-eat a box of cookies, two cheeseburgers, half a pizza and a slice of cake, accompanied by a few cans of coke. The whole progress is ruined and we give up for good.
When a resolution involves a change of our everyday habits, the best way to tackle it is to introduce those changes gradually, step by step. That way you’ll slowly but surely get used to the new routine and you’ll be less likely to return to your old ways.
Another benefit of making small goals is that you’ll be able to frequently celebrate small victories – let’s say, once a week – instead of hoping for that one, huge victory at the end of your planned road, which you may never manage to reach. Additionally, every little moment of satisfaction and content with your achievements is a great motivation boost and fuels the motivation to continue. So instead of making a long-term plan, split it up into smaller chunks and celebrate after each of them.
This is probably one of the most common pitfalls – we make a resolution and schedule it at some point in the future. ‘Tomorrow’, ‘next Monday’, ‘next month’. The day comes and we’re still not quite ready and postpone the plan by another day, week, month. If you’re sure your goal is something you’re ready to commit to – why not start today? And if you’re not sure… figure out what it is that you’d like to achieve before making unrealistic plans for the future, plans you don’t mean to stick to.
Sometimes the most difficult part of an activity is starting. We’re lazy, we’re comfortable, we don’t feel like moving away from the sofa. Making that first step can be incredibly hard, but once you’re past that step – it will be much easier! If your goal is to work out – take your workout clothes out of the wardrobe and put them on. Chances are, you’ll actually work out instead of returning to the sofa. If your goal is to do a massive wardrobe or even room cleanup? Take the first batch of stuff out of the shelves. You probably won’t feel comfortable with a pile of clothes occupying the middle of your room and you’ll eventually sort them out. You feel like an artistic anti-talent but would like to learn to draw? Prepare a piece of paper and a pencil and look up a tutorial on YouTube. You’d like to learn new vocabulary in a foreign language? Download an app on your phone (there are plenty of apps for learning languages!), open it and explore – you’ll probably end up completing a lesson or two. You’d like to quit smoking? Collect all of the cigarettes laying around your house and put them in the bin.
Yes, sometimes the start is something we have to force ourselves to. But the good news is – once you’re past that stage, it gets a lot easier and there’s a good chance you’ll actually continue.
In order to stay motivated, it’s important to pat yourself on the back when you make progress and complete some smaller part of the big plan. After splitting your resolutions into smaller chunks, use those stages to establish when you deserve a reward. That way, you’ll have some smaller goals to work for and look forward to. And your motivation will be refreshed every once in a while.
Remind yourself about the goal
Whenever we make resolutions, there’s a solid reason behind them. We want to feel better or healthier, we want to obtain new skills, we want to broaden our mind and horizons. We may aim for finding a better job, or we might simply want to do something for our own satisfaction. Whatever it is for you – don’t forget to systematically remind yourself of that final goal. The road to it may be long, it may require strenuous, dull, repetitive, often frustrating tasks filled with trials and errors. We don’t do such things for nothing – we do them with a defined goal in mind. Whenever you feel like your efforts are pointless and they cost you too much time and energy – think about the ultimate goal and the ways it will benefit you.
Success rarely comes overnight. It’s often the last part of a lengthy process. It’s easy to give up halfway through. It’s those who push through that stage and don’t surrender who then succeed and celebrate.
Make use of sudden tides of motivation
I often notice that my motivation comes and goes in tides. There are times when I can hardly leave the bed, and there are times when I’d like to – all at once – go through 100 pages of English dictionary in order to learn new vocabulary, write blog posts for a whole month in advance, do a solid workout and read a few books that will expand my knowledge and skills and be beneficial to my career. Naturally, we can’t do everything at once. But the important thing is to use the wave of motivation when it comes and do something. Don’t wait it out while sitting on the sofa – make good use of it instead, so it doesn’t go to waste!
This is a great principle I saw used in the context of diets and healthy eating. It’s easier to stick to a plan if you’re leaving yourself a safety margin. For healthy eating, the 80/20 rule will mean eating healthily 80% of the time, but allowing yourself something nice and not so healthy 20% of the time. That way we can still satisfy our cravings, but do so in a controlled amount instead of sudden binge eating. A similar 80/20 rule can be adjusted to other types of goals and plans as well.
Allow yourself occasional failures
It’s easy to write about motivation and success, but it’s important to remember that we all share the same human nature. It’s natural to feel tired. It’s okay to feel out of energy. Sometimes unexpected happens and we’re forced to change our plans. We all encounter such upheavals. What really matters is how we react to them. Don’t let those temporary hiccups discourage you. Simply accept them, move on and continue working towards your goals!
And above all, remember – there’s no such thing as failure, as long as you try and do your best. The only failure is giving up before you even start!
Do you have any other tips and tricks for staying motivated to work on long-term goals? Share them, so we can all benefit from them!
And if eating healthily is on your list of New Year’s resolutions, check out this post: