How to Keep a New Year’s Resolution

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It’s that time of year again, and although much is often made of our New Year’s Resolutions each January 1, not as much is articulated about how to follow through on them after the champagne has settled, so to speak. This post is meant to support you in exactly that. Enjoy! And of course, leave your resolutions in the comments…

1. Be realistic

A new year is one of the most obvious times to reflect on our lives and commit to learning something new, making a lifestyle change, or initiating a professional transition. It’s tempting to be ambitious, imagining huge, radical changes, so huge that they become impossible to act on (I’m going to become a circus performer/climb Mt. Everest/write a best-seller). If the goal is too big, too soon, it’s hard to get traction, and the inertia of our existing routine will hold us there. I’m not saying not to dream big. I’m just saying that even the boldest dreams need to be parsed into small bite-sized chunks in order for them to materialize. Be bold in your dreams and realistic in your goals.

At the beginning of 2009, I wanted to learn how to bake. That, however, turned out to be far too vague and overwhelming (bake what?), so I amended it to “I will bake a cake.” And I’m very pleased to say that I did, in fact, bake a cake by the end of January. I believe it was a lemon layer cake. By the end of the year, I had probably baked six cakes, several dozen cookies and muffins, and even a few loaves of bread. Had I learned to bake everything there is to be baked? Of course not, but since then, I have managed to successfully produce baked goods on a regular basis. Baking is no longer a mysterious no-fly zone for me, as it had been before. Notably, my modest, realistic goal of baking a single cake led to much more than that. Had I set out to become a master baker, I would probably never have gotten started in the first place.

2. Set a clear intention

Often overlooked, intention is a powerful ingredient of achievement. It describes our attitude, or inner state, while we’re pursuing our goal. Many of us don’t realize we have choice in how we feel or how we interpret our situation. In fact, this is the area in which we have the MOST control! And, importantly, deliberately choosing a [positive] intention can make a tremendous difference in the ease (and speed) of moving toward your goal. In other words, you’re much more likely to practice jujitsu or enroll in a sewing class if you’re having fun doing it (or feeling curious about learning, letting go of expectations, connecting with others, or cultivating any other intention of your choosing).

In my baking example, enjoyment was my intention, and for me, enjoyment has a lot to do with putting myself in a state of flow. When I chose my lemon layer cake recipe, I made sure it was not so complex as to generate anxiety (zesting? what’s that?), but challenging enough to keep me engaged and curious (raspberry jam filling!). As a result, I genuinely enjoyed the process of baking the cake for the first time, so much that I continued baking other things all year long.

3. Talk about it

A powerful first step in getting your idea out of your imagination and into the material world is to simply say it out loud to a friend or family member. Once you’ve shared your goal with another person, there’s a tacit expectation, however non-binding, that you will, in fact, follow-through on it. Sharing verbally has other benefits as well. In order to describe your goal in words, you need to think through it again in more detail. You need to imagine it actually happening in your mind. This process further refines your goal and makes it feel almost inevitable, building your confidence and enthusiasm. Choose a person who will be supportive of your goal, who will provide it with even more momentum.

At the start of my cake-baking year, my partner Isaac and I actually made our resolutions together. (His goal, to take a cello lesson, turned into multiple years of self-study on cello, violin, and guitar). Our sharing of resolutions that year kept us accountable to each other for following through, and our mutual support of the other’s goal fueled our motivation. I vetted recipes while he searched for online sheet music.

In southern California, roses bloom in December.

In southern California, roses bloom in December.

This coming year, I’ve committed to scaling back my tango and dance projects in order to increase the time and energy I can devote to painting. This transition has been made up of many smaller, incremental steps, and I feel incredibly grateful to be able to adjust my life in order to serve my evolving creative work. I wish the same for you, this and every year!

If you would like support around a new year’s resolution or a life change of any kind in 2018, I encourage you to take advantage of my Winter Coaching Sale, running until the end of December. This is a short-term package of four sessions for the price of three ($300). The empowerment coaching process guides you in articulating specific goals and working steadily toward achieving them by addressing both internal or external obstacles along the way. It is an attentive, client-centered, surprising, and profound method.

I currently see more than half of my clients remotely (via Skype or phone), and although it’s not the same as an in-person connection, I have found it to be no less effective. I always offer a complimentary (and confidential) consultation to make sure coaching is a good fit for you.