So the New Year celebrations are done and dusted. You’ve partied and feasted and probably overindulged. If you’re like most people, you’ve also started the year with good intentions to not just make New Year’s resolutions, but also to stick to them.
Sorry to burst the bubble, but studies have shown that while 50% of the world’s population makes New Year’s resolutions each year, most don’t stick with them. In fact, barely one-third of resolutions survive past January.
Psychologists ascribe the failure to the following causes:
- You made too many New Year’s resolutions, or they involved too drastic a change in your lifestyle, hence you were unable to follow through.
- The resolutions made were inspired by your idea of how others expect your life “should” be, not necessarily what you want to do.
- You gave up the first instance you found yourself wavering.
- You didn’t break up the large picture into smaller “next steps”
I personally believe that you don’t need to wait till the New Year to decide on improving your life and general circumstances. You can start whenever you like, and for the right reasons. After a major health scare and hospitalisation last summer, I had some time for introspection and had come with my own to-do list. It’s impossible and self-defeating to try and achieve all your goals at the same time, so I broke down my list into phases. That process is still on, and one of the steps was the starting of this very blog in November 2017.
If you do believe in making New Year’s resolutions, by all means go ahead and make some. But how do you ensure that you stick to what you resolve, unlike all those other years when you didn’t? Here are some ideas that may help.
- Don’t take on too much at once. Pick small goals to achieve in stages, which will overall have the impact of taking you in the direction you want.
- Let your New Year’s resolutions (or let’s just call them intentions, it’s a less intimidating word) be based on what you want from your life, not what you think others would expect of you. Because if you don’t really believe in something yourself, there is no way you will be able to stick with it.
- Set some timelines, but don’t be hard on yourself if you need to stretch them. Share your plans with a friend or sibling, who will offer support when you waver.
- Use your intentions as guidelines, not inflexible guardrails. If you fail at something, don’t get discouraged. Pick yourself up, reset and start again.
I am sharing a sample plan of how someone can make step-wise resolutions or intentions for twelve months. There isn’t any pressure to start things off today. Start at any time, and use this format only as an example of what you can do. I picked these steps keeping in mind the important things most of us would want to focus on – health, relationships, career, finances and the self. You could change the focus areas depending on your needs. You could even pick just four of these, and apply one for every quarter of the year. It’s all pretty much up to you.
If you’d prefer to receive a pdf of this plan, subscribe to the blog using your email and it’ll be mailed to you.
The “Better Life” Plan
Month 1: Add a new routine to your fitness program. If you are into Yoga, try evening walks. If you are into gymming, try Pilates. And so on. If you do not currently do anything for fitness, then take a small step. For instance, you could try going for a 30 minute walk three days a week. Once you are comfortable with this, you can ramp up.
Month 2: Create a monthly budget. This is an important step in handling your personal finances, and yet many of us don’t pay much attention to it. Having a budget allows you to be aware of your expenditure and also plan for any major expenses in advance.
Month 3: Assess your career path. Whether you are in a salaried job, or own a business, or work freelance part-time, you should set aside some time to define what you want from your work. This includes not just tangibles but also intangibles like recognition, self esteem, purpose etc. Then assess if what you are currently doing, is taking you in the right direction.
Month 4: Spend more time with friends and family. Given the busy nature of our lives, we often end up neglecting even relationships that matter a lot to us. Having an active network of friends and family has been proved to be a major factor promoting a sense of satisfaction with life. So use this month to focus on improving your relationships with friends and family.
Month 5: Read a book from an author/genre you have never tried before. Or, if you don’t read at all, then ask around for recommendations and just pick any of those books! Trying something you haven’t read before will probably open you up to a new world-view.
Month 6: Plan a vacation. Everybody needs down-time, to rest and recharge. This month, plan a short (or long) holiday with friends/family or by yourself. Don’t carry gadgets like laptops and tabs – the world will manage without you for a few days. Try to switch off and enjoy some much needed time out.
Month 7: If you don’t follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, this month try to go meatless two days a week. Research has shown that red meat increases your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. If you are already following a vegetarian or vegan diet, then try adopting a detox/cleanse day once a week.
Month 8: Look for a mentor at work. A mentor will be able to give you personalised advice regarding career growth, workplace dynamics, leadership development etc. Having a mentor will shorten your learning curve and improve your effectiveness.
Month 9: Start a Systematic Investment Plan. SIP’s are the easiest way to save money, and practically every bank has easy systems in place to allow you to transact in a few clicks online. Research some funds you would like to invest in. Take advice from friends who are already into mutual funds. Decide how much money you can spare each month (easier to do if you already have your monthly budget in place), and put it away through SIP’s. You’ll thank yourself for it later.
Month 10: Help someone who needs it. This can take many forms. You could donate money to a charity, and give away clothes you no longer wear. You could sponsor a child’s education, or fund a meal for the poor at a temple. If you can spare the time, volunteer with an NGO. It’s uplifting to see how our simple acts can make another human being’s life just a little bit easier.
Month 11: Focus on rekindling lost friendships. Pick 4-5 friends that you wish you had stayed in touch with, but couldn’t. Get back in touch.
Month 12: If you don’t already do this, start practising gratitude. You can do a daily mental round-up of the things that were good about the day. You can even keep a journal to create a written record of what made you thankful, and refer to it whenever you feel especially low. Trust me, it’s a very simple but very effective way to enjoy your present and be happy with where you are.
This is a longish list but as I mentioned earlier, it’s just a suggested plan. You could just pick something that you liked here, add a couple of small goals of your own, and have your own plan ready to follow.
Remember, if you’d like a pdf of this plan, subscribe to the blog using your email and it’ll be mailed to you.
I’d love to hear from you regarding your intentions for the year, and how you are planning them out. Comment here, or drop me an email. Good luck for a fabulous 2018!
Images courtesy Unsplash and Godaddy