We all have them—New Year’s resolutions. We tell ourselves we’ll go to the gym, wake up early, eat better, or whatever else. It’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a very good thing. And if the first day of a new year makes it easier for you to make some changes, then go for it.
But why wait until January if you don’t have to? Why not start tomorrow? Or today? Or right now?
We’ve discussed the value of being a good halftime coach, how important it is to be able to stop midway through whatever you’re doing, re-evaluate, and make changes. Fine. But what if your halftime coaching doesn’t work? What if your quarterback just doesn’t get it and loses the game for you. Are you going to wait until next season to do something about it? Coaches get fired for that sort of thing.
Why should you delay making necessary changes in any other line of work? Or in your personal life? Isn’t making the most of your time now more important?
Here are five tips for making your resolutions today and sticking with them.
1. Give Yourself Permission to Change
If you can give yourself permission to try something new on January 1st, you can do the same thing on December 1st, or any other day. Why not? The only thing special about New Years is how you think about it, so go ahead and think of any day as special.
2. Design a New Habit
Part of the reason why it’s easier to change on New Years is that it feels like a clean break from your old habits. But the reality is our brains need habits. By shifting some activities onto autopilot, we free up brain power for more important things—it’s a necessary process. So if you try to just break your habits, you’re bound to fail. The key is to replace your bad habits with good habits.
3. Hold Yourself Accountable
People vary a lot on this one. Some can’t stand being told what to do, even if they asked a friend to do exactly that. Some really need some outside motivation. Maybe a checklist or a journal is all you need to be accountable to yourself. Maybe you need to tell a buddy your plans—and be prepared to admit it if you don’t follow through. Or, if it helps, literally make a bet on it, with real money. Find out what works for you and then do it.
4. Start Small
If you can go all in, great—but that doesn’t work for a lot of people. The pressure alone can set you up for failure, and once you’ve failed at something big, it’s hard to get going again. But you don’t have to win the championship the first game of the season—in fact, it’s impossible to do it that way. Just win the first quarter. Then win the second quarter. Then keep going.
5. Start Now, as Soon as You Have the Idea
I get ideas all the time. Often, I write down my idea, maybe on Evernote and then time goes by and that idea just sits in Evernote doing nothing. Collecting data dust, I suppose. I tell myself I’ll do something with it later, but later never arrives. If I just spend a couple of minutes on the project—not later, but now…right when the idea arrives—then I’m invested. I’m more likely to come back to it, and when I do, I’ll find some of the work already done. I don’t have to start from scratch anymore. See, I wasn’t joking when I suggested starting to work on your resolutions right now.
Making Your Resolutions Work
Let’s see how making and keeping resolutions actually works.
Just as an example, say you’re lying in bed at night and you think “wow, I’d like to lose some pounds and build some muscle. Maybe I’ll make a New Year’s resolution to take up jogging and eat better.” Most people will roll over and go to sleep at that point.
Don’t do that.
Instead, sit up, turn on the light, and grab a note-pad. Is this a goal you’re willing to commit to? Do you need to make it more specific (what does “eat better” mean?) or give yourself little milestones to build your confidence? Are there practical steps you need to take before you get started—buy running shoes? How are you going to fit your new habit into your day? Write up a simple to-do list (you can always edit it later), put it next to your toothbrush where you’ll see it in the morning, and get some sleep.
The next day, there’s your list with your intermediate goals and your plan for keeping yourself motivated and accountable right on it. Now all you need to do is carry out the items on your list while you still feel energized. Pick a day to start your new habit (sooner the better) and you’re on your way! And it isn’t even New Years!
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