I’ve written a lot about timing and the nature of time over the years. And there is perhaps no other time of year that creates such a sense of urgency for change than New Year’s. I personally think it’s the idea of another year, a new year that we all desperately want to be better or improved from the year before and naively we think that making a resolution will do the trick. In any case, most of us feel worn out from the holiday rush, perhaps a couple pounds overweight and staring at the new year ahead of us, we take stock and decide to make a few changes. In fact, 40% (a number I actually expected to be much higher) of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, but only 8% report achieving their goals.
All change requires determination and discipline, in fact, to be disciplined is to know what needs to be done even though you don’t want to do it. There are no shortcuts, but here are some tips to see you successfully uphold the promises you make to yourself this year.
1. Keep it to yourself
Sharing your resolutions with all your friends on Facebook and announcing them to your co-workers and close friends lulls you into a false sense of success. The brain cannot discern the difference between words and action, giving us a premature sense of completeness that can lead to a lack of motivation to see the goal through. Kabbalists have long advised that we protect our hopes and plans by concealing them. However, it is okay to share your resolutions with trusted friends or partners. Studies show that enlisting help (not announcing our intentions) to achieve our goals makes us more accountable and thereby more likely to follow through.
2. Be specific
I’m going to start working out again. I’m going to lose some weight. I’m going to write a novel.
Terrific! But get specific. If you want to start working out again, how about today? No change occurs without time and energy. Schedule your workouts. To lose weight, set limits on your calorie intake and chart everything you eat. To write a novel, commit to writing uninterrupted for 45 minutes a day. Ambiguous goals are usually not met. Specific goals are attainable.
3. Make it manageable
You don’t have to make huge changes, just small change after small change eventually adds up to great change. Just as you wouldn’t attempt to solve a calculus problem without having mastered basic arithmetic, neither should you set yourself up for failure with a wild resolution. Dream big, by all means! Just set attainable goals within a timeframe. If you want to be President someday, run for city council. Everyday life is a series of decisions, small changes that add up to great change.
4. Form a habit in 40 days
Commit to taking at least one action towards your resolution for 40 consecutive days. The number 40 has a special spiritual significance, as The Zohar explains that it takes 40 days to form a habit or change a pattern. For instance, if a person was born with a stubborn nature he should break his nature for forty consecutive days, doing the opposite of what comes naturally to his mind. We were created in this world for the sake of breaking our nature, of changing our habits, to grow and to leave our comfort zones. In fact, it is stated that if a person commits to changing or breaking a habit, The Creator will give assistance to that goal.
THOUGHT INTO ACTION
What will you commit to for 40 consecutive days?