Let’s talk about how to keep New Year’s resolutions.
Earlier today, I was cleaning out my bookshelf when I found something incredible. On the top shelf, among paperwork I haven’t sorted in months, was a piece of paper dated January 1st, 2018: my list of resolutions and intentions for this year. Today, eight months after writing it, I’ve competed every single one.
While I spent a lot of time thinking about my resolutions this year, I hadn’t looked at this sheet since the day I wrote it. I was surprised to reread my resolutions, and see how much the words I used on January 1st echoed what I’d written in my end-of-year reflection just a few days ago.
While it’s not technically the end of 2018, I’m closing a chapter of my life right now: working from home for the last two years. Because that period ended when I got my first job as a front-end software engineer (one of my 2018 resolutions!), I did my annual wrap-up last week, to clear the slate and give myself a new beginning. What’s so surreal about finding the resolutions page is seeing how much the goals I set and the accomplishments I identified for 2018 match up.
- On January 1st, I wrote that in 2018 “I will learn to believe in and love myself.” Last week, I wrote “The biggest lesson I learned this year is that I truly am capable of anything I set my mind to. I am okay — whole and beautiful — the way I am.”
- On January 1st, I wrote that “this year is about me.” Last week, I identified prioritizing myself as one of my top three defining elements of the past year.
- On January 1st, I identified weight loss and learning to code as the two things I wanted to achieve this year. Last week, I wrote down those two things as my top accomplishments of 2018.
This is the first year I’ve ever finished a resolution. And because I didn’t accomplish just one, but all of them, I wanted to figure out what I did differently. I’ve worked really hard on my resolutions this year, but I’ve worked hard in past years too, with no real change. This time was different, and today, I want to tell you why. Here are my top tips on how to keep New Year’s resolutions.
I Wrote Down 2-3 Specific, Measurable Goals
I had three resolutions this year. In order:
- Learn to code and get a job as a front-end developer.
- Lose a specific amount of weight.
- Read 50 books (later doubled to 100).
There were other things I would have loved to do in the this year. I wanted to write a novel and get singing lessons, for example. But I knew that I had to limit myself to two or three specific and measurable goals. Next, I ordered those goals by importance. I had to decide between going to the gym and working on my novel, I’d go to the gym because my limited goals were my priority. If I’d set five resolutions for myself, or ten, it would have been much harder to prioritize them in the same way, as they’d all be competing for real estate in my day-to-day decisions.
I Set 2-3 Guiding Intentions
Statements like “I’ll learn to love myself” or “this year is about me” aren’t resolutions so much as intentions. They don’t shape your actions, but guide your thoughts. I wrote down specific emotional intentions for myself to guide my emotional development this year.
When reading books, watching lectures, or trying new things, those intentions were the backdrop of my decision-making. Knowing that I wanted to focus on spiritual and emotional growth helped me make small decisions to support that, without distracting from my true resolutions.
I Took Ownership of My Goals
One of the most effective ways that I prioritized my goals was taking ownership of them. When people asked me what I was up to, I didn’t shy away from telling them about my goals. I didn’t specifically tell them that these were my resolutions; one of my favorite tips on how to keep New Year’s resolutions encourages you to delay the reward of telling people. But I’d say things like, “I’m prioritizing working out this year”. By saying my goals and intentions out loud, I reinforced my own desire to focus on them.
I Leaned on People Who Could Help Me Grow
I could never have learned how to keep New Year’s resolutions this year without leaning on specific people. My fiancé Ken has been especially helpful with guiding me in my coding efforts this year. If I felt frustrated or stuck, he was always there to help. Similarly, I could count on fitness-oriented friends to motivate me to go to the gym, or bookish friends to encourage me to read.
I Hacked My Brain to Believe in Myself
My final step is something I recently discussed on the podcast Offbeat Grad. I was asked what my #1 piece of advice for recent grads is. For me, that comes down to trusting in yourself. Set small, achievable goals that you’ll actually keep. If you know you won’t go to the gym, don’t say you will! Instead, make goals that you can keep, and stick to them. Train your brain to believe in yourself; once you do, set increasingly challenging goals until you’re accomplishing the things you want to do. One of the keys in accomplishing things is having the faith you can do them, and that can only happen if you earn your own trust.
What I’d Do Again
These tips have made a huge difference in my ability to prioritize my goals and achieve what I wanted to this year. With New Year’s about six weeks away, I’m spending the next month planning how to keep New Year’s resolutions next year, and I plan to use this same method to achieve them. This year, I’m planning to add weekly check-ins to the list of things I do to work on achieving my goals. I hope that alongside the tips above, I can make next year can be as great as this one was!