Workplace Wisdom

How to Keep a New Year’s Resolution Any Time of Year

Numerous studies — and most people’s personal experiences — show that New Year’s resolutions generally don’t pan out. They’re typically broken within a few weeks and forgotten by March.

But that doesn’t mean that you can’t change, or that you shouldn’t attempt real, heartfelt self-improvement now — or anytime at all. Each day you can choose to do something that will get you at least a little bit closer to where you want to be by the end of the quarter or the end of the year.

There are countless books and blogs on willpower that examine — philosophically, psychologically, spiritually, practically, or scientifically — why we have trouble giving up bad habits, down to how the brain uses glucose when it makes decisions. Many of them are worth reading.

But you don’t need to read any of them when it comes to making today’s choice.

Lead the Witness

Just think of a question to ask yourself a question you already have the answer to. It could be about your motivation, or how you might be able to get something done. Answer it thoughtfully, even with self-compassion, the way you would answer your dearest friend, someone you care about and are truly trying to help. Here are some examples of questions you might want to use:

  • What’s the easiest thing you can do to get or stay on the path to where you want to go? And if it turns out that you have the time and energy to do more than that single thing, what’s the next step?
  • What can you say or do to stay curious and open, willing to try again, think again, and wonder again — as opposed to feeling done, fed up, or aggravated?
  • Is there anyone you’d like to work with on this?
  • Will you be pleased with your choice — and with yourself — tomorrow? And how do you feel about it today? Do you think you’ll be able to sustain the choice throughout the coming week, or do you think your feelings might change — in which case, is there something easier you can choose?

Go Easy On Yourself

I recommend taking the choice that feels kindest to you.

Picture yourself at the successful end of this trajectory. What outcome would you be most pleased with yourself about?

Assume you’ve accomplished exactly what you wanted most. Now work backwards, step by step. What is the last thing you’ll need to do to reach your success? And what’s the thing that you’ll do right before that? Think back, all the way to today, to this very moment, as you get started on your new path.

This prospective review will help you see that there is always a step you can take, whether large or small, to get and stay on the trajectory for change — even if your next step is only to wait, thoughtfully and with intention, for a better time to act.

Now choose your first step.

Onward and upward,
LK

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