2014 is here, did you make your new year’s resolutions yet? Well, apparently 88% of all people will break their resolutions before January ends.
Personally I’ve been flunking every new year’s resolution I’ve ever made consistently so the Buffer post just reinforced what I’ve been doing every year. This year I’ve decided it’ll be different. Not because I have more willpower but because this year I’m going to try and hack my self sabotaging habits and get it right.
I’ve learnt how to set goals the right way a long time ago and I’ve been using it for work ever since. In 2013 I learnt a lot about how to gain new traits that finally made me feel like I’ve found the right formula for me so I could follow through on my 2014 resolutions.
Of course, my method is far from being proven or tested, but I thought I’d share it with you in case you also desperately want to keep up with your promises this year and improve yourself.
So here’s how I broke it down to 4 steps:
Step 1: Write down who you want to be in 2014
Sit down on a comfortable chair, have a glass of wine, close your eyes and try to imagine – who do you want to be in 2014? Are you still in your current job position? Are you cooking more? Are you taking more chances?
Simply write a short essay describing who you want to be in 2014. Try to picture every single angle of your personality and actions, picture where you live, how things look like. Just paint a picture. No hold backs, no editing.
Step 2: Turn your essay into two lists
Go back to your essay and re-read it. What do you feel about what you wrote? Think about it for a second. Don’t get freaked out by what you read or the fact that you automatically feel the inner pressure of toning it down, make fewer promises or say to yourself ‘I will never do it, this isn’t me’. Guess what, it is you and you should embrace it.
Take the content you just read and sort it into 2 lists:
1. Things you want to do
2. Things you want to be
Under things you want to do – just write down all the things that are simply what you want to do. Want to take a trip around the world? Write it down. Want to buy a new camera for your girlfriend? Write it down. Just make a list. Don’t worry about what’s next, we will take care of it in step 3.
Under ‘Things you want to be’ – this is the trickiest part, but also the most emotional one. If you’re like most people (admittedly, I’m one of them) when you wrote who you want to be you probably described it as ‘be more adventurous’ or ‘be more spontaneous’. The problem with those definitions is that they aren’t tangible. They’re too abstract. But we’ll deal with that in step 3
Step 3: Turn your lists into actionable goals
Ok, now we are getting somewhere. You have organized lists that start to make sense. It is now easier to understand what of the things you want to achieve or get in 2014 are behavioral and what are things you ‘simply’ got to do.
Let’s turn them into something more actionable.
Take a look on your ‘things to do’ list. Pick the top 3 things you really want to do
Let’s say your first thing on the list is ‘Travel to Europe for a year’. This sounds almost dreamy right? The biggest problem with this inner-wish is not that it’s too big, the problem is it’s phrased in a way you can’t take action on.
The first thing you’ll need to do is break it down into something more tangible. What countries in Europe do you want to visit? How much does the cost flight? How many hotels will you need to stay in? How much money would you need in advance, etc.?
Instead of phrasing a task in a way you can’t really grasp, build a to-do list, or ‘what concrete next steps do I need to take to make it possible’. Then all you really have to embark on is a very easy do-it-all-on-Google kind of journey. At the end you’ll have the next actions steps you’ll need to take to make it come true.
Now lets move on to the harder part, the Things you want to be list.
Take a look at the list you’ve made for things describing who you want to be. Did you write ‘I want to be more responsible’? Or ‘I want to be more successful’? ‘I want to be a guy girls can fall in love with’? Those are all hard expectations to follow. But totally doable.
First thing you’ll need to do is to take the description you wrote and understand what it means to you.
Let’s break it down together. ‘I want to be more responsible’. What does it mean to you? How does a responsible person act? Is he never late? Does he always make sure he checks his emails before logging off for the day? What, in your mind, defined someone who’s responsible – write that list as a checkable list.
After making that list checkable you just need to make sure you’ll see it in the right place and time and follow up with it. It’s one of those fake-it-till-you-make-it kind of things.
Have an appointment? Make sure to be there on time so you check mark ‘done’ on the ‘get places on time’ list. Actually, every time you do something that is on the list you need to mark it as ‘done’.
At the beginning you’ll do things just to check them off, but after no time you’ll just get it right. You will be the guy who gets to places on time. It will become a habit.
Step 4: Set reminders
Here’s the thing about all those useful tricks; they don’t work if you don’t see them. That’s why you should get yourself some help in the form of apps, calendars and friends.
I decided I want to start cooking in 2014. My doable action item regarding my goal is to cook something new once a week. I will never remember to hold myself up to it. So I’ve set a reminder for myself – every Wednesday at 15:00 o’clock I’ll get a reminder saying ‘What are you cooking this weekend?’. This reminder will prompt me to go into epicurious and look for a recipe.
But wait, I have this horrible habit of being busy right when my reminders usually set off and I’ll forget to actually look for the recipe. That’s why I’ve set another reminder for the next day saying ‘So, what have you decided to cook?’ That will make me actually look for a recipe.
I did the same thing on call backs. I suck at it. So I’m using my iPhone’s Reminders app to add the people I need to call back. This reminder will automatically pop-up when I leave the office, reminding me to make all these calls on my way home.
To make your resolutions come true you need to create habits that will turn you into the person you want to be. The person you’re fantasizing on being won’t just appear in the mirror one day. You have to become him (or her) by attaining the habits and daily rituals of that person and then, one day, you’ll just realize you’re there. You are what you do and how you behave.
Don’t make resolutions, make plans, habits and rituals. They make you who you are. Not promises.
What’s your New Year’s Resolution?