Hello 2015. It is a New Year, and with all New Years come a new batch of New Year’s resolutions. And with New Year’s resolutions, come countless internet articles telling you why your New Year’s resolutions are stupid, unachievable, and pointless. But those articles are bullsh*t, made to make you feel like it is the norm to fail, it is okay, I mean why even try? I’m over the “woe is me,” “no way I can do it,” crap. That is undoubtedly one way to ensure that you do not achieve your New Year’s resolutions: give up before you even really start. That, or you have extremely poor self-control…
Luckily for you, however, both of those things can be fixed and improved, and can lead to the actual achievement of your goals. Yes, you can actually achieve your goals. Even if you have never stuck with anything in your entire life up until this point. That is the beauty of possibility and the power of the mind.
This time last year, I was a chain-smoking, Red Bull-chugging, coffee-addicted, alcohol-consuming law student, and I was 100% committed to my vices. I had a very long-standing relationship with my vices, and frankly we had no intentions of ever splitting up. I averaged maybe three 32 oz. Red Bulls and a pack of cigarettes a day. The last time I stepped foot in a gym was probably 4 years ago. Fully repulsive, I’m aware. Now, however, I’m smoke-free, and Red Bull and coffee free for almost a year. And I’m on Day 5 of a no-alcohol cleanse, as my current New Year’s Resolution, confident I will stick to my resolution with no issues.
And no: I didn’t use a magical potion, or attend self-help seminars, or engage in hypnotherapy (though I did use a nicotine patch for 2 weeks). What I did was simply committed to and followed through with each of my goals. Here are some tips and tricks so you can do the same:
1. You Can
One thing people tend to forget is that everything starts and ends in the mind. The mind is in control of all things. You may not be in control of your mind when it comes to certain things (impulses, addictions, habits), but your mind is in control of everything you do. So, once you realize you can control your own impulses, addictions, habits, etc., there is nothing preventing you from picking a realistic goal and sticking to it.
What are realistic goals? Anything you can realistically act towards – losing weight, quitting a vice, being kinder, living everyday with more gratitude, saving money, eating healthier, spending more time with friends, giving back to the community. If you set a realistic goal, one that is within your control to achieve, the truth is that it begins and ends with you and only you. You “not having time” for the gym, or making up excuses, that’s not your schedules fault or your cravings fault – it’s you. Can’t afford the gym? Do workouts at home, go for a run regardless of whether you’ve gone out for a run before. If you want to quit a vice, you have to recreate your daily routine without that vice, fight through any temptation – the key word here is you. Any “interference” which prevents you from accomplishing your goal is merely you lying to yourself about the situation being beyond your control.
If you truly want something to happen you have to realize the power is yours. You are the key to any action or inaction. You either do or you don’t. It all starts with realizing you are in control, and that no matter what the pessimists say: you can achieve your goal. Unwavering (even unfounded) confidence is key.
2. Know Your Motivation
It is important to know, understand, and appreciate why it is you are choosing the resolution or goal you are. It shouldn’t be something arbitrary, otherwise it is harder to truly commit to it. Make a mental list of why it is you do not want to do what you formerly did, or why you want to do what you are aspiring to do. You will need this mental list in times of weakness and for motivation when you’re lacking.
If you are craving a cheat, think of why it is you want it and why you resolved to change that. What is the long-term benefit you are seeking, what is your endgame? Remember it, and hold onto it. Have it on-call. Remember how much you are looking forward to achieving your goal, and how that personal victory outweighs the short-lived satisfaction of indulgence and the guilt of failing yourself. If you’re at your breaking point, just remember how good it will feel to get to where you want to be. Remember, it is not just what you are striving to achieve that is important, but the very fact of achieving it for yourself. Giving up on your goal is giving up on yourself, so don’t.
3. Hold Yourself To A High Standard
With all goals it is important to remember one thing: the only person accountable for your success and failure is you. There is nothing standing in the way between achieving your goal except for you, so hold yourself to an impossibly high standard. That girl who you know who goes to the gym 5x a week and looks like a twig and only drinks green slushy things that look like vomit? Here’s a secret: she is no better than you (at least not intrinsically). You can be that. Go forth and gym harder. She wasn’t born from the womb a little gym bunny craving green slime– she made herself one. You can too, if you really want to.
Don’t be afraid to reach for an extreme – aspire to be something very different than your current self, because as the cliché goes if you fall you can still land on something great – be at a place of much improvement from where you started. So strive, and strive hard. Pretend you’ll end up as chiseled as Arnold Schwarzenegger… he did, and then did. It all starts with baby steps, and eventually it adds up.
4. You Can Slip Up
I think part of the reason people give up on their goals is because they think if they slip-up the whole thing is a wash. This is not true. I was a vegetarian for 6+ years, and I’d be lying if I said I made it the whole time without having a chicken wing here and there. If you slip-up, you slip-up, but the next day is the start of a new day. A slip up does not erase all of the accomplishments you’ve made up until that point. Call it a hiccup, and wake up the next day resolved to continue what you were doing.
More likely than not, knowing you can slip-up and keep going will actually help you avoid your slip-ups in the first place because your moment of weakness won’t be a get-out-of-jail-free card, it is not a window to going back to doing whatever you want. But of course remember that certain things are harder to give into once and not fall all way back down the rabbit hole. With quitting smoking, for example, it is safer to not allow a random indulgence at all.
Know your goal, and know how important it is to be strict with it. If you have poor self-control then don’t allow yourself any exceptions, period. And if you make one mistake, feel guilty, remind yourself why you wanted to change, and then continue on. Let the guilt be a guide to why you will not mess up again, and continue to fulfill your resolution.
5. Celebrate Success, But Not Too Much
Another common mistake is to think: “I’ve come this far, woo! Time to celebrate!” If you made it a month, that’s more than you would have otherwise, so it’s okay to stop there…
True, you should celebrate your success. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you can only accomplish anything in small steps. Appreciate the small steps. If you’ve lasted a week with your resolution, you should be proud of yourself. But (and this is a big one) think how much better you will feel after two weeks… After three weeks. After two months. However far you have come, be proud of yourself, and then think of how much better you will feel tomorrow, with another day under your belt. Or with another month under your belt. 32 days is better than 31, and 33 better than 32. Never stop pushing. If you don’t stop pushing, never let yourself grow complacent, then eventually you’ll be on the other side of your New Year’s resolution patting yourself on the back, ready to pick a new challenge.