Every year, many people do the exact same thing. They decide to take advantage of a fresh start by making 137 (give or take) New Year’s resolutions. After making all these resolutions, they are quickly overwhelmed, and they don’t make it more than a couple of weeks into the New Year before going off course and back to the way things were. Does this sound familiar? I have been guilty of this on multiple occasions. However, I have learned some strategies over the last several years that have helped me hit my goals that I would like to share with you.
Don’t Pile on Too Much at Once
I think that piling on too many changes at one time is probably one of the biggest killers of New Year’s resolutions. It is very easy to do. If the previous year did not finish as strong as we would like, it seems like we overcompensate with the New Year. When you try to make too many changes at once, most often none of the changes actually stick. I think it is a good idea to have big resolutions or goals, but I think that in order to achieve them, you need to start with small things that you can do that will lead up to your big goal.
Work on the Habits That Will Lead To Your Goals
I like to look at big goals and resolutions like a mountain. The goal we want is at the peak of that mountain. The habits and skills that will get us to our goal are like the climbing gear that will get us to the peak of the mountain. Usually, we just focus on the big goal, but what is it going to take to reach that goal? If we set a New Year’s resolution of losing 30 pounds, but we have really poor discipline and we don’t like to work out, it is unlikely that we will hit the goal. However, if we focus on building the skills and habits that will lead to our goal, we stand a much better chance of achieving it. It is not going to be as difficult to lose 30 pounds if you have created a habit of exercising every day or have developed the discipline to say no to the foods that are not on your diet.
Set Goals With Leading Indicators
It is much easier to correct course when you are getting feedback on your progress. Many goals that we set have lagging indicators. For example, if your goal is to lose 30 pounds by December 31st, you may not actually know if you achieve the goal until the last day. In other words, you don’t know until the end if you hit your goals or not and then it is too late. If we set goals with leading indicators, we will have immediate feedback on our progress. For example, instead of having a goal of losing 30 pounds, we set goals of following a specific diet and exercising three days per week. If we cheat on the diet and miss some days in the gym, then we know that we are falling behind, but if we are consistently in the gym and don’t cheat on our diet, then it is likely that we will hit our overall big goal of losing the weight.
Change Your Environment
The environment you choose to be in will greatly affect the outcome of your New Year’s resolutions and goals. If I am trying to lose weight, I know that I cannot have sugary treats in my house because I will eventually cave in. My willpower cannot overcome that environment. Trying to change and improve yourself is hard. Being in an environment that does not align with your goals is just stacking the odds against yourself. It is much easier to make the right choices that will lead to achieving your goals if the opportunity to make the wrong choice is not available.
You Must Decide That You Are Going to Stick To Your Goals
So, if you do everything right (not too many goals, working on skills, environmental changes, etc.), but you do not fully commit to seeing your resolutions through, you may still not achieve them. To really hit all your goals, you must “flip the switch.” When you flip the switch in your mind, you are taking any other alternatives off the table, and you are deciding to fully commit to what it is you want to do. When you just “try” to do something, you are providing a way out in case things don’t work. If you really want to go after big goals, “trying” is not an option. You must make the decision to fully commit.
Hopefully, you can use some of these tips to help you stick with your New Year’s resolutions. If you take things one step at a time and make the decision to truly commit, I believe you will surprise yourself with what you can do in the course of a year.
About the Author Jese H. Vance, P.E.
Jese H. Vance, P.E., graduated from Marshall University with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering and received a Master of Science in Civil Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is currently working toward a Ph.D. in Geological Engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology. Jese works as a geotechnical engineer who specializes in geohazards. He has worked in the civil engineering consulting industry since 2012 and recently launched his own geotechnical engineering firm. Jese lives in West Virginia with his wife and son. He enjoys crawling around on any landslide he can find and spending time on the water fly fishing. He can be found on LinkedIn.
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Anthony Fasano, P.E.
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success