How to write a New Year’s resolution plan that works

How to write a New Year’s resolution plan that works

Around this time of the year most of us are probably reflecting on the year that passed and making plans for the year to come.For the last ten years or so, I’ve actively written down my New Year’s resolutions. Some I have achieved and some I have not, some for reasons that depended on me or reasons that didn’t. So, why didn’t I achieve the goals I had set for myself when achieving them only depended on me and not on exterior factors? That’s what I want to go deeper into and ‘prevent’ it from happening to you. Even if I don’t know what types of goals or self-development areas you’ll list for yourselves for 2016, here is a sensible list of tips to write down your goals for a maximum achievement next year!

I. Think big, but realistic

There’s no point in writing something that, objectively speaking, cannot be achieved within a year – unless all the forces of the universe contribute to it too ;)) This will just disappoint you at the end of the year and frustrate you along the way, when actually it should be predominantly a lot of work, but also fun achieving your yearly goals. If it’s a big goal, just think of it in incremental steps: what part of achieving the target is attainable during the next year (only taking into consideration your own effort and not luck, chance etc.)? Write it down and based on how it goes by the end of the year, think of a next part to write down for 2017 and so on.

II. Make it specific

It took me quite some time to ‘get’ this! I used to say: “I would like to study abroad next year.” It did come true, however not during the year for which I ‘wanted’ it, but two years later. -Why was that? -Because it wasn’t a specific goal. From the way I had written it down it meant that: I didn’t know where I wanted to study, I didn’t have a plan written down, I barely had any clue about the studying abroad programs out there that matched my studies, I wasn’t even sure if I really wanted it (by using ‘would like’ – scroll below for more details about how to write the goals) and so on. To make it an actual goal, it should have been written like this: “I want to study human resource management abroad next year. I want to make a decision between the universities in Amsterdam and Madrid based on scholarship opportunities, estimated monthly costs, how ‘good’ the program is and future opportunities it brings about.

III. Delete any ‘may’, ‘should’, ‘could’, ‘would’ etc.

There is no goal that will ever be achieved if we think of it as in this example: “I should quit smoking next year”. Let’s face it: it sounds like you don’t even want to do it. It’s more like you trying to convince yourself that you ‘should’ do it. Thus it may, might, could (etc.) happen. But there’s no guarantee you will be putting all your ambition into making it happen. Rather than phrasing it like that, it’s better to phrase it like: “I will smoke my last cigarette before February 29th, 2016.” By writing down your resolution in this manner, you haven’t only made it very clear, but also specific and realistic (as outlined in the first two tips of this list).

IV. Add photos and write it down or print it 

One of the best ways to visualize your goals is by adding pictures corresponding to each of them. Do you want to buy a house next year? Attach a picture to it that comes close to the house you have in mind! Do you want to lose 3 kilos by the beginning of March? Add a picture to it! (It can be a picture of a scale or of the number of kilos corresponding to what you are aiming for). If you have written it down, juts file it and keep it close by at the office or at home. If you have written it on the computer, print your small booklet with resolutions, organize it in a folder map and keep it within eye sight throughout the year – on your desk at the office or at home, in the study room or on the book shelves, with magnets on your fridge, anywhere you can lie your eyes on it every now and then and browse through its pages to remind yourself of your resolutions. There’s a book I read six years ago that I found extremely interesting and that I highly recommend – The Winner’s Bible – Rewire your brain for permanent change by Dr. Kerry Spackman. It’s about life goals, but I’ve come to adopt some of the guidelines there for my yearly resolutions. One of them is this part with printing it and adding pictures to the goals. Maybe you could add this book on your reading list for 2016!

V. End of the year: Look through past year’s resolutions

Don’t just write these resolutions down and forget about it during the rest of the year! You should regularly go through it and, most importantly, you should check it at the end of the year. See what you achieved from the goals you set for yourself, be happy about all these achievements and see what stood in your way in achieving the rest of them. Think of what you could have improved, if it depended solely on you or also some exterior factors and what you could have done to make it happen. Write down the resolution for the following year in a manner that seems more achievable, based on the experience you gained throughout that particular year.

It’s the end of 2015 and I’m sure it’s been a year with ‘goods’ and ‘less goods’, but definitely a year that taught us a lot and hopefully made us wiser. I hope you’ll find this blog post inspiring in writing the resolution one or polishing it a bit. Also, I’m positive we’re all going to open-heartedly embark on the New Year with lots of development plans and dreams. On behalf of Presi and I, we wish you the best 2016 you can make of!

Happy New Year, everyone!

Manu & Presi

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