‘Tis the season to be jolly - and then shortly thereafter to be remorseful. During this time of year, many of us seem to assume an “all bets are off” attitude, where we slack on our exercise regimens, eat and drink a lot of stuff we don’t normally eat and drink (unless for you egg nog is also an important part of a balanced summertime meal. I’m not judging), and generally get caught up in holiday madness. And then January is the time for restitution. Fortunately, there are resources like Breaking Muscle, which provide good suggestions about how to rein it in, precluding altogether the need for mea culpas.

 

new year's resolution, making resolutions, keys to resolutions, resolutionsBut even if you do maintain the path of the righteous during holiday season, the first of the year is a good time to be proactive, to develop New Year’s resolutions that help you either reboot or build on the good work you’ve accomplished so far. Perhaps your goal is a double bodyweight deadlift or to eliminate caffeine from your diet. The possibilities are endless, and different people have different suggestions for how to accomplish such goals effectively. Read on for the four guidelines that have worked for me:

 

#1. Set intentions in a meaningful way.

 

I recently wrote about how powerful the effective use of intention has been in my own life. Even saying, “I intend to achieve my goal” is more purposeful and demonstrates a clearer assumption that success is a given than saying, “I want to achieve my goal.” To support my intentions, I devise a game plan. I’ll figure out the steps I need to take (frequently with the help of a coach) to achieve the goal and when I need to take them. I record these steps in a calendar, keeping in mind they can be modified over time as necessary.

 

#2. Prepare for unexpected reactions from family and friends.

 

I’ve also written about how sometimes our family and friends can respond in surprising ways when we share with them our goals for self-improvement. This is rarely malicious, but rather driven by anxiety about the unknown. After all, if you are making changes in your life, they might affect your loved ones. Or your loved ones might perceive you to be sitting in judgment on them for their choices, when that might be the farthest thing from your mind. In this article, I give several suggestions for enlisting the support of your inner circle. The key is to be prepared that this is a possibility so you can proceed accordingly.

 

#3. Make yourself accountable.

 

new year's resolution, making resolutions, keys to resolutions, resolutionsI teach an undergraduate capstone course on health and fitness. In the course, each student identifies a fitness issue (sleep, weight loss, quitting smoking) s/he wants to work on and develops a plan of action to follow throughout the term. During the last session, a large number of students commented that they had tried to lose weight/quit smoking/get more sleep in the past, but had been unsuccessful. What contributed to their success this time around was the accountability they felt to the learning community of our class and the documentation (baseline measures, journal entries, and the like) they were required to complete along the way. Finding a support system and keeping your own documentation will help you create your own sense of accountability. It will also give you warm fuzzies and help you track your progress, both of which can be incredibly motivating.

 

#4. Love yourself unconditionally.

 

Ideally, this one would go without saying, but it seems to be the one many of us have the most difficulty with, present company included. The fact is, however, all of us are imperfect. All of us will falter. And when we do, we have choices: We can beat ourselves up or we can chalk it up to experience and resolve to do better. I trust it’s obvious which one I hope you choose. I promise to do it if you do.

 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: the time when we take stock of where we are and where we’d like to be. What would you like to work on in the new year? And how do you plan to get there? Post ideas and suggestions to comments.

 

Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.