Making New Year Resolutions That Stick

Person writing in a notebook with a laptop and cup beside him

Last week I looked back on the resolutions I set for the last year and was delighted that I had achieved three of the four goals I had set for myself. This was an unprecedented success for me, but then again I had tried something new this last year. For anyone looking to take a different approach to their resolutions, this may be the one for you. Rudyard Kipling was definitely onto something when he wrote the poem “I keep six honest serving men”, although I wonder if he knew just how versatile his six men were? For anyone who hasn’t read the poem it begins with the following lines:

I keep six honest serving men, they taught me all I knew. Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.

I have adapted these to help with so many different situations! These can be easily applied to the ritual of setting a New Year’s Resolution to ensure the change you are resolving to make is the right one for you, and to set you on the best path for being successful.

We start with Who. Who are you setting the resolution for, (honestly)? Is it something you want, your partner would like, or perhaps something your children thought would be good for you? Spoiler alert – if the resolution isn’t coming from you and for you, then it may not be the right one to focus on. Even if the change ends up having a wider positive effect on your partner, family, friends or others, it does have to start with you. A good way to look at resolution suggestions from other people is to set a team resolution that you all play a part in. This could be second on your list for the coming year and something for you all to work towards.

Now that you have identified a resolution for you, it’s time to ask yourself Why? Why did you choose this and why is it important for you to look at this in your life, at this time. Follow it immediately with What, (or perhaps more accurately, So What?). What’s going to happen if you don’t keep your resolve? What will that mean for you by the end of this year, and beyond? Is this really something which is going to have a significant impact on your life?

The reason we double up with the Why and What is to ensure that our choice of resolution is one that really matters, one that will make a difference. These are the ones that you will find the motivation to pursue with when things don’t run smoothly.

If you find that your initial choice falls apart at this stage, don’t worry. It may be that the real change you want to make is at a deeper level and your initial choice is one factor. Take some time with it and tease it out for yourself. You may also be choosing the easy resolution because the real change you want to make is more daunting. Whatever the reason, spending some time here will help ensure that what you settle on is the right choice for you this year.

We are at the half-way mark and it’s time to move onto How. So many people at this point would look at how to achieve the resolution, but I prefer to focus on something which often get’s left behind; how will I know I’ve been successful? Writing this down at the very beginning serves as a point of reference as you work through the year. Being both an optimist and a realist I actually write down two outcomes; how will I know I’ve been successful and how will I know I’ve done good enough? The second is a back-up plan because we cannot control what circumstances may arise in the future. What we can control is how we react to them, so this second option is the absolute minimum I need to achieve to consider my resolution complete.

Finally we have When and Where. These will differ, depending on whether you are introducing something new into your life or are replacing an existing habit. If it is something new, it’s time for you to write down when in the week will this take place, along with where that will be. It is sometimes the case that changes will need to be made in other parts of your life to make the space so planning this out in advance is a great idea. If you are looking at an existing habit, you’ll be thinking about when and where the triggers for that habit are for you. It’s time then to think about what you will do in those situations, and have a simple action plan.

And that’s it! I’ve just completed my resolutions for the year and looking forward to seeing what I can achieve. If you do try this approach and find it helpful I would love to hear from you!

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