Many of us finish the year with indulgences and celebration, and then start the New Year with the best of intentions and sincere resolutions to do things better. Unfortunately these good intentions often end up in frustration and disappointment. Sometimes we find ourselves moving further away from our goals in the New Year rather than accomplishing our resolutions. So how do we take those good intentions and create a plan that will move our vision to reality? How do we avoid the discouragement of failed expectations that lead to avoidance and, even worse, the self-loathing that comes with the failure to achieve the lifestyle changes we want?
The first thing we need to do is manage our expectations. If we reach too high, and try to grasp too much it is likely we will fall down quickly. Most New Year's resolutions do not even make it to the end of January. Within days these grand wishes crash into reality and old habits. When a habit is embedded in our lifestyle it is difficult to change. We need to be realistic, and aim for growth and change in a way that is sustainable and manageable. Part of the problem with New Year's Resolutions is that they are too grand, too vast and based on wishes rather than reality.
Change does not occur by wishing it to occur. Whatever change we want will require a plan and some discipline - the achievement of New Year's resolutions needs to be done through a realistic and paced process. Research tells us that the most successful changes occur, and are maintained, when they are approached in a realistic, gradual and committed manner. Change takes time.
Set reasonable goals and stay focused, but make room for the "human moments" as well. If you stray from your plan, use that as an opportunity to examine the plan and adjust accordingly. These mistakes do not have to be the enemy; in fact, if handled well, they can actually become our best teachers. Do not beat yourself up for a slip or a mistake; it is natural to experience some deviation from any plan. But conversely, do not use a mistake or a slip as an excuse to abandon the plan either. If your goals are truly based on a healthy lifestyle change, understand that it will require patience to create a long term sustainable change.
Life is not a straight road, and goals are not accomplished in a linear or inflexible manner. It does not help to overwhelm oneself with a goal that is based on perfectionism. It is much better, and success is more likely, when your goals are based on growth, health and wellness. Perfectionism is the plague of the New Year's resolutions. If you keep trying to head down the dark road of perfectionism, it will limit your ability to live an exceptional life and to achieve the goals that bring true satisfaction and health. Actually, a bit of good old common sense is needed right now - it goes a long way to the successful accomplishment of a goal.
Once we have put some thought into our vision for the future, and set goals that are based on health rather than perfectionism, then the following simple steps can help you develop and maintain the resolve to achieve your goals.
1. Be realistic.
2. Aim for self-improvement and learning.
3. Line your goals up with your priorities.
4. Set a realistic time frame for change.
5. Focus on self-care and nurturance through the change.
6. Develop your patience.
7. Be honest with yourself - change requires commitment.
8. Look for ways to reduce stress, as it will undermine your discipline and your health.
9. Be prepared to try something new.
10. Be prepared to learn from your mistakes.
11. Celebrate the small steps.
12. Be curious and open to the learning.
13. Look for balance in life.
14. Stay focused.
15. Use self-care and self-reflection to help you accomplish your goals.
16. Look for others who share your goals, and support each other.
17. Have 'safe' people who will encourage you during your highs and lows.
18. Take actions to commit to good decision making.
19. Be non-defensive and open to examining poor decision making.
20. Have some fun along the way - joy can fuel positive change.
In the end, be kind to yourself as you grow, fail and succeed. There is no health in beating yourself up and setting yourself up for failure. Success often comes in packages we did not expect, so be open to things looking a bit different than you expected. Keep moving towards the things that you love and make you feel alive, and that path will lead you towards true change and growth. Happy New Year!
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