A Life Coach’s Roadmap for Your New Year’s Resolutions
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A Life Coach’s Roadmap for Your New Year’s Resolutions

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A Life Coach's Roadmap for Achieving Your New Year's Resolutions Goals Getting fit. Learning a new language. More books, less Facebook. Keeping organized. There are New Year’s resolutions aplenty to make – and as many ways to break them. Brad Waters, a licensed social worker and career-life coach, wants you to reevaluate how you’ll reach your resolution goal. Step one? Don’t start January 1st.

“We have it all wrong,” says Waters. “It is a commonly accepted myth that January 1st is the perfect starting point for a resolution. For the most part, it’s bunk. Yet, for some, it works. In short, if January 1st feels like a great starting point, and you’re truly prepared to start on that day, then by all means do it.”

But he asks, why then? Why pinpoint the day after a potentially long and exhausting few weeks? “Why not January 12th or June 2nd? If you are someone who takes pleasure in celebrating significant dates and anniversaries, consider starting your resolution on a day that’s important to you and has a permanent positive association. Like the day you got accepted into college or your birthday.”

The other big issue with January 1st? “Most of us don’t prepare properly ahead of that day,” says Waters. “According to the authors of Changing for Good, preparation is an essential stage for succeeding with our change goals,” the Chicago coach says. “Even though you might look in the mirror today and feel motivated to start a diet immediately, have you made the necessary preparations? Do we have the tools, knowledge, success plan, and support team in place?”

According to a study last year in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, only 8% of people are successful in achieving their resolution and 25% of people don’t have success past the first week. So what can you do to avoid becoming another statistic?

Yup, you guessed it: prepare. To help you reach your goal, Waters has pulled together the best-of-the-best strategies for prepping your resolution roadmap:

1. Pull A Weed By Its Roots. “Stopping a bad habit? It is essential that you understand the root cause of the behavior. If you don’t address the psychological attachment to the problem, any behavior changes will be short lived because the psychological need will still be there waiting to be fulfilled. Pull the problem by the roots and fill the hole with a healthier alternative.”

2. Prepare Now, Commit When Truly Ready. “This part is tricky because you don’t want to get stuck in preparation mode and procrastinate on starting your resolution. Yet when you have the information, resources, tools, plans, backup plans, and support systems in place, you’ll be better equipped to handle challenges that arise along the way. Make a plan that gives yourself time to prepare, yet also challenges you to have your preparations completed by a meaningful start date.”

3. Visualize Success and Failure. “Do you see yourself sticking to your new habit or will it probably taper off after a few weeks? Visualize how this could potentially play out so that you can make contingency plans in advance. How about scheduling a resolution reminder in your calendar 3 weeks from your start date?”

4. The Calendar/Calculator Test. “Does your resolution pass the ‘calendar and calculator’ test? Your goals should be specific and measurable. It’s not very effective to say, ‘I want to lose weight this year so I’ll start going to the gym more.’ Try something you can calculate and put in your calendar: “My goal is to lose 4 pounds in February, which breaks down to only one pound a week. Starting today I am going to the gym every Monday and Thursday after work at 6 p.m. Right now I am going to put my gym bag in the trunk of my car.” When Thursday arrives, this specific plan is already in place, the preparations have been made, and the routine has been automated.”

Tip: What time of day do you have peak energy and willpower? Schedule your resolution actions for then. Don’t go to the gym after work if that’s when you feel most depleted. You’ll associate the gym with being tired and cranky.

5. The Snowball Effect. “It helps immensely when we can see the fruits of our labors early on. So start off with smaller and more manageable goals, rather than overwhelming yourself with huge commitments. For example, start by making a goal that you can achieve within the next two or three weeks. By resolving to reach smaller goals, you’ll sooner see successes. Experiencing successes keeps you motivated to add more goals. Resulting in more successes. You get the picture.”

6. Reward Success. “Reward the successes you’ve achieved through hard work rather than punishing yourself for setbacks and missed goals. Guilt, regret, and punishment may work for a while but they aren’t great motivators over the long term. As you prepare for your resolution, figure out what your rewards will be. The key here is that the rewards must be intrinsically meaningful to you.”

7. Reframe Setbacks. “The moment you realize you hit a setback is the moment you can recommit to your original goal. Acknowledge how you could have done things differently and then move on from it. Immediately. The setback is now in the past so don’t dwell on it.”

8. Reframe Mindset. “Speaking of reframing, you might just need to reframe your mindset at the onset of this process. Do you have a fixed or growth mindset? If you want to grow as a person but have a history of having an inflexible fixed mindset, changing could prove very challenging. Consider reading the book Mindset by Carol Dweck.”

9. Enlist Help. “If you’re not good at praising, rewarding, and reminding yourself, enlist a resolution buddy. Set up a check-in system where they email, text, and call you periodically. This keeps you accountable to someone and that’s helpful when you’re tempted to slack off. Tip: Tell them in advance all of your favorite go-to excuses so they can call you out on them!”

10. Refill Your Will. “Renowned psychologist Roy Baumeister warns, ‘Each person’s supply of willpower is limited. And, as the ‘power’ aspect of willpower implies, it’s a form of energy. It gets depleted when you use it.’ Starting a new behavior or quitting an old one takes willpower, of which, according to Baumeister, we have a limited supply. If we establish too many goals requiring willpower, we’ll become mentally and physically exhausted. We’ll fail. Remember, start with one manageable piece and add more later. Again, seeing success will help refill your will.”

11. Refill Your Cup.Know what fills up your ‘resilience’ cup so that you have an ample supply of mental, physical, and spiritual energy to drink from. Resilience helps you bounce back from setbacks and jump over hurdles. Check out my Psychology Today article on the 10 Traits of Emotionally Resilient People.”

Sound like a lot of work? It is, says Waters. “Success in all forms takes a lot of work and willpower. As psychologist John Norcross says, ‘Take resolutions seriously or don’t take them at all.’”

Brad Waters, MSW, provides phone-based career coaching and consultation. He holds a Master's degree in social work from the University of Michigan and writes the Design Your Path blog at Psychology Today. You can connect with him on Twitter and at BradWatersMSW.com.


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What are your New Years resolutions? Do you make goals and action steps? Share your tips with us on Facebook.

This post originally ran 12/23/2014