Resolutions versus commitments, failure versus success.

I’m going to stop overeating. I’m going to stop smoking. I’m going to learn to eat healthy. I’m going to, you know, change.

People don’t even make New Year’s resolutions anymore because they made them year after year, right after Ryan Seacrest’s countdown to midnight, only to give up within days.

They had the best intentions.

They had the best of intentions to go to the gym. But by January 15, they forgot where the gym was located.

So why even bother to set yourself up for failure again? What does it really take for you to make real progress, instead of merely writing a new “wish list” with no real investment on your part?

I have coached with some incredibly motivated and successful mentors, have attended many workshops on performance and success, read hundreds of books, researched everything I could on the subject, and learned from my own successes and failures.

To help you navigate 2014 without the pain of regret, here are my golden nuggets to support you through change that will last past your New Year’s hangover.

  • Have a compelling vision for what you truly want, not what you think you need. The vision needs to be important enough to change your behavior and motivate you to spend your time, money, and energy on it. Wanting to lose X amount of weight is rarely compelling enough for someone to really stay the course and change habits for long. It would require having to “push” yourself to do something, which requires willpower, versus creating a vision that “pulls” you, excites you, and turns you on. There needs to be a strong emotional intensity to your vision for it to carry you forward.
  • Review it and feel its emotional intensity and heart-deep “why” everyday to see and feel if it is still something you really want and are ready to keep at the top of your priority list. Most people write down their New Year resolutions, only to never look at them again past January. You cannot stay committed and engaged if you conveniently “forget” all about it.
  • Raise your standards! Most of us have low expectations, making us lazy, judgmental, and unwilling to take full responsibility. We also surround ourselves with others with even lower standards, giving us an excuse to stay stuck in mediocrity. The fastest way to get closer to your goals is to raise your own standards by making your vision and goals a “must” instead of a “should”. “Should” never gets done, whereas “must” does. Instead of holding on to the identity of “big bones”, “genetic obesity”, “can’t-leave-without-cheese” or “slow metabolism”, why not raise your own standard of who you are, the “athlete”, the “skinny-hip-mama”, the “green-juice-lover”, etc. You will be surprised at how quickly change happens once you embody a different “personality”.
  • Back up your new standards with small rituals and commit to them. Rituals guarantee your success or failure and are a big part of creating lasting change. However, they mean nothing if you don’t commit to them. Identifying yourself with the new “athlete” in you will require the commitment to lace up your sneakers and go for a walk or a yoga class day in and day out, until it is just what you do and who you are. If you cannot commit, know that it just isn’t that important to you, or you have what I call an underlying commitment that you might not be aware of, and that underlying commitment is taking precedent. So let go of the guilt. Either drop it out of your vision or goals for yourself, or work to understand the self-sabotaging commitment and let it go.
  • Remember to feed your need for fun and flexibility! It does not mean coming up with excuses, it means finding a way to commit to what you want in a way that is as irresistible as possible.

It’s not that hard. Unless you are already convinced it will be. And yes, it will take some discipline at the beginning, but isn’t regret more painful than discipline?

I am making it easy for you to get started. Here is one of my favorite and quick exercise, courtesy of Tony Robbins:

  • Pick an area of your life that you want to improve. Write in details what it is like right now.
  • Ask yourself: what are the rituals that have created this reality for me? Write them down. It could be the daily pre-work trip to Dunkin Donuts, or the hours spent on Facebook instead of running.
  • What do you want this area of your life to look like going forward? Describe it vividly, feel this new reality. Again, be detailed.
  • Ask yourself: what are the rituals that would get me there? Meditating for five minutes before getting up? Going for a short walk everyday after lunch? Reading one new book each week? Spending at least one quality hour with my spouse and/or children every night?

Yes, you’ll have to find the time. No, there isn’t a magic pill to make New Year’s resolution succeed. But the promise of a fresh start is powerful and compelling…why not ride the wave?