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How To Make Resolutions You’ll Keep

How To Make Resolutions You’ll Keep

This is a time when people make resolutions and think about the changes they plan for the year ahead. 2005 is past; 2006 is lit by a glow of anticipation. The world of blogs is replete with suggestions for suitable resolutions, notes on how best to implement them and motivational pieces to get you started.

That’s not where I plan to go.

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I want to look back to the year that’s past, and try to recall the resolutions I didn’t keep in 2005: all the good intentions that came to nothing; the plans that somehow dissolved as they met reality. What did I want that I failed to act on? What did I hope for, then gradually allow to drift into limbo?


Why do this? Not to berate myself for what I left undone; nor to feel that most useless and pointless of emotions, guilt. What I hope is to learn from what happened—or didn’t happen— and discover things essential for the year ahead.

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There are no failures, only experiments that didn’t work. Every action (including inaction) produces a result; and every result is a way to help you learn more. Maybe you resolved to quit smoking, but are still puffing away on that cancerous weed. Ask yourself what held you back you from your resolve. What was more important to you than giving up cigarettes? The good feelings smoking gives you? The belief that it helps you stay slim? Social pressures? Maybe you resolved to lose weight, but weigh pretty much the same as before. What was more important than being thinner? The pleasure of eating? Relief from loneliness? Bingeing on chocolate or Doritos to offset some unhappiness? Did you fail to keep your plan to get better qualifications because of financial stress—or fear of leaving your predictable rut?

There’s always a reason in what you do, and in whatever you fail to do as well. Most often, it’s linked to your values. They aren’t all equal: the more important values trump the weaker ones. Concern for your health may be one of your values, but if wanting to fit in with your friends ranks higher, you’ll continue to smoke, or drink too much, or spend too much, if that’s what it takes to stay part of the gang. Make all the resolutions you wish. Until you change the relative ranking of your values, nothing in your behavior will to alter for long.

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The point of this exercise is to discover what rational decisions caused you to step away from what you resolved. Which were the values you acted on because they ranked highest? Not the ones linked to your resolutions. If they had been the most important, you’d be looking back on plans made and kept. Something else was stronger, so—completely rationally, if not always consciously—you did what it told you, and walked away from what you intended to do.

Never make resolutions simply because you feel it’s the right thing to do; they won’t have the force of deep, underlying values needed to produce success. Take whatever time you need time to work out what truly counts for you and link any resolutions to that. If your resolutions don’t draw on your strongest values; don’t spring from feelings and beliefs too important to ignore, they will quickly be swept away. You’ll feel bad for a little while, then forget about them—until next January 1st. A few moments of guilt will be your only reward, not success—nor a valuable lesson in self-discovery.

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There are no failures. Your mistakes are experiments every bit as useful as your successes, as long as you learn from them. Don’t rush ahead to a new set of resolutions for 2006 without getting the full benefit from all those you made last year; whether you kept them, lost them or set them aside. Stop, reflect and consider. If you only do that, you’ll have learned the most valuable lesson of them all: the lesson of lifelong learning.

Adrian Savage is an Englishman and a retired business executive who lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his thoughts most days at Slow Leadership, the site for anyone who wants to bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership, and The Coyote Within.

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Last Updated on December 30, 2018

How to Become an Early Riser and Stay Energetic Throughout the Day

How to Become an Early Riser and Stay Energetic Throughout the Day

This article is the 2nd in the 6-part series, Lifehack Challenge: Become An Early Riser In 5 Days.

If you’d like to become an early riser, there are some things you should know before you run off to set your oft-ignored alarm clock.

So how to become an early riser?

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Here are five tips I’ve discovered to be most helpful in making the transition from erratic sleeper to early morning wizard:

1. Choose to get up before you go to sleep

You’re not very good at making decisions when you’ve just woken up. You were in the middle of a dream in which [insert celebrity crush of choice here] is serving you breakfast in bed only to be rudely awakened by the harsh tones of your alarm clock. You’re frustrated, angry, confused, and surprised. This is not the time to be making decisions about whether or not you should stay in bed! And yet, most of us leave the first decision of our day to be made in a blur of partial wakefulness.

No more! If you want to be a consistently early riser, try making your decision to rise at a specific time before you go to sleep the night before. This frees you from making the decision in the morning when you’ve just woken up. Instead of making a decision, you have only to follow through on your decision from the night before. Easier said than done? Of course. But only for the first few times. Eventually your need for raw willpower to get out of bed will diminish and you’ll be the proud parent of a new habit!

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Steve Pavlina suggests you practice getting out of bed during the day[1] to get a few of the “practice sessions” out of the way without the early morning fog in your head.

2. Have a plan for your extra time

Let’s say you’ve actually made it out of bed 2 hours before you normally would. Now what? What are you going to do with all this time you’ve discovered in your day? If you don’t have something planned to do with your extra time, you risk falling for the temptation of a “morning nap” that wipes out all the work you put into getting up.

What to do? Before you go to bed, make a quick note of what you’d like to get done during your extra hours the following day. Do you have a book to write, paper to read, or garage to clean? Make a plan for your early hours and you’ll do more than protect yourself from backsliding into bed. You’ll get things done and those results will fuel your desire to build rising early into a habit!

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3. Make rising early a social activity

While there’s obvious value in joining a Lifehack Challenge in order to get you started as an early riser, your internet buddies just don’t have enough pull to make your new habit stick in the long term. The same cannot be said for the people you spend time with as part of your early morning routine.

Sure, you could choose to read blogs for two hours every morning. But wouldn’t it be great to join an early breakfast club, running group, or play chess in the park at 5am? The more people you get involved in making your new habit a daily part of your life, the easier it’ll be to succeed.

4. Don’t use an alarm that makes you angry

If we’re all wired differently, why do we all insist on torturing ourselves with the same sort of alarm each morning? I spent years trying to wake up before my alarm went off so I wouldn’t have to hear it. I got pretty good, too. Then I started using a cellphone as my alarm clock and quickly realized that different ring tones irritated me less but worked just as well to wake me up. I now use the ring tone alarm as a back up for my bedside lamp plugged in to a timer.

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When the bright light doesn’t work, the cellphone picks up the slack and I wake up on time. The lesson learned? Experiment a bit and see what works best for you. Light, sound, smells, temperature, or even some contraption that dumps water on you might be more pleasant than your old alarm clock. Give something new a try!

5. Get your blood flowing right after waking

If you don’t have a neighbor you can pick fights with at 5am you’ll have to settle with a more mundane exercise. It doesn’t take much to get your blood flowing and chase the sleep from your head. Just pick something you don’t mind doing and go through the motions until your heart rate is up. Jumping rope, push-ups, crunches, or a few minutes of yoga are typically enough to do the trick. (Just don’t do anything your doctor hasn’t approved.)

If you live in a beautiful part of the world like me, you might want to use a bit of your early morning to go for a walk and enjoy the beauty of the world around you. If you have a coffee shop open within walking distance, dragging yourself out of bed for a cup of coffee to savor on your walk home as the world wakes around you is a wonderful experience. Try it!

More Resources for an Energetic Morning

Featured photo credit: Frank Vex via unsplash.com

Reference

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