How’s your new year’s resolution holding up so far? Have you been able to stick to your goal of going to bed earlier, drinking less alcohol, getting to the gym or cutting back on sugar? Good intentions are often thwarted by our old habits and the temptations surrounding us. To stay on track with your goals, link your aspiration to a larger purpose.
In his book Start with Why, Simon Sinek emphasizes the power of a core purpose as essential for effectively leadership (click here to see his TED talk). In order to follow through on your good intentions, keep in mind a clear purpose for your goal so you can maintain your resolve when the going gets rough.
Start your new year with a focus on why your resolution matters to you. Better yet, psychologist Kelly McGonigal, author of The Willpower Instinct, provides an alternative to yearly resolutions: identify a theme for the new year. For example, if your goals involve improving your sleep, exercise or consumption, your 2019 theme might be health or vitality. Or you might be focusing on these goals because being more energetic would improve your presence in relationships or strengthen your productivity at work, so you could have a theme of relationship or productivity. The same action item can be driven by different purposes for different people.
However, as you dig into the underlying motivation for your target behavior, you may discover your goal is more about obligation, performance or expectations – I should eat better, exercise more, drink less alcohol, etc. It is common to make resolutions as penance, but this is a setup for failure.
Find reasons why the behavior you aspire to engage in matters to you, how it fits with your core values or how it reflects your identity. When you link the new behavior to who you already are, then the goal will be more attainable. You don’t have to become someone different – your new behavior just makes you more powerfully yourself.
Once you choose your annual theme, use it as a north star to guide your target actions. If you want to build relationships, aim to schedule Friday date nights with your partner. You might start in January, sitting down together with calendars and carve out this time. So far, so good. But when other demands derail the schedule, it will be easy to let this plan go. By having relationship as your theme, rather than a date nights resolution, you can reorient and think of other ways to strengthen the connection. Maybe you set the alarm a bit earlier in the mornings to start the day together with a cuddle. This way your relationship theme remains intact.
Behavior change involves learning along the way. If the target behavior you initially setup isn’t realistic, your theme can keep you focused and inspire you to try something else to stay on track toward your larger purpose.
What is your 2019 theme?