So You Say You Want a Resolution? Well you know…

I had to smile when I came across this line the other day. It caught my attention because I had just been listening to the Beatles on a recent trip up to New York City and because I’ve been thinking a lot about resolutions lately…

…about how most of the time they just don’t work.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the time-honored tradition of reflecting on the previous year and identifying changes we want to make in the year ahead. It’s just that too many times our resolutions wither and wane by the time spring rolls around.

Why? Because we make resolutions without cultivating the necessary resolve to carry them through.

Want this year to be different? If you have a resolution for 2009 that you really want to stick with, read the following 5 tips. At the end of the process you will have a true resolution on your hands – one with real staying power:

1. Make sure you have a powerful “why” behind it

Here’s a vital question you must answer about your resolution: For the sake of what are you making this change? Pause for a moment to reflect on your response. What do you notice about it?

Is your answer compelling and does it connect to something you really care about? Or is your resolution a “should” as in “I really should do this.” The problem with “shoulds” is that they don’t have much power behind them – usually because they are someone else’s idea of what we ought to do and not something we truly own.

An executive I know set a goal to run 5 miles a day, rain or shine. Impressed with his commitment, one day I asked him, “How do you manage to run every day even when you don’t feel like it?” “Oh, it’s simple,” he responded. “ I want to be here for my children and watch them grow up. Running is the best way I can keep myself healthy for them.”

No wonder his commitment has staying power – he knows exactly why he is running and the reason connects to something he cares deeply about.

So, back to my question: For the sake of what are you making this resolution? Listen again to your response. Is it clear and compelling to you?

2. Envision it as a done deal

Now that you have a compelling reason to make this change, it’s time to paint a vivid picture of how your life will be different once you’ve succeeded. Our imaginations are powerful tools that we can use to propel us forward. In fact, our bodies don’t know the difference between something we imagine vividly and something we have really experienced.

So, take a couple of slow, deep breaths and imagine yourself in the future when your goal is already achieved. You have stuck with your resolution and you are reaping what you have sown. Now really picture yourself in this place and time and take a look around. What do you see and hear? How do you feel? What new possibilities are now open to you? Allow yourself to experience this vision with all of your senses.

Does the picture you envisioned inspire you? If so, jot down the salient images, feelings and words that it provoked. Periodically revisit this vision to remind you of the new future you are committed to creating.

3. Listen to (but don’t buy into) your Saboteur

Anytime we choose to make an important change, an opposing voice within our head comes to life. This is the voice of our saboteur, the one whose job it is to maintain the status quo and to keep us safe and playing small.

It’s a voice that must be dealt with or it will derail us. But we can’t get rid of the saboteur – it shows up without invitation and the more we resist it (or try not to think it), the more it persists. What we can do is bring awareness to it. Hear what your saboteur is saying but don’t take it too seriously. As you bring awareness and even a sense of humor to observing this critic within you, it will lose its power over you.

My resolution for 2009 is to write a book. This is a bold and somewhat daunting goal for me, so it is no surprise that my saboteur has been hard at work with questions like, “Who are you to write a book?” When I hear that voice inside my head I smile and think to myself, “Who am I not to?”

Pause for a moment and listen to your own saboteur. What does it have to say about the change you seek to make in 2009? What is your response?

4. Launch Your Pre-Emptive Strike

As we begin our journey towards change, the path before us is inevitably strewn with hurdles we must overcome. The key is to anticipate them ahead of time and plan our response while our resolve is strong and our vision is clear. Facing potential obstacles now empowers us to stay the course in the face of setbacks and challenges.

So, hit the pause button once more and reflect on this question: What is the biggest stumbling block you are likely to face in keeping your resolution? You know, the one thing that is most likely to cause you to stumble or veer off course.

It could be an internal stumbling block: a tendency to procrastinate, a fear of failure or a habit of taking on too much. Or perhaps your biggest hurdle will be external: resistance or sabotage from others, the lack of a support system or an environment that isn’t conducive to the change you seek.

Now hold this stumbling block in your mind's eye and boldly face it head on. Determine what you can do now (and what you will do in the future) to prevent it from tripping you up.

5. Make it a Declaration

Now it’s time to turn your resolution into a declaration. A declaration is a statement with the force of some authority behind it which immediately brings about a change in circumstances and the generation of a different reality.*

In other words, declarations don’t just describe what we hope will happen, they actually make the future happen from the moment of speaking.

To make a declaration, you must invoke your own individual authority – your authority to be the author and leader of your own life and the authority you have to choose how you want your life to be in terms of relationships, career, health and fitness, contribution, etc.

Too often we inadvertently give this authority away to others and in doing so, temporarily lose the power we have to change our lives.

To turn your resolution into a declaration, I recommend you do three things:

First, craft a declarative statement using definitive language. For example “I will write a book by the end of 2010” is a declaration. “I want to try to write a book this year” is not.

Secondly, practice saying your declaration out loud from a place of strength and conviction and with the full force of your own authority behind it. Notice how it feels when you speak it and whether your body and tone of voice convey your resolve.

Lastly, share your resolution with a trusted friend, family member or colleague and request their support. Grant them permission to ask you about your resolution and to offer you encouragement along the way.

So, there you have it – five tips for making a resolution that sticks. Here’s wishing you a new year filled with new resolve!


*Source: Coaching to the Human Soul, Volume II, by Alan Sieler

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