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Resolution? What resolution?

It’s the end of January.  Do you know where your resolutions are? 

Yes, your resolution.  You know, the one you were so excited about on January 1 when you said, “This is the year.  This year is going to be different.  This year, I’m really going to do it.  I can really, really feel it.”   Oh, that sweet, optimistic energy of January 1.  Hope springs eternal.

And now, it’s the end of January and, if you’re living in the Northern Hemisphere, the days are dark and cold and, very likely, the fire for your resolution is dwindling.  Wherever you live, if you’re like the majority of good-intentioned resolution-makers, by the end of January that resolution seems more like a vague dream.   Resolution?  What resolution?

If that’s the case, or if you are hanging onto your resolution by a mere thread, or just want to give it a little umph, I have an idea for you.   It’s a no-brainer:  A resolution checklist.

This is the first year that on the cusp of February, my resolution is still alive and well, and I attribute that to the checklist I made.  Here’s how it works. 

Often resolutions fail because they are too general or too vague.  We want to develop a quality like patience.  Or resilience.  Or confidence.  Or we want to drop the extra weight or stop smoking.  We want to have a more balanced life.  Or better health.  The experts warn about making your resolution too big, bold, ambitious or ambiguous.  They say that for success your resolution should be simple, specific, doable. 

But here’s the deal:  Maybe I do want to be more resilient, or confident, or balanced, or healthy, or lose weight.  It may sound general, but that is what I want.  Does this mean it shouldn’t be my resolution?

Not necessarily.  It just means I can’t stop there.  I need to put some legs on it.  I need tangible actions to walk me to my goal. 

So this year, I decided to create a resolution checklist. I brainstormed a list of specific, simple (read: easy) actions that will support resolution success.  I identified some as daily actions.  Others are what you might consider “add-ins” – ones I can select and add into my day.   It took me about 20 minutes to do it.   I asked, what things can I do to help me achieve this resolution?  And, bam!  There was my list. 

For example, let’s say you’ve been feeling stressed and that all you do is work.  You feel like you are neglecting other parts of life that are important to you.  And you see that working 24/7 is not, in fact,  enhancing your productivity.  Quite the opposite.  So, let’s say it’s your New Year’s resolution to have more balance in your life.  For your resolution checklist, you might come up with daily actions like:

  • Go to bed by 11 pm
  • Do not check emails after 7 pm
  • Wake up before everyone else and sit quietly for 5 precious minutes
  • Walk at least 15 minutes
  • Take 3 5 -minute breaks during the day to look out the window, stretch, or breathe deeply
  • Include protein in every meal
  • Have a maximum of 1 cup of coffee

You might create add-in actions like:

  • Turn off the TV from 5-8 pm
  • Do not bring work home
  • Play a game with the kids
  • Have a family meal without distractions (tv, text messaging, etc.)
  • Play the piano for 30 minutes

You get the idea.

At the start of my day, I glance at my checklist, select the actions I’ll include that day and when I’ll do them. 

Why is this working?  Mostly because I don’t have to think so much.  It really is a no-brainer.  All the possible actions are already figured out.  All I have to do is pick and choose.  It’s a buffet of resolution actions.  There are actions to suit any day, any schedule, any mood.  So, I can be sure I’ll be doing something to keep with the program.  Also, reviewing the list at the beginning of the day just takes a second and keeps my resolution at the forefront of my mind. 

So I encourage you:  Before you throw this year’s resolution on the pile of abandoned dreams, give it a shot.  Brainstorm a list of really simple things you can do to put your resolution into action (the more the merrier).   Use a resolution checklist and you’ll increase the odds that at the end of the year you’ll be saying, “Resolution for 2011?  Check!”

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