I made two changes to how I set resolutions that finally caused them to stick. 1) I turned resolutions into year-long measurable objectives. 2) I created a visual daily reminder of why I'm making them in the first place.
Year-Long Measurable Objectives
That phrase couldn't sound less inspirational, but it helped me stick to my plan for two years. Two years ago, I told myself that I would exercise 4 to 5 times a week on average over the whole year. It didn't matter how long I exercised. (15 minutes counts.) It didn't matter what I was doing. (Gentle yoga counts.) I just had to do it, and do it with that frequency – on average. If I fell off the plan one month, then it wasn't a failure of the whole resolution. It just meant that next month would have to be particularly butt-kicking to maintain the average.
It worked. Sure, I had weeks where I succeeded in my average goal and weeks where I didn't. I just diligently and honestly wrote everything down in a fitness diary without judgment. And at each month's end, when I calculated my results, I re-motivated myself.
The Visual Diary
I love the ocean. I love to dive. I love to hike coastal trails. And I love to travel. So for years, I have ordered this 365 Days of Islands Wall Calendar. I put it somewhere where it can inspire me every day – my bathroom. I decided to turn this Wall Calendar into my fitness diary. I wrote down my workouts and other health-related information that I wanted to track over time such as sweets eaten. And if I didn't exercise, I marked the day as “Rest.” Something about seeing too many “Rest” days piling up triggers my passion (OK, guilt) into reversing the trend.
There are two reasons why this works for me. First, I see this visual cue to work out every day. I can’t forget. Second, the calendar reminds me why I want to work out – to be fit enough to do the things I love to do -- to dive better, travel more, and enjoy that fruity cocktail without guilt. The calendar reminds me that the resolution I made is not about the resolution itself, it’s about what the resolution will do for my quality of life. And that’s a motivator even in the most harried of times.