Updated: Feb 23, 2021
Starting the new year, many people have a resolution to improve their life and big plans. Yet, by the end of the year, most have given up on their resolutions (https://discoverhappyhabits.com/new-years-resolutionstatistics/ ).
Anyone with a gym membership can observe this phenomenon. During the first two weeks of January, you might have to wait in line to use certain exercise equipment. The treadmills are all in motion. The exercise bike pedals are spinning. Everyone is super motivated to get in shape. But by March, only a few diehards are still working out and the gym is nearly empty.
How can we make resolutions and stick to them throughout the year?
Here is a quote I found that I think is appropriate: "Keep your hope high, your expectation low, and your mind open."
By keeping your hope high, it means you should set out with a big vision for yourself and a positive attitude. One way to do it is to imagine the best of all possible worlds. What does your vision of your ideal self-look like? What characteristics do the people I admire have? What relationships do you want to have and with what sort of people?
If your goal is physical fitness, you might think about what you want to look like in the future. What do top athletes look like and how do they train? You can find training videos of your favorite athletes on YouTube.
Another person might want a better career. Usually that happens by acquiring some new skills. To learn new skills, think about what classes you should take or what books you should read to gain them. What would life with a better career look like?
It might be hard to work out all the details, because the future can be difficult to predict, but just getting the basics in a few bullet points or inspiring pictures is a good start. The key is to figure out why you want to do this and what the aims are.
Next, the quote says to keep expectations low. When you expect something, you believe there is a good chance it might happen. Therefore, expectations lead to disappointment--especially if they are unrealistic. Luck does not come to everyone easily. Understand that while a bold vision is there to motivate you, the road to perfection is long and requires determination.
Suppose your goal is getting in shape. Will you look like a young Arnold Schwarzenegger by the end of the year? For most of us, the answer is definitely No! One shouldn't despair when the six pack abs have not emerged after three months of training.
However, you can look like "the best version of yourself." Use the photos of great athletes to be inspired by what is possible, but the real goal is to get in shape and be healthy. A healthy lifestyle is a daily habit, not just a passing thing you accomplish by going to the gym a few times.
It is especially important to keep expectations low if your goal requires the actions of other people. While anyone can dream of becoming a Fortune 500 CEO, it is an entire other thing to start a small business and become profitable. Forming a tech startup or starting a side hustle is no easy task either.
Having the self-discipline to keep going when times are tough is difficult, but it's a requirement in the formula of success. This is why recalling your original vision is important. Ask yourself: "Why am I doing this?" By asking yourself why, you will be able to bring the long-term goal back to mind and regain your willpower.
On the other hand, if the answer to "why" has lost its initial vitality, perhaps it is time to reconsider your goals. This leads us to the final part of the quote: Keeping an open mind.
We learn by failure. This is called experience. Moreover, it seems self-evident that the more ambitious your goals are the more failures you will encounter. Keeping an open mind will allow you to see opportunities where you had not before. Developing mindfulness will help you introspect and recognize when something you are doing is not working. Furthermore, no experience is really wasted. By learning what does not work you will discover other opportunities that you had not considered before.
Starting with a resolution to change does not just happen when the calendar is replaced on New Year's Day. It can happen anytime, even today. By choosing positive goals you will certainly become a better person, no matter what day it is or how long it takes.
Matt has attended the Meditation Center of Chicago since November 2019. His hobbies include walking in nature, woodworking, remodeling, and reading classic books, especially philosophy.