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New Year’s Resolutions: One Great Hack.

Updated: Feb 17, 2019

We all know what a forlorn effort the New Year’s Resolution can be. Many of us have given up on taking them seriously at all, and stats generally show that a large majority have have failed by early February.

Certainly, grand or vague plans are more likely to fall by the wayside. Typical goal setting advice is that they should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Targeted), and that bigger goals should be broken down into smaller components.

There are routine habits we may wish to build (or abstain from) on a daily or many-times-a-week basis. Typically these are founded around things like exercise, meditation and diet, or giving up / cutting down on smoking or alcohol.

So here’s one resolution that may just rule them all…rather than get vexed about getting the deed done, just try recording if it does get done, and make the measurement the resolution.

That way it’s much less of a “failure” to not run 5km in a week. You can record that you ran, say, 2km and keep on recording as the weeks go buy. Missing out a day of meditation or not  drinking alcohol once or twice doesn’t mean the resolution is “broken” (giving part of our mind the excuse to give up). If we measure that we managed 3 or 4 times in a week, and have thus improved on our general average, then the resolution to measure has been totally successful and the desire to improve meditation time or cut down alcohol has also been met, even if not to miraculous levels.

A couple of years ago, I knew I was at risk of a relapse in depression. I decided to measure 3 things daily: Exercise, meditation and music practice. Within a couple of weeks, activities in all 3 areas were improving and my mood lifted accordingly. It’s a pretty standard CBT approach.

Measuring will provide its own motivations for improvement, a motivation that the “magical” date of 1/1 doesn’t always provide, especially as it recedes in the rear view mirror.

Measurement can obviously be done in a variety of ways, such as in a diary, bullet point journal or blank book. Tables can be set up ahead of time. There are also a range of free and paid-for apps to choose for phones and tablets - searching for “habit tracker” should do the trick.

Give it a try, best of luck :-)

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