New Year’s Resolutions, No! How to Make Positive Changes that Have Meaning and Stick

Never Made One Yet

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The first time I encountered the term, New Year’s Resolution, was in the comic strip, Peanuts, by Charles M. Shultz. I was 8, maybe 9, years old, and Peanuts was the top comic in the Chicago Tribune. As I went through the comic strips that day, making resolutions was a recurring theme in them.

I found the idea of New Year’s Resolutions curious, and I wondered why I’d never heard of them. I sought out the only available expert I knew. I asked my mom.

My mom answered, “Because most folks make resolutions and forget them the very next day. That’s just not how most people change.”

I can still tap into the relief I felt when she said that. My imagination had made this ferocious picture of what a resolution was. I had seen myself climbing into a splintery, wooden shipping crate labeled “FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE WITH NO HOPE OF EVER GETTING OUT.”

Thanks to that conversation about New Year’s Resolutions, I’ve never made made one yet.

New Year’s Resolutions a New Approach

On Open Comment Night December 5th, the subject of New Year’s Resolutions came up. We agreed that they don’t work as a list. Christine Kane explained her approach was to choose a word. Ben took that idea back as the Absolute Best Way and described it on his Instigator Blog.

Boy, I sure like their ideas a lot!

But I need more than that to execute — if I want to make a positive change that will stay with me. So if Ben and Christine don’t mind, I’m going to expand on the spirit of their ideas, knowing they already “get” it.

How to Make Positive Changes that Have Meaning and Stick

Changing habits is hard to do. The hard part is getting the new ones to stick. It’s easier when we approach our habits the way we approach our tasks and our skills — knowing our goal, not taking on too much, and making use of the “do over” rule when we need it.

Here’s how to make your positive changes stick.

  1. Choose one thing to change. One thing done is always better than 12 things started. If you’re working on gratitude, you might narrow it to saying thank you and meaning it. If you’re working on snacking you might replace one snack food with a healthful one or one time that you snack with another activity.
  2. Write your choice down and define it as an objective. I will say thank you out loud and give a brief reason for my gratitude when folks do things simple for me, such as listen to my ideas, and I’ll note their response. Now you know it is that you’re going for and you’ve got a clear objective.
  3. Make it measurable and make a measurement goal that increases. The measure can be simple. It might be how many smiles a day you get. Without a measure though, a goal is easy to lose track of or forget. How will you know if you’re getting better without a measurement?
  4. Check in at the end of the day to see how you did. Record your measurement and compare it to yesterday. Plan for tomorrow, but don’t think about next year — that’s a lifetime away.

    Forgive yourself when you slip or have a bad day. Everyone does that. Don’t give up — with that response no one ever would learn to bicycle, skate, or be a leader in any sense. Pick up where you left off, knowing the practice you already have will make the forward momentum that much easier.

    Celebrate your successes when you have a great day. When you live up to the change you are going for, let yourself know that by doing something really cool with a friend, taking in a great movie, CD, or book, or whatever else feels like a reward.

  5. When the change is fully a part of you, go on back to choose another positive to add to what you do.

Changing habits is like taking on new skills. We need to make room to learn, see progress, dust off our mistakes, and celebrate our successes. We’ve been doing that since we went to school. It’s what learning is.

Take a word from Christine and Ben, don’t make a resolution. Make a change that is meaningful.

When you make a positive change that sticks, other positive things will happen too. You’ll also be changing the world just a bit.

New Year’s Resolutions. Positive changes in the world. Have you thought about this? The quickest way to change other folks’ behavior is to change our own?

Thank you for that.

–ME “Liz” Strauss

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  1. says

    I think the best kept resolutions are the ones that you keep constantly in front of you. Stick it right on the top of your computer monitor, put it everywhere – wallet, handbag, computer desktop, toilet, mobile phone…

    I guarantee if you can keep it there for the next year, you’d have achieved it!

    My resolution? “Blog better, and reach out more!”

    “Blog better” in terms of better quality posts

    “Reach out more” because I want to hold workshops in my area on blogging and rope more people in the blogosphere!

  2. says

    Excellent post. I particularly agree with your final comment “The quickest way to change other folks’ behavior is to change our own?”

  3. says

    Liz, seems like this can work because it is simple. Though I have a lot to work on, a focus on one and then finding a good measuring rod of achievement is a great target. If I’m regular about the measuring rod, say list it in a book or in a chart in the evening, I’ll be inspired to see if I can improve on past performance next day. The key is something that motivates the action. Thanks for the inspiration via Christine and Ben.

  4. says

    Hi Robyn!
    Oneo f the reasons that I liked teaching first grad the best was that we got a new book every 6 weeks. It was that constant feeling of accompliment. Nothing beats that in my book. It keeps me going. Even cleaning a book shelf has that result.

    Christine and Ben were great inspiration. I like the way they started the conversation. It’s now been from here to Ben’s blog and back again. That’s kind of cool too! :)

  5. says


    Your points are right in line with mine on resolutions. Here are my tips and a link to the ebook I’ve condensed them from.

    Success with Your Resolution in 2007

    Did you know that only 10% of New Years resolutions are kept? You may have failed at keeping your New Year’s resolutions in the past, but don’t be discouraged. It all comes down to basics, and here are ten simple steps that will ensure success.

    Begin with a New Year’s resolution that concerns something you see as meaningful, a plan that’s significant.

    Be precise about what you’re resolving. Unclear and generalized resolutions are a sure path to frustration.

    Put together a strategy for accomplishing your resolution. The plan needs to be as detailed and complete as possible if you want to accomplish your New Year’s goal. Keep it acheivable. You want to make significant progress, but remember you shouldn’t set a goal that’s impossible to achieve, as this will result in disappointment and discouragement. Keep in mind where you are and be realistic.

    It’s imperative that you record the resolution in writing. Actually putting them in writing is the first step to making them a reality. Overlook this part, and it’s doubtful that you’ll be successful.

    Start immediately. Dive into your new lifestyle without delay, at the first of the year, and whenever possible, implement your new choices as quickly as is practical during the day.

    If at all possible, find a friend or group to work with in keeping your resolution. The likelihood of success will be much better than keeping it to yourself.

    Always remember that you will face setbacks, and put in place plans for dealing with them. Don’t let difficulties be show stoppers.

    Employ a positive mental outlook to stay on target and energized while working on your resolution. Reward yourself when you get to meaningful mileposts.

    Review your resolutions each morning and measure yourself to chart your progress. If required due to the situation , update them, but keep working towards them.

    Cultivate the habit of action, of getting off the couch, of finishing projects immediately. This practice alone can dramatically alter your life.

    Get your free copy of How the 10% Accomplish New Year’s Resolutions by Debra Thompson, founder of the Natural Health Co-op a website devoted to holistic health and wellness.

  6. says

    Hi Deb,
    Welcome. Yep those the keys all right. Everyone of them. Hope we haven’t overwhelmed folks with too much information on the subject . . . Sometimes it’s nice to start small and get a bit of accomplishment under our belts, building one brick at time. . . .

    Thanks for the comment, Debra. Good luck iwth your ebook!

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