New Year’s resolutions are a conundrum for many. Participating in the tradition of setting them sets a tone of positive belief in yourself for the year to come, indicating your faith that you can change for the better. Yet, keeping new year’s resolutions can be tough. For many, memories of failing to stick to their plans for betterment from years past gives the idea of setting these goals anew a bitter tone. Valorie Burton, a renowned life coach and author of several books on personal achievement, spoke with theGrio about the very best ways to set your New Year’s resolutions — and set yourself for sticking to them. Read these practical tips culled from Burton’s years spent helping thousands succeed — and keep her advice in mind as you set your New Year’s resolutions for 2013.
theGrio: Do you think that New Year’s resolutions are a good idea?
It depends on the person. I think it’s particularly important to be reflective as you come into the new year, and set intentions for the year. If you’re just doing it off-the-cuff, and you don’t have a plan, then don’t bother. You’ll only frustrate yourself and end up feeling guilty. But if you set intentions, and actually come up with a game plan, meaning planning the small action steps, and asking “What are the obstacles that I expect,” and “How will I overcome those,” and “How will I be held accountable,” then absolutely. The new year is a wonderful time for a fresh start and having a vision for where you’re going.
As a career coach, what in your experience is the best way for people to set these goals?
As a personal and executive coach, I work on every area. Sometimes I deal with careers, sometimes I deal with relationship goals, financial goals, or weight loss goals, so I think this applies to everybody. The best way is to think, “Where do I want to be this time next year?” Actually imagine yourself in [the future and ask], “What do I want to feel like? What ways do I want to feel different? What do I want to be different in my life?” So really look at the vision for where you want to go, and then, after you’ve imagined your vision, set some very clear, specific, doable goals.
For example, if you are currently in a lot of debt, and maybe your partner had a layoff in the last year, maybe you’ve used up your savings. Or you’re thinking, “I want to feel more financially secure this time next year.” That’s a great vision, and you can imagine what that feels like, and you can set goals around that. The goal may be, “We’ve got two credit cards we need to pay off; here’s the amount. Okay, how much do we have every month that we can put towards that. What can we sell? What can we cut back on?” Be really specific about how to go after the goal. When we start with the vision, it gives you a drive. It gives you a sense of, “Here’s how I want my life to be different –here’s how I want to feel different.”
What is the best way to stick to your goals?
A couple of things there. Having some kind of accountability is very, very helpful. A simple way to have accountability is being around other people who have a similar goal. That’s why classes work when it comes to weight loss. That’s why if you have a partner that’s also trying to lose weight, it’s always helpful if you meet each other for exercise. It’s the reason that people get a personal trainer or financial planner. So, having someone else that you’re accountable to helps. It’s the reason people get a coach!
If you know you’ve got a weekly coaching session, or training session, or you’ve agreed to meet your friend at six a.m. — there’s a good chance you might have procrastinated if it was just you, or hit the snooze button. Or you might not have worked on that project. But because you’ve got an appointment, you might wait until the last minute to work on it, but you go ahead and do it. So if there is any way to have someone else involved, if there is any way to have a structure from a class or a goal group that you are a part of, that can be extremely helpful. If you’ve got an accountability partner that you’re checking in with, you’ve also given them permission to check in with you.
What advice do you have for getting back on track if you fall off in your progress?
Number one, expect that you’re going to have setbacks. If you expect that, you can already have a game plan for how you’re going to get back on track. The most important thing you can do is not beat yourself up. Say, “Okay, what went well; I’ll do more of that. What went wrong, and how can I make an adjustment, to keep me from stumbling in that way again?” That’s really, really big.
I think when it comes to New Year’s resolutions especially it’s important to say, “Hey, my enthusiasm may not be as great somedays, I might get off track for a week; however, I should expect that, and just keep trying again.” That’s particularly important.
What’s next for you in the new year, speaking of New Year’s?
I’m working on a new book that will come out next fall. I’m also launching a new web site, which I’m pretty excited about. We’ve got these coaching on demand products, and we actually have a New Year, New You Challenge. I’ve got these five coaching questions that I ask folks to ask themselves over five minutes, five days in a row. We start with a question that will help them get clear about what their New Year’s resolutions should be. Those are two big things. I have a couple of HLN spots coming up in January, but mainly it’s the new books, and the new products that we have coming out. A big part of it is keeping people motivated and consistent.
We’re launching a new subscription program called Momentum. It’s week-by-week coaching. Because I speak so much, people get very inspired and sometimes they take off and they go do whatever they sensed they were supposed to do while I was speaking. But most people need some support along the way, and those are the sorts of things we have been working diligently on.
We will also continue to train our coaches through The CaPP Institute. So we’ve got all kinds of stuff going on!
What is your biggest wish in the new year for all your readers, all the people who have been inspired by your message, as well as people who are just being introduced to you?
My whole thing is, “Get unstuck, be unstoppable.” Everybody can relate to being stuck. You might be stellar in your finances, while relationships are a struggle, or any other area. But people tend to be stuck because of fear. My wish for people is that they muster the courage to fully be who they were meant to be. That they muster up the courage to have some big goals this year. Even if they don’t know how right now, that they would at least try, because that’s really where it starts. You just say, “I might not know how, I might be afraid, but it’s possible to break out of that box.”
Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter at @lexisb.