Take a look in your closets, garage, junk drawer and even your day planner. Are your valuable spaces uncomplicated and organized or cluttered and cramped? If your answer is the latter, it may be time tosimplify your life by getting down to the bare essentials.
For many people, a good number of items which currently clutter up your home are redundant, useless, in need or repair, or just taking up space. We simply do not need all of the possessions we have accumulated. These superfluous items can cost you valuable time and money as you sort through them on a daily basis.Simplification and getting down to the bare essentials will save time and money while reducing stress as well. Although there are many areas of our lives we could simplify, here are a few examples to give you a good start.
Simplify your wardrobe.
Most people wear less than 20% of the items in their closet on a regular basis. A simplified wardrobe can relieve a great deal of stress. Fewer options will expedite your outfit selection each morning. Stick to mix and match clothing pieces that are classic and timeless. Eliminate items that our outdated, waiting more than 6 months for repair or alterations, or worn less than twice a year. The increased space in your closet will also make it easier to view the remaining clothing you have.
Simplify your garage and storage area.
As the seasons change, swap snow shovels and ice picks for rakes and garden shovels. Store the unused items above in the rafters. If you have multiples of outdoor tools, garden tools, or sporting equipment, select the one in the best condition, and eliminate the others. Most importantly, if you have boxes in your storage area or garage that have been unopened for over two years, consider discarding it. If it’s been stored that long, you likely don’t need it.
Simplify your children’s toys.
Some toys, such as building blocks, are a staple in a child’s toy repertoire and should be kept. Classic games and toys should be retained so long as they are regularly played with. Others like board games or puzzles which are missing pieces, trendy toys (remember Tickle Me Elmo?) that now sit on the shelf collecting dust, or gifted items that your children never had any real interest in should be discarded or donated. More than likely, your child will never miss those items and their playroom shelves will look considerably less cluttered.
Simplify your kitchen.
Keep your cupboards organized by eliminating dishes and appliances you rarely use. You only need enough dishes to serve your family and a reasonable number of guests. Donate any extras. A single set of mixing bowls and cooking utensils is all that is necessary. While decluttering the kitchen, take a look under the sink and combine or discard multiples of cleaning supplies as well. Then find time to take a look through your pantry and donate any non-perishables you will not eat in the next month to a food bank.
Simplify your finances.
Multiple credit cards make it easy to accumulate debt and easy to miss a payment as well. If you have debt, consolidate it into one loan or credit card. An even better option is to become debt-free. If you are married and still have separate accounts, merge them into one. If you have money in the stock market, buy and hold rather than playing the ups and downs. Package services such as insurance (car, home, life) and technology Internet, cable, phone) whenever possible. One bill is easier to keep track of than three. In addition to simplification, you may find that packaged services at a discounted rate as well.
Simplify your schedule.
Avoid taking on too many social engagements. Carefully consider your availability before joining any groups, committees, or clubs. Limiting your social commitments will allow you do give each its due attention. Additionally, simplify your family obligations by grouping appointments together whenever possible. Take one trip to the dentist instead of 5 separate trips. If your children are involved in after-school activities, find another family that will carpool with you. Life is much simpler when you only need to drive the kids to soccer once a week instead of 3 times.
Getting down to the bare essentials is a straightforward way to simplify your life. By taking the time to whittle things down to the fundamentals, you will save both time and money. You will spend less time making decisions when there are fewer options and save money by reducing unnecessary purchases. In the process, you may find some unexpected
benefits along the way such as reduced stress, increased personal satisfaction, and more free time.
With Earth Day on the 22nd, and wedding season starting to kick off, we thought we’d focus on the ways couples are planning eco-friendly weddings. Becoming more popular and more mainstream – “Green Weddings” are the latest trend in wedding planning. Here are some tips for planning an environmentally friendly union:
With the economic down-turn, many couples are reconsidering that ice-sculpture or the 10 white doves being released at the ceremony. If budget isn’t enough of a reason to trim your wedding, hopefully the environment is. Consider whether or not you really need all the pomp & circumstance – often it’s the small touches that are remembered.
Getting married in an unconventional setting like the beach or at the entranceway to your favorite hiking trail is a great idea. It is a perfect opportunity to draw attention to the beauty of the great outdoors and strengthen your environmental commitment.
The logistics of an outdoor wedding without the basics can be a nightmare, so plan carefully. Also, remember to look into permitting from your local municipality.
Also, having your wedding and reception at the same venue will save time and money while reducing the carbon footprint of your wedding. Being able to move outside while the space is being made over from ceremony to soiree is a great help, and your caterer will thank you too.
Now more than ever people are finding that their friends are scattered all over the globe. Rather than sending invitations via snail-mail, why not send out an e-vite instead? Without the costs of embossing, envelope addressing, stamps and of course the carbon footprint of mail, you’re going easy on your wallet while also going easy on the earth. There are many websites tailored specifically for wedding invitations, check out Wedding Tracker, Wedding Window and EWedding.
The Menu Food is a hot topic – how do you plan for an eco-friendly meal? The best bet is to try to use local food whenever possible. Encourage your caterer to shop at farmer’s markets and local grocers. If you aren’t a complete carnivore – consider a vegetarian or fish-based meal. Not only will it be lighter, meaning your guests won’t be feeling sluggish when it’s time to hit the dance floor; but you won’t have to navigate through the meat debates (Organic? Free range? Grass fed?). Consider serving organic wine at your table too.
Some people have made beautiful arrangements with wild flowers. If you haven’t got the time to go flower picking, the next best option is to look for locally grown, fairly traded, organic or Veriflora flowers. Veriflora is a sustainability certification program for flowers that are grown in an environmentally and socially responsible manner and meet the highest standards for freshness and quality.
We’re a little biased here, but we think DreamBank is the best option when it comes to an eco-friendly alternative in the world of gift registries. Not only does posting your dream gift ensure that you get what you want – but it also means that no unwanted ‘stuff’ is going into landfills. Check out some of the great wedding ideas other dreamers have posted: here,here and here.
Other interesting options are gifts in kind. Consider creating a list of duties that guests can volunteer for. You may know a graphic designer who might agree to design your e-vite and there are always friends that will help decorate your venue.
Keep it Casual
Keeping it casual works well for weddings where green is the theme. If you are married to the idea of a traditional wedding with all the trimmings, then going green can be prohibitively expensive. Renting as much of what already exists in the world is your best course of action.
According to a Wedding Bells Magazine survey, a typical honeymoon lasts 8.8 nights; 67 percent plan to spend their honeymoon outside of the country, and 56 percent plan to stay at an all-inclusive resort, spending $3,735 on average. This involves flying and that means more carbon emissions. What can you do? Consider purchasing carbon offsets (carbon offsets are where you trade off one activity that contributes to greenhouse gas emissions with a financial contribution to an activity or cause that saves emissions).
You may look at offsetting the CO2 generated by the air travel of guests attending your wedding by buying credits in a green technology. Visit a site like Carbon Fund where you can use a handy calculator to tally up your entire carbon footprint for the wedding. You can then buy credits in anything from renewable energy, energy efficiency and reforestation projects.
For more resources on how to plan the perfect green wedding, check out:
Sometimes you feel like you’ve hit a roadblock, and the obstacle you’re facing is insurmountable. When that happens, think of the people who achieved great things despite being faced with difficulties that you’re fortunate enough to not have. Helen Keller, for example, was blind, deaf and dumb, and yet became an award winning author. There’s a great post on dumblittleman.com about the lessons to be learned from her.
Helen Keller was an amazing woman. She was blind, deaf, and dumb, yet that didn’t stop her from achieving her dreams. Helen was not a person who made excuses, she made things happen. She is a constant reminder that anything is possible.
Despite her circumstances, Helen Keller became a world famous author, activist, and speaker. One of her many accomplishments includes being the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. I believe we can learn a lot from Helen.
Below are 7 Life Lessons from Helen Keller:
Go After Your Dreams
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.”
I often tell people to go after their dreams and turn them into a reality. My skeptics would say, “That’s unrealistic,” …but what’s the point of being “realistic.” Nothing great has ever been achieved by a “realist.”
Albert Einstein was not a realist, the Wright Brothers were not realists, Thomas Edison was not a realist, and Alexander Graham Bell was certainly not a realist.
What is “realistic,” but the self-imposed limitations adopted from society? Take the limits off; go after your dreams. In the infamous words of Paris Hilton, “life is too short to blend in.” Chase after your dream like it’s the last bus of the night.
You Must Have a Vision
“It’s a terrible thing to see, and have no vision!”
Do you have a vision, a goal, a plan, a mission for your life? Isaiah wrote, without a vision the people perish. Great leaders are always great visionaries, they have an internal picture of where their going; their fixated on their vision. What’s your vision?
“We can do anything we want to do, if we stick to it long enough”
The beauty of “time” is that you can accomplish just about anything if you keep at it long enough. Set your mind on what you want to accomplish, and don’t stop until you get there. They say the usefulness of the postage stamp consists in its ability to stick to something until it gets there. Learn from the postage stamp; stay committed to your dream until you get there.
Experience is Priceless
“Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.”
Knowledge is nice, but experience is priceless. Learn from all of life’s lessons! Never be afraid to get your hands dirty by getting some first-hand experience. Only experience can bring full understanding.
Focus on the Positive
“Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.”
Although we could focus on the negative things around us, it doesn’t do us much good. Helen Keller said, “Keep your face to the sunshine and you will never see the shadow.” I think this is good advice. Decide to see glass as “half-full,” things are not getting worse, they’re getting better!
Hang-out with Winners
“While they were saying among themselves it cannot be done, it was done.”
Winners hang-out with winners. Don’t be caught hanging-out with negative people. Negative people are like “vampires,” they suck the life from everything around them. They’re always saying “how you can’t, why you can’t, and how you’re going to fail when you try.” If you hang with these “chickens” for too long, you’ll forget that you have the ability to soar like an eagle. Decide to spend your time with those who believe the impossible is possible.
Your Destiny is in Your Hands
“What I am looking for is not “out there,” it is in me”
Everything you need to succeed, you already have on the inside of you. Shakespeare wrote, the fault dear Brutus, lies not in our stars that we are underlings, but in ourselves. Success is yours for the taking, but you have to believe it, and you have to be convinced that you deserve it.
“One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar.” – Helen Keller
Thank you for reading, and the next time you think something can’t be done, remember Helen Keller.
A great post from www.dumblittleman.com with a moving story and some tips on bringing Joy into your life everyday. Here at DreamBank we’re more about giving “hand-ups” rather than “hand-outs”, and while the author does talk about giving money to the homeless, what’s particularly interesting is his mention of the abundance mentality versus the scarcity mentality. I think it’s that abundance mentality that motivates those who actively want to bring about social change. .
At any rate, enjoy the post and see how many of his tips you incorporate into your daily life.
It would be hard to imagine two more contrasting worlds. Above me, stretching up into the heavy rain clouds, the opulence of the Trump Tower, sleek and black. Behind me, on a busy Fifth Avenue sidewalk, a charity worker soliciting for cash donations from the passing throng.
Lucky enough to have been able to organize a Saturday in Manhattan, following a week’s business trip to Connecticut from the UK, I was intent on soaking up the sights and sounds of one of the world’s great cities, New York.
I walked away from the charity worker, initially mistaking him for a salesman of some kind (there are plenty of people trying to sell to you in New York City!). Then his words began to penetrate my consciousness, and I realized that he was collecting to provide meals for the homeless. This being one of the charitable causes that I tend to support, I turned back and grabbed a small handful of change from my pocket (probably a couple of dollars) and poured it into his collecting jar. We exchanged pleasantries and he told me that there are fifty thousand homeless people in the city and that the cash will help to feed them. Then I was on my way again. I stopped once more, reflected, and went back with another five dollars for him. I was doing quick values calculations, of how badly I needed the money, compared with someone who lives on the street, what I would use the five dollars for, compared with the street person, and so on.
It struck me that fifty thousand was a big number of people to be on the streets. I wondered momentarily how many people were giving donations on the street today and how many donations it would take to feed all fifty thousand. I watched, for one minute, and counted around one hundred people passing the charity worker on the sidewalk. And the vast majority made no donation at all. I made a quick calculation that if each and every person passing gave two dollars to this one charity worker, we’d probably collect enough in a day to feed the lot. By the way, it’s hard to know how many of those passing were Americans; a large proportion of that crowd, on a Saturday, I would guess would be tourists.
Now, all this talk of fancy business trips, New York City, and giving away hard earned cash might give the false impression that I am one of those lucky ones with plenty of cash in the bank and can well afford to spread a little around. So, in case you think this story is only for the well-heeled, I have to confess that my financial liquidity right now is less than great. I earn a decent salary, but like many, have maintenance (alimony) payments, mortgage payments, household bills, and (frankly) I’m not the world’s best at managing money. So I have a hefty overdraft, loan interest payments, you get the picture. I did stop and think before donating, asking myself whether I could afford it.
What I want to share with you is that the amount of joy I feel in my life has increased hugely since I changed the way I think about other people over the last few years. And here’s the mindset change; we human beings are all one big family on this little blue planet.
Stephen Covey (‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’) talks about an abundance mentality, versus a scarcity mentality. In a scarcity mentality, we believe that there is not enough to go around. Resources are limited, we live in a competitive world, anything you get represents a little bit less available for me, a zero-sum game (all your gains are to my detriment). (By the way, for a hilarious exposition on this attitude, get yourself a copy on DVD of the original 1960 movie ‘School for Scoundrels’, in which the brilliant Alastair Sim, playing Dr. Stephen Potter, teaches ‘one-upmanship’ to the hapless Henry Palfrey, in his bid to win the girl from my all time favorite movie cad, Terry-Thomas… “The world was divided into winners and losers… in a word, the ‘one-up’ and the ‘one-down’. “
An abundance mentality takes the view that there is enough for everyone. We can find a way to share the cake so that we all get a slice. If we work together, maybe we can even discover ways to create a bigger cake, so that we all get to have a little more.
Now, just think for a moment, which of these worldviews leads to advancement of the human race? Which approach would more likely succeed in getting a crew of astronauts to the moon and back, safely (remember the movie of ‘Apollo 13’?). Which approach most contributed to New York being the fabulous city it is today, with its vastly improved crime statistics and lively, diverse population? In a scarcity mentality, would immigrants be allowed to enter that great port at all, for fear of draining the resources and wealth of the city’s citizens? Well, you know, that’s how the city was built and thrived, fueled by the queues of wide-eyed hopefuls landing at Ellis Island, with hearts full of possibility.
And isn’t that really what the American dream is all about; the art of the possible, the hope of a new and better beginning? Scarcity thinking, or abundance thinking?
Now, when it comes to doing the right thing, generally in life I have learned (by my 48th year) to listen to my inner guidance system. This system is a combination of intuition, listening to your heart, gut feeling. I think it’s no coincidence that these phrases relate to the visceral, they are about what our body is telling us, rather than our intellect and our logic.
And, simply, it works like this; go with whatever puts a feeling of joy into your heart, and a spring into your step. This is almost certainly an indication that you have made a good choice and are doing the best thing for all concerned, including yourself!
You do, however, need to distinguish between joy and pleasure. Joy is a natural high without the chemicals a feeling you get when your spirit soars, the world becomes an open and friendly place and the feeling is a lasting, growing experience. Pleasure, on the other hand, can be artificially induced using chemicals, by spending money (‘retail therapy’) or by scoring a victory over others (e.g. by jumping a queue or getting away without paying for something). You momentarily feel ahead of the game, up on the deal, a winner! (Dr Stephen Potter smiles down!). This momentary pleasurable effect may last anywhere between ninety seconds to an hour. And then it’s gone. Not only that, you didn’t contribute to the net joy in the world!
Here are a few tips for how to feel more joyful, for I believe that is one of the prime reasons we are here. Come on now, let’s get creative, and add to the human joy pool!
Donate something to a charity, one that you empathize with.
There are thousands to choose from, get excited about being one of the people who made a difference, however modest.
Give some of your time to doing something worthwhile
Do something simply for the benefit of your fellow humans, for no other reason than contributing service makes you feel more joyful! My favorites are Samaritans (telephone support to the emotionally distressed) and Crisis (volunteer services for the homeless). Doing something for kids and neighborhoods is always worthwhile.
Smile at somebody and exchange friendly greetings when they serve you.
Think of the guy that takes your railway ticket or drives your taxi, especially when they got out of the wrong side of the bed and are grumpy.
Appreciate, and show more gratitude in your life.
Look around you; this is a stunningly beautiful planet, if you have the eyes to see it. Be thankful for the senses you have been endowed with, that allow you to experience it.
Be wildly curious.
Find out why things are the way they are, and what you can learn from that. Adopt the attitude of a lifelong learner.
We are here to create ourselves, in every moment, in every decision we make, in all our choices, in how we act, communicate, show up in the world. Come out of your shell and show the world what you are truly capable of!
I’d love to hear suggestions from you on what it is that makes you feel more joyful and how we can spread more joy around. Please don’t wait for everyone else to do it first. As Gandhi said: ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’
As per our earlier post we rolled out Facebook Connect on the site to make it easier for our Dreamers to sign in, and share their dreams and activity with their Facebook Friends. Unfortunately, there are some bugs that are inhibiting the full functionality of the site. The biggest problem being that Dreamers are being stopped from posting a Dream, which is kind of an important feature here on DreamBank:)
We’ve taken the Facebook functionality off the site and will roll it back out once we’ve determined the issue and we’re sure it won’t get in the way of your Dreaming.
Apologies to our Dreamers for the bugs/problems and we’ll let you know when the Facebook Functionality is back and working properly. Until then, happy Dreaming!
Just a quick heads up that over the next few days we are testing out Facebook Connect on the DreamBank site. We do our best to test everything thoroughly before we bring new functionality to the live site but it’s never foolproof. If you experience any problems signing in, setting up dreams, contributing or doing anything at all, please please let us know. We’re trying to make DreamBank better but sometimes that mean’s it’s worse first. If you do happen to experience a little problem please bear with us. Well make it bug free as quickly as we can.
Have you ever found that the more you have, the more you want and the more complicated it all becomes? Simplifying your life has many benefits. There was a great post on Zen Habits about how to want very little…
There are two challenges that people face when choosing to live a more simpler life: owning little and wanting little. Yet people fuse these challenges together into a larger “live simply” goal. Unfortunately, they’re two different beasts that need to be tamed in their own ways.
Owning little requires a practical approach – systematically decluttering your life and eliminating the unnecessary. Wanting little on the other hand is focused on the way in which we think, a far more blurred aspect of simplicity.
Sincerely wanting little is difficult. It goes against our firmly rooted desire for certainty, for ownership. To cut through this psychological attachment requires more than step-by-step processes or following a list of tactics, it requires a shift in your thinking, a shift in the way you approach your day to day life and how you make decisions.
1. Have a vision for your life. Goals are somewhat useful tools to get from point A to B, but they often lack depth, emotion and meaning, and without those three things there’s a deficiency of purpose and drive.
Think about the lifestyle you want as a whole instead of simply focusing on your desire to want very little. What do you want to own? How will you spend your time? Where will you be? Be specific.
This outline acts as a funnel. Desires for more may attempt to flood your life, but because you’ve clearly defined what matters to you, only the things conducive to your aims will make their way through this funnel. It becomes much easier to say “No” to something when you’re certain it’s not apart of the bigger picture.
2. Find your motivation. What is your why? Why do you want little? Because it’s trendy is unfortunately not enough to quench your lust for stuff. Personally, I want little because I have dreams of traveling the world for months on end, and stocking up on gadgets and gizmos doesn’t exactly gel well with that.
Here are some other common reason why’s:
Saving money – for retirement, travel, charity etc.
Freeing up time from the offset of being able to work less, clean less, and maintain less.
Don’t be meaninglessly minimalist. Be purposeful and deliberate in your quest to want little.
3. Experience the benefits. No matter how many times you hear the benefits of wanting little, or visualise your motivation with all the intensity in the world, experiencing an uncluttered lifestyle will always be the best way to switch from a “want more” to a “want little” mindset.
Aside from simply throwing out everything you own, there are a few ways to go about this:
Plan a short vacation where you take as little as possible, including no technology or fashion accessories. Only pack the essentials.
Pick one room in your house or apartment that you want to transform into a no-stuff zone. Dump as much as you can from that room into a spare room or garage. Notice the difference in tranquility as you walk between your regular rooms and the no-stuff zone.
Visit locations that are inherently uncluttered. Buddhist temples spring to mind as being places with the bare minimal.
4. Be noncommittal. Decisions become scary when they’re set in stone. In other areas of life a little fear could indeed be a good thing, but it’s unnecessary and undesirable when striving to eliminate the desire for more – the challenge is difficult enough without adding further resistance.
There’s no line to cross with attachment to stuff, no mountain you must overcome. It’s a lifestyle you can back out of anytime, a mindset that in no way restricts your ability to choose. Wade through the shallows before diving in the deep end.
5. Understand the psychology of influence. Marketing and sales are apart of this world and it’d be silly to chastise those sectors because in reality we’re all marketers and salespeople – all livelihoods are fuelled by being heard and mutual exchanges. But that doesn’t mean you need to fall into the trap of cheap psychological tricks.
6. Grow into it. Start with small victories. Be mindful of all your purchases and desires and regularly ask yourself “Does this fit into my vision?” You will stumble, it’s the nature of the beast. The world wants you to want more, and the world is a mighty challenger.
Be persistent with your quest for less and surround yourself with positive influences – classical works of literature like the Tao Teh Ching and Walden; Or, Life in the Woods, plus like-minded individuals who want to cut themselves free from the leash of things.
7. Lose yourself. Purchasing is a process we lose ourselves in. First something catches our eye, then there’s the inner conflict (should we buy it?). If we convince ourselves that we should part with our money, there’s that little buzz you get of claiming ownership. You take the product home. And then you use it.
It’s an exciting sequence of events – full of uncertainty and possibility – that we get swept up in. But the problem is, it mostly ends with buyer’s remorse, a dented bank account and all the other costs of owning stuff.
What you need to do is learn to get lost in activities rather than acquisition. Instead of being strung along by the latest gizmo, learn to transplant that process into an outlet such as writing, music or drawing. Focus on doing interesting things rather than buying interesting things.
8. Crunch the numbers. It’s likely that you have a passion that has expenses (like travel or reading) or, at the very least, you would like to put away some money for a rainy day. One simple trick I use to avoid acquiring things is compare the cost of the particular thing in question, to the expenses of my passion.
For example, backpacking through Thailand is something I dream of doing. Now, say it costs $25 per day to live in Phuket. If I were to see an Xbox game selling for $50 I’d ask myself “Is that game worth sacrificing two days in a foreign culture?” Most of the time the answer will be a resounding “No” and it’s in those instances where you’ll be dodging a purposeless impulse buy.
If the answer comes back “Yes,” nothing is wrong with that. Wanting little isn’t about depriving yourself of what’s important to you, but eliminating all the clutter that makes its way into our lives. But make sure you’re being honest with yourself.
US: Doctors Without Borders/ Medicines Sans Frontiers is a global organization. This is the US website but you can get to any country’s site from here. As well as bringing mobile medical aid, they’ve managed to establish a hospital in Carrefour (in the southwest of the city) and are treating patients now.
And there are many fantastic organizations raising money for the people of Haiti. A good information page here on Charity Navigator lists other charities raising funds for Haiti, exactly what they do, as well as some important things to look for when making a donation. It’s somewhat US centric but worth reading no matter where you’re from.
UK: GobalGiving.co.uk: You can support GlobalGiving.co.uk’s Relief Fund for Haiti Earthquake, which is allocated amongst all projects, or give to the efforts of a specific organisation.
The initiatives above represent a fraction of the ways you can help support Haiti. I also notice a growing number of business loyalty programs allowing you to donate points to various aspects of the relief effort. Check out the ones you have, and put them into google with “haiti” and see if they are participating.
From wherever you are in the world, you should be able to punch “help haiti” into google and find out who the official charities are in your area. Don’t wait.
Happy New Year Dreamers! We hope you’ve had a great 2009, and are looking forward to an even better 2010. With that in mind, I saw a great post on Maholo.com on how to keep new year’s resolutions – I thought it’s pretty apt, so I’m cross-posting it for you all to read. What resolutions are you setting for yourself? Read on for tips on making sure you’re successful!
How to Keep New Year’s Resolutions
Every year on January 1, people around the world make a list of things they want to accomplish in the upcoming year. Many, however, have trouble achieving these goals. This guide provides tips, tricks and information on how to keep New Year’s resolutions.Making a New Year’s resolution has turned into an exercise in futility for many Americans, but you don’t need to start the year with a broken promise. Lasting lifestyle changes are possible, and believe it or not, they can start with a New Year’s resolution. Set a realistic goal, give yourself a little time to plan and enlist the support of your friends, and you’ll be well on your way to making and keeping a New Year’s resolution.
Step 1: Set a Goal
Whether or not you keep your resolution all depends on what your resolution is. You don’t need to aim low, but the rules of time, space and physical reality should come into play. Don’t expect to scale Everest by May if you haven’t been off the couch in a decade.
Avoid Previous Resolutions: Dr. Wiseman recommends not using resolutions you’ve made and failed to stick with in the past. If you want to fall back on an old resolution, come at it at a different angle. If you resolved and failed to “lose 50 pounds,” commit to starting a regular fitness regimen or eating more healthfully instead.
Don’t Use Absolutes: Another finding of the study conducted by the University of Washington was that resolutions fail when they are framed as, “I will never do X again.” Absolutes aren’t helpful; they are recipes for failure and disappointment. It’s better to make a commitment to a smoking cessation program with practical steps then it is to say, “I will never smoke again.”
Step 2: Make a Plan
Now that you’ve got your shiny, New Year’s resolution all picked out, it’s time to make a plan. Having a detailed road map is the key to making a resolution stick past January 3rd.
Set Short-Term Goals: You didn’t think your one, big resolution was it, did you? You’ve got to break down your larger goal into smaller, achievable goals with measurable results. This is the best way to keep yourself motivated and on target. Give yourself check-in dates on the calendar, and reward yourself when you reach your subgoals. If your New Year’s resolution involves a weight loss plan or fitness regimen, ask your doctor for help in creating your personal road map.
Plan for the Obstacles: What might cause you to veer from your plan? Work-related stress? Family tensions? When something does happen, be ready for it. Think about what’s most likely to trip your plan up. Try to avoid those situations or brainstorm healthy ways to cope with them.
Long-Term Goal and Short-Term Goals: Write down your overarching resolution and the manageable chunks you’ve broken it into. Use action verbs.
Measurable Outcomes and Completion Dates: Assign a date to your sub-goals. Create a system for reminding yourself to check-in by using an online or hard copy calendar.
List of Obstacles: Write down which obstacles you might encounter and how you plan on avoiding or dealing with them.
Benefits of Achieving Your Goal: Know exactly what you will gain from achieving each goal.
Write Yourself a Letter
Another approach to both ritualizing your New Year’s promises and enlisting the help of others is by creating a New Year’s letter. Write a letter to the “future you” of one year from now. Visualize yourself as having successfully achieved your goals. Exchange your letter with a friend or loved one, who also creates a letter. When next New Year’s Eve rolls around, you can read your letters together.
Step 4: Enlist Support
Increase your chance for success by enlisting the help of others. Creating change in your life is much easier when you’ve got back-up.
Tell Everyone: Letting people know about the changes you’re making in your life means that you’ve got a whole team checking in on your progress and cheering you all the way.
Dr. Hinda Dubin of the University of Maryland School of Medicine offers some enlightening advice about motivation and goal-keeping, “Action precedes motivation, not the other way around. People often think that they should wait until they are motivated to start doing something good for themselves, but it doesn’t work that way.”
Dr. Dubin recommends not waiting for inspiration, but acting. It doesn’t need to be big, but you need to start. Inspiration will follow.
Do Something: Like Dr. Dubin says, “Once you initiate an action — the smallest of actions — you pick up momentum.” It’s easier to stick with something once you realize that it’s not so hard.
Visualize: Visualize yourself achieving your goal. Better yet, make that visualization as real as possible. Psychology Today recommends clipping pictures out of magazines that represent your goal and hanging them where you can see them everyday.
Track Your Progress: Much like writing your goals down, tracking your progress is a powerful motivator. The University of Washington study on New Year’s resolutions reported that the more monitoring you do and feedback you get, the more likely you’ll be to stick with your resolution and achieve results.
Reward Yourself: Celebrate your little successes along the way. Your rewards don’t need to be extravagant, and they certainly shouldn’t interfere with your goals. But, rewarding yourself is an important part of keeping yourself motivated.
Be Flexible: Perfectionism won’t help you achieve your goals. Think of setbacks as opportunities for growth. After all, nobody goes straight from point A to point B. They set a course, take periodic readings and make adjustments along the way. Stay positive, and you’ll be well on your way to making a New Year’s resolution that lasts all year round.