So you've determined that as an imperfect being (aka a human) you may have a few things to work on. Now it's time to put this admirable level of self-awareness to good use. Personal goals and resolutions are worthy endeavors, but they can also be daunting and discouraging if you don't have a game plan to help you set realistic goals, reach your targets, and deal with any roadblocks.
Resolutions come in all shapes and sizes, but it's important to start small and then work your way up. If you've decided to get in better shape, you probably won't be able to run a marathon your first day on the track. Instead, go for the three-mile marker and increase the length and intensity of your workouts as you become more fit. Add intervals, hills, or additional weight to make each stage more of a challenge. This is also an effective strategy for non-physical goals. If you're trying to save money, start by brewing coffee at home instead of buying a four-dollar latte before work. Once you've seen how easy it is to shave a few dollars off your daily caffeine spending, move onto bringing your lunch a few days a week instead of eating out. Keep yourself motivated by recording how much you're saving each week, and put that money toward a significant reward like a mini-vacation or a relaxing trip to a spa.
Working your way up can also fuel a more productive workday. Try revamping your to-do list by using the 1-3-5 rule. Set up your list so you can realistically complete one big item, three medium items, and five smaller items every day. Accomplishing a variety of tasks will help you maintain your focus and your motivation. There are plenty of apps to help you keep track of your small wins, problems solved, and resolutions reached to stay energized and productive. Having a record of what you've done and what worked will be useful as you strategize for next steps and new projects.
When you start working toward a goal, you'll likely be euphoric with new, positive energy. But once that high wears off, the obstacles between you and your goal might start to challenge your resolve. Setbacks are bound to happen once you start working towards a worthy goal, but a misstep doesn't mean you've failed. In fact, this is a valuable part of the process. Learning from a pitfall by examining what caused it can be a productive tool for developing a long-term strategy for success. Don't lose faith and most importantly, don't stop. Even if you don't ultimately reach your goal, you probably made some positive progress.
If you do lose your way, mindfulness is a great way to get back on track. Remind yourself of the reason you set out to accomplish this particular goal: think hard and meditate on your task. Staying calm will help you feel more driven and in control.
Learning from your missteps is important, but don't forget to utilize your successes too. Seinfeld's productivity trick (also known as "Don't Break the Chain") is a great strategy to maintain momentum through positive reinforcement. Devote a certain amount of time every day to a specific, productive activity, whether it's going for an afternoon walk or catching up on current events, and when you've completed your task, make a mark (try a smiley face or a check mark) on that day in your calendar. Seeing a string of mini victories keeps you connected to your progress, preventing you from derailing your streak. It may not seem like a big deal at first, but once you get started, making sure you get that check every day will become a significant motivator.
When you do meet a goal, use the power of peer pressure for good and share the news. Harnessing the collective power of your friends, family, and coworkers means you'll hold yourself accountable, get support when you fall short, and be rewarded with praise when you win big. You can easily update your friends about your progress on the Internet. Share updates on social media and bask in the encouragement. You can even raise the stakes by betting on your goals to keep you focused.
Ready to get going? You don't have to wait until New Year's. The earlier you start, the sooner you'll reach your goal or form a new healthy habit. Determine a positive, achievable resolution, divide it up into realistic milestones or approachable daily commitments, and start rethinking your path to self-improvement.
Now that you have the tools to commit yourself to self-improvement, contact your local State Farm agent for the support you need to continue meeting your goals.
Nandita Raghuram is a freelance journalist living in Brooklyn.