Turning Resolutions Into Reality

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


New Years Eve for many of us was likely spent in a half (or fully) drunken state, with friends or family gathered around, anxiously counting down from ten and waiting for the ball to drop. A ritual many of us have practiced almost every year since we were old enough to remember, watching fireworks and pouring champagne. But there’s another ritual following the champagne, cheers and confetti. Once you wake up in the morning¾or afternoon depending on your night¾you decided that this would be your year to learn a new language, get into shape, read more books etc. No matter the odds or what your friends say, you will become the best possible version of you in 2016.


This usually lasts right around the end of January (maybe you’ll even make it to the end of February) should your resolve prove to be steely enough. For many of us the resolution to eat healthier hits a brick wall when we’re inhaling that 2 am Dominos pizza after a Saturday night of merrymaking.  


What was once a plan to read every night (for pleasure) crumbles once our professors start loading on chapters upon chapters of reading combined with essays and midterms. Now suddenly missing one opportunity to act on your resolutions becomes two, then ten and before you know it, you’re studying for final exams and wondering about all the times you could have or should have gone for a run.


Regardless, I wish you all the best in achieving your resolutions whether big or small, and here are a couple strategies and tools you can employ to get the upper hand on your resolutions and turn them into a reality.


Many people will tell you to be motivated, or to stay on track, but let me tell you: motivation is fleeting. It was not motivation that made Michael Jordan or Wayne Gretzky the all-star athletes of their time (and arguably ours). Sure maybe it was motivation at the start, but motivation is temporary, and discipline is the lengthier, driving force that should be cultivated when attempting to achieve your resolutions.


It’s easy to throw around vague words like discipline and motivation, without providing any actionable advice. But when you start cultivating discipline, that means not snoozing that alarm for the seventh time in a row. Maybe that means you put your phone across the room before you go to bed (side note: not looking at your phone before sleeping plays a huge role in increasing quality of sleep). Not only will you be forced to get out of bed to turn it off, but once you are actually out of bed, putting on those gym clothes doesn’t seem so bad.


You might do this for a week, and slip into old habits but if you can stay disciplined for just around a month, then plugging your phone in across the room becomes habit rather than a battle. This will take discipline. To make this as easy as possible, choose the path of least resistance.


Waking up and working out is the perfect example, since this is something I am looking to make a habit for 2016. Try sleeping in your gym clothes, and having your gym bag prepared the night before. This way once you wipe the sleep from your eyes and get out of bed to shut off that alarm, the steps between you getting out of bed and out the door have been shortened and it no longer seems so bad.


Discipline will lead to the creation of habits; even now I can hear my parents in my ear from years ago, lecturing me at the kitchen table about good and bad habits. Nose picking aside, they were not wrong. But they may have missed an important aspect of habits that go unnoticed: inaction is also a cultivation of habit.


What I mean by this is that if it’s a regular activity to lie in bed and binge watch seasons of How I Met Your Mother (of which I am guilty), then that becomes your default mode. Now when you have three spare hours, instead of going for a walk your default mode is to plop down on the couch and watch Netflix, meanwhile your chance to act on your resolution falls to the wayside once again.


To combat this, start off with making small changes: it helps the goal seem far less daunting.


Instead of drinking three sodas a day, for one week try drinking two sodas and a water rather than cutting out all three in one go. The next week cut it down to one soda and water, and by the fourth week you might be drinking nothing but water and your goal to lose ten pounds this year does not seem so far away.


Another way to help make these things become habit is to set up your room, office, study space or even your laptop to help you succeed in achieving your New Years goal. I alluded to something like this earlier on with taking five minutes to set up your gym bag the night before so you have it ready to go in the morning.


If your resolution is to be more time efficient and spend less time aimlessly scrolling through Facebook, download the free Google chrome extension StayFocused, which sets a daily time limit on certain sites like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. The next step might be to get a calendar and put it up right over your workstation with all your deadlines and meetings. By becoming the architects of our environment, we can make habitat formation a far less arduous process.


So, in summary: turn your resolution into reality by trying to cultivate long lasting discipline rather than fleeting motivation. Form habits that make your goals seem less daunting and more achievable, and remember to start small!


- Arjun Narayanan

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