5 Ways to Actually Achieve Your 2011 New Year’s Resolutions

Take action on your New Year's resolutions, without resorting to new age platitudes

Credit: Flickr/Harsh1.0

Climbing mountains on your New Year’s resolutions list? No problem

Prefer your New Year’s resolutions strategies free of new age mumbo jumbo? Cut to the chase with these goal setting tips for 2011

Making New Year’s resolutions is amusing, but actually following through on them can be empowering. So what’s the word on the self-help street these days for goal achievement?

For those who may have tuned in to buzz films like What the Bleep Do We Know!? and The Secret, the law of attraction has become a hot topic in pop culture; even Oprah’s on board. The law of attraction basically states that our thoughts are like magnets, and what we think about, we create in our lives.

But beyond the questionable logic and new age rigmarole surrounding this theory, is there any valid substance to the law of attraction that skeptics might discard too quickly?

Here are some helpful goal achieving tips salvaged from the law of attraction hoopla.

1. Decide to Achieve Your Goals

An observer might deduce that a goal is attained by the series of actions taken toward the goal. But what if a goal is not accomplished because of the physical actions taken toward it, but by the making of the decision to do it?

Changing the conventional way we look at cause and effect can simplify New Year’s resolutions. We don’t have to know how we’ll achieve a resolution before we commit to it—we first and foremost have to resolve to reach the goal. The details will fall into place after cultivating the drive to seek them out.

Can’t decide which goal to pursue? Try making a list of things you don’t want in your life followed by a corresponding list of what you want instead. If you have a resolution to find a new job this year, make a list of tasks you don’t enjoy in your current job to identify which tasks you would prefer to take on in a new position. Sounds obvious, but clarity is the catalyst here.

2. Train the Brain

There’s nothing hippie-spliffy behind this secret, we’re talking neurotransmitters here. Neurotransmitters are chemicals in the brain that transfer messages to nerve cells with electrical impulses, which in turn perform various activities. These information highways are called neural pathways and when we think, act and speak in certain ways, we strengthen neural pathways to the point where it becomes easy and unconscious to react in certain ways. When we alter behavioural patterns, we are actually repaving neural pathways.

Self-help blogger Steve Pavlina suggests to those who want to wake up earlier to practice by getting into bed, setting an alarm for a few minutes later and springing out of bed at the sound of the alarm, conditioning the body to rise immediately instead of via the usual bargaining/snooze button repertoire, ingraining the act of waking up to the alarm into the subconscious so it’s no longer an early morning debate.

3. Cut the Inner Conflict

Sometimes the enthusiasm behind our goals is mired in what we justify as “realism.” If you have a New Year’s resolution to get toned this year, you might have an underlying belief that your body type will trump you no matter what exercise and diet tricks you pull. When you add these worries alongside goals, you’re giving them equal thought time.

Cognitive behavioural therapy—a self-talk therapy that aims to identify and replace negative, inaccurate thoughts—can be an effective tool to distinguish goals from criticizing counter-thoughts. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Dummies suggests writing a list with two columns beside each goal—the first column for thoughts, attitudes and beliefs that get in the way of the goal, and the second column for comebacks to each mental obstacle.

4. Break Down the Goal

Daily tasks can take up valuable time and energy. One technique to ensure that New Year’s resolutions don’t get bumped down on the priority list is to clarify mini-goals for each portion of the day. Driving to work, envision what a relaxed, safe drive would look like. Once at work, envision what a productive morning would look like.

Breaking the day into chunks and focusing on one desired outcome at a time cuts down on stress and creates mental space for achieving new goals on top of daily responsibilities.

This technique can also be useful for breaking large goals into smaller, more palatable tasks. A hefty goal of losing 10 pounds can be divided into doable challenges, such as 40 minutes on the elliptical or bringing a healthy lunch to work.

5. Get Out of Your Own Way

A main component of the law of attraction has to do with allowing desired goals to come to fruition, rather than muscling them into existence. The double-edged sword of ambition can leave driven individuals never feeling gratified unless a goal has been completed. Releasing our grip on New Year’s resolutions can feel lazy and passive, but stepping back from the process can offer a clear view of what needs to be done.

Venturing into potentially new agey waters, practice dethroning your inner control freak with yoga, meditation and mindfulness.