Whether we’re out with friends ringing in 2012 this Saturday night, or staying home hoping Dick Clark doesn’t catch a cold, when the ball drops at midnight we’ll be treated once again to that moment of encouragement when we know we have a fresh start. New Year’s Eve is the most universally shared demarcation point between what was and what can be.
If we even remember what our resolutions were at the beginning of 2011, there’s a pretty good chance they’re the same ones we have for the coming year. We start with the best intentions and 365-day commitments, which often manage to fizzle out long before January is through. We might even hesitate to set goals for the new year because of past experience with them. But we can change that with a little know-how.
Many of our resolutions tend to involve breaking a bad habit, which is why they are so prone to failure. Being creatures of habit, we’ve already taught ourselves to do things the opposite way. Like Pavlov’s dog, we salivate whenever we hear our bell. Suddenly requiring a new pattern of ourselves is highly irregular and something our entire being resists.
Experts tell us that the key to success is “really wanting” to change. Of course, we do “really want” to lose those pounds, or get up early to write five pages a day. The problem is, we also “really want” that piece of Chocolate Sin Cake, or that extra sleep; sometimes even more. How do we make our chosen want win the battle over our habitual want?
- Reward yourself for the little victories – Each time you resist temptation or accomplish part of your big goal, celebrate! What little treat for yourself will retrain you to keep up the good work?
- Be specific – Set goals that allow you to measure your progress. “Write a screenplay in 2012” is vague. “Write three scenes every day” is easy to track.
- Set achievable goals – You can’t write a novel in one weekend, though you can sure do it in 52 weekends. Shoot for the moon, but remember that it takes a while to get there.
- Creative visualization – Nothing succeeds like success, or even a good mental image of it. Create a vivid picture of where you want be, and dwell on the benefits of being there. I’ve known some people who make a scrapbook filled with success images and words specifically meaningful to them.
- Don’t let one failure ruin everything – That first time you slip or fail to meet your daily goal, don’t decide that all is lost. Why waste your good efforts so far? You have just as much ability to start again as you did on New Year’s Day.
That last one is especially worth remembering if you have many goals you’re working on simultaneously. Disappointing yourself in one area mustn’t become your downfall in all of them. Always focus on your successes, not on your failures.
Some of the more popular New Year’s Resolutions, and free resources to help you achieve them, are offered by Uncle Sam at the Usa.gov website.
As a writer, your 2012 goals may include writing more articles or chapters, sending out more submissions, entering more contests, or all three. Don’t be surprised if we have a special contest just for our readers this year. In fact, we have many surprises in store for you, because inspiring you to write, network with other authors, and sell more books is our continued goal.
Zig Ziglar said it well: “A goal properly set is halfway reached”. I wish you luck this week choosing the resolutions worthy of your talents, and invite you – paraphrasing Captain Kirk – to boldly goal where no man has gone before.