For many people it seems the act of making a new year's resolution is more of a tradition than an actual commitment. Creating the resolution is often the only fun (and successful) part of the entire process. Isn't it great to soak in the fantasy of a fulfilled resolution? Be honest -that buzz you get on January 1 from daydreaming that your tremendous weight loss (completed by Valentine's Day) will ruin your wardrobe and force you to shop for teenier-weenier clothes is incredibly pleasurable. Or how about all the big-money job offers you'll have to sort through after you finally fulfill your resolution to sign up and complete the school course you've been putting off?
So why, then, is actually achieving the resolution so difficult? The dictionary defines "resolution" as: A course of action determined or decided upon. It sounds easy enough, right? I'm as guilty of falling short of keeping my resolutions as anyone. In fact, each night before I go to bed I resolve to get out of bed when the alarm goes off. Then when I do hear the alarm I override my previous resolution with a brand new one that includes 9 minutes of snooze -a couple times. However, I usually experience only minor shame compared to what I feel after my larger unfulfilled New Year's resolutions.
Before we look at how technology can help, let's review 4 primary pitfalls that typically trap well-meaning "resolutioners":
1. Taking Too Big A Bite To Chew! Want guaranteed resolution failure? Cram 3 years worth of resolutions into one! "I want to change careers, lose 30 pounds, quit smoking, save 20% of my income, make a significant contribution to medical science and be more honest at the office this year." Well, good luck to me. Each of those may be a noble goal but when I realize I can't possibly achieve them all, I risk feeling like more of a Loser (yes, capital) by summer than I did Dec. 31 while trying to salvage my 2002 resolutions. So if you didn't realize your resolutions last year, why not ease up and reduce the number or difficulty of this year's so you can feel some success.
2. Not Jotting It Down. You may have heard or read a hundred times by motivational speakers that you should write down resolutions. It actually is effective and will add tangibility to your commitment while serving as a regular reminder to keep you on course. You don't have to have it typeset and embossed -just put it somewhere where you'll see it regularly (hint -this is a technology column)!
3. Using the Wrong Wording. There's a huge difference between saying "I will work harder to make more money" vs. "I will get a second job so I can get my new car by next December." Focusing on the reward of achieving a resolution makes the process of achieving it positive and much more fun. It also makes for a cooler sounding resolution, don't you think?
4. Failing to Plan Steps. Achieving any significant resolution is daunting without breaking down the necessary steps to achieve it. Ironically, planning can seem like too much work for more challenging resolutions. Fulfilling a resolutions by breaking them down into a series of planned steps not only makes achievement more likely but provides checkpoints along the way that can allow you to modify the resolution if need be.
I've learned that there are some high-tech tools available to "up the odds" of success when it comes to New Year's resolutions. Your PC is a tremendous tool for not only printing out your resolutions but actively reminding you about them on a schedule determined by you. The computer can also be useful in helping you plan and log the steps necessary to achieve your resolution. People without computers are forced to post their written resolutions on the fridge with a magnet or on inside of their medicine cabinet door (better be careful what resolutions you post there because your guests really do open it for a look while in your bathroom -oh, trust me)
Let's consider two great methods available to self-monitor progress on your resolutions. One is free and uses the Internet. The other uses software you buy for your computer.
The first is a service is provided by a web site called Resolutions Reminders. This site boasts that "if you need someone to hound you into doing something good for yourself you've found the right service." You fill in a simple form with your desired resolution then you will receive monthly email reminders of your resolutions (free) along with some useful links specifically relevant to your resolutions. They offer free advice for you on any topic you can use. On the main site you'll find links to everything from Internet dating to smoking cessation. Subscription to this service is free until you unsubscribe if you should ever tire of the messages bugging you to do the right thing! There are many other services on the Internet with varying costs and service offerings. A quick search in Google.com for "reminder services" will bring up a healthy list from which you can choose.
The other method for time-tracking progress toward a goal is a product called Microsoft Outlook. It includes a calendar feature you can use to configure reminders that will pop up on your screen. You have the option of either "snoozing" the reminder or "dismissing" it. For those of us that spend a good chunk of our working hours in front of the computer, there are few tools that are more useful in reminding us of our resolutions than a computer running Outlook. To use this feature just click on the calendar in Outlook, then double-click on any day or time in the calendar. Enter in the information about your new year's resolution and set the reminder time. When your pre-selected time arrives you'll have a pop-up appear on the screen that you can "snooze" until you are satisfied that you've fulfilled your resolution.
The guidelines and tools above can help you make more realistic New Year's resolutions and keep them. With the use of your computer there are many tools at your disposal for the planning, follow up, and completion of your resolutions. If you have a computer but don't have Microsoft Outlook (or any other calendar program) and you don't have Internet access then, well, Target has some neat fridge magnets I saw - 5 for a buck.