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January 12, 2017

How to make Following Through with our Intentions a Cinch.

I’ve had a tricky relationship with New Year’s resolutions in the past.

For years, my pattern was to make a list of all the changes I yearned for and go full steam ahead for a few weeks. Lose weight! Exercise more! Stop smoking! I’d make these vows to myself, penning them in a fresh, crisp journal, heady with the possibility of the new and improved me that was hovering just ahead.

Inevitably, I’d fall off whatever wagon I’d put myself on by February—if not sooner.

After realizing this unsettling pattern, for several years I skipped resolutions altogether—why set myself up with lofty expectations that would soon morph into feelings of failure and disappointment? Other years, I chose a single word to focus on: Mindfulness. Ease. Though a nice idea, I discovered that picking a word wasn’t concrete enough to inspire any lasting change.

This year, after careful consideration, I decided to revisit resolutions. I made two meaningful intentions—to consistently work on a writing project I’ve been procrastinating on for years and to simplify our home.

If I approached these goals the same way I used to go about resolutions—on my own, with high hopes whispered only to myself—I’m pretty sure that by the time spring arrives with its dirty snow and frisky squirrels, I’d be wallowing in a pool of defeat, feeling worse than if I’d skipped the resolutions altogether.

So I’m trying something different.

One thing I’ve learned is that accountability can be extremely powerful. I’ve seen it in action with a group of friends who post their workout goals online, and how much it helps us to achieve consistency.

When we promise someone else that we’ll do something, we are much more likely to succeed than if we keep our goals to ourselves.

With this in mind, in December, I reached out to a few friends and acquaintances and asked them if they’d be my accountability buddies as I worked toward my goals for the coming year. To my delight, they said yes.

If, like me, you tend to struggle with consistency or follow-through, here are some tips for working with an accountability buddy to set yourself up for success this year:

  1. Find an accountability buddy or group. Think about the people you know who might have similar goals to yours, and ask them to be an accountability buddy. If you can’t think of someone you know personally, look online for a forum or group of like-minded people.
  1. Decide how often to be in touch. Agree to check in with each other to share your goals and progress on a regular basis—it could be daily, weekly or monthly depending on your schedules. Your check-ins could be in person, over the phone, or through social media or email. The important thing is to stay consistent and committed.
  1. Each time you check in with your accountability buddy, you’ll let them know your goals for the upcoming time period, and they’ll share their goals with you. Make sure your ambitions are measurable: for instance, “I’m committing to writing 2,500 words on my writing project this week.” Or, “I’m going to spend at least 15 minutes decluttering the coat closet by Friday.”

Be mindful of setting reasonable, reachable goals. If you haven’t been to yoga in months, aim to make it to one or two classes next week, not seven. If you’ve fallen off the meditation wagon (me too), try starting with just five or six minutes of meditation, not an hour. Give yourself the gift of success by setting attainable goals. Small, steady steps add up—writing one page every day adds up to 365 pages in a year.

  1. Workshop your resistance. If you find yourself facing resistance in meeting your goals—and at some point, you probably will—check in with your accountability buddy. Brainstorm ways to push past your avoidance. Try bookending: if you’re dreading dealing with the pile of unopened mail on your counter, send your partner a text before you dive into it. Then, text them again afterward, letting them know how it went.
  1. Celebrate! When you meet the goals you set, celebrate together. It’s amazing how good it can feel to have someone else acknowledge our successes with us. By simply sharing our intentions and asking for—and offering—support, we’re much more likely to achieve them.

 

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Author: Lynn Shattuck

Image: Michael Ramey/Unsplashpeagreengirl/Flickr

Editor: Catherine Monkman

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