23 tips for starting fresh in 2012

The statistics on setting New Year’s resolutions are pretty dismal. Most people won’t make it to the end of the month, let alone the end of the year. In fact, we’ve heard that as few as 2% of resolution-setters actually achieve their goals by year’s-end. Making a change stick is hard work. But it is possible.

No matter what your goals are for the year ahead, we want to help you achieve them. Organize yourself for success with these helpful tips.

1. Take time to evaluate 2011.

Consider the things that went well for you last year as well as the things that didn’t. Make a list of each. Take a moment or two to consider why you were successful or not. In addition, take a moment to celebrate your successes.

2. Ask yourself: “what lessons can I extract from my previous failures?”

I recently posted about the power of a failure wall. As one reader commented on Facebook, “often what we consider huge failures in our minds actually were great learning experiences and have brought us to where we are today – almost a backwards confidence booster.” Take the time to articulate the lessons learned from the stumbles you took last year. The wisdom you gained from making them will serve you well in the year ahead.

3. Get a notebook and write down your goals.

When you physically write something down, the few minutes that it takes for you to review and think about what you are trying to learn is the minimum length of time that neuroscientists believe is necessary to allow thought to go into a lasting, more easily retrievable memory. It also helps you focus your attention and keep track of where you are. Cement your goals by writing them down.

4. Forget about yesterday, last week, last year.

All that matters is what you do in this moment. Don’t paint yourself into a corner as a “failure,” because it is not a permanent state.

5. Start each day with a commitment to your goal(s).

Keep your goals in a spot where you can see and review them at the start of every day. I like to keep a laminated copy taped to the inside front of my to-do notebook, which I look at as soon as I sit down at my desk each day. I know Alicia keeps hers in the drawer of her bedside table and goes over her goals before she even gets out of bed for the day.

6. Script your moves for the first 30 days.

Shifting momentum is often the most difficult part of making a fresh start. Make it easier on yourself by assigning one to-do for each day of the first month so all you have to do is follow the path you’ve already charted.

7. Start small.

As Jonatan Martensson said, “Success will never be a big step in the future, success is a small step taken just now.” Even if it’s just exercising or decluttering for 5 minutes, the important thing is that you start.

8. Make one goal for each week.

Break your big goal into 4 weekly goals for each month. Then forget about the big goal and simply focus on the bite-sized one you need to achieve this week.

9. Plan to Fail.

That sounds depressing, but it’s not. Nobody is perfect. The key to success is expecting failure…and planning ways to bounce back from it. Consider your “weak spots,” like getting out of a warm and cozy bed early. Then brainstorm ways to overcome them, such as going to bed in your workout clothes or investing in a Clocky (that alarm clock that runs away from you).

10. Try some if/then statements.

Psychology researchers from NYU have verified the power of simple if/then statements in getting people to follow through on their intentions. For example, if weight loss is your goal, repeat a statement like, “if I go to a restaurant tonight for dinner, then I will order a salad,” to yourself. You might just surprise yourself when you order a salad as if on autopilot.

11. Stoke your emotional attachment to your goals.

Cut out quotes and images, keep a Pinboard (if you need an invite, just email sarah at getbuttonedup dot com and she will get you one). Keep them handy so that when you are tempted, you can look at something and immediately feel a strong sense of connection to your end goal.

12. Measure your progress.

Pick one or two metrics to measure and keep track of your progress every, single day. Look back at your progress each week and month and celebrate!

13. Make a public statement.

There’s nothing like committing to a goal publicly to keep you honest. Post on your facebook wall, send an email to friends and family, or tell all of your colleagues what you are going to accomplish, by when. Encourage them to check in on you and heckle you if you are not living up to your end of the bargain.

14. Get an accountability buddy or community.

We all need one person who can hold our feet to the fire. If all of your friends and family are pushovers, hire a coach or trainer instead. Or consider joining or creating a Meetup group that will accomplish the same thing.

15. Keep a daily gratitude list.

When you are filled with appreciation for what you have, your mental state shifts dramatically in a positive direction. Start each day by noting all the people and things in your life you are grateful for and take note of how the tone of your days improves.

16. Pat yourself on the back once a week.

It can be easy to get swept up in busyness. But celebrating your progress each week is critical to staying on track. Take 5 minutes every Friday afternoon or Sunday evening and write down at least 3 things you did (or learned) that brought you closer to your intended goal.

17. Reframe what it means to fail.

A teacher once told Sarah that the only way to fail was not to learn. It transformed how she looked at her progress. If you fall down, pick yourself up and ask yourself what you can learn from the experience. Learn how you can prevent the same thing from happening in the future.

18. Stop the comparisons.

Goals are personal. Don’t compare yourself or your rate of progress to anyone else. Focus instead on doing the best you can do today.

19. Sign up for a challenge.

There is something about working towards a big challenge that keeps you focused and on track. Find a relevant one to you and sign up.

20. Reward your self-control.

Keep a little sticker or star chart going for yourself on an index card you can keep your wallet. Every time you exercise self-control as it relates to your goal, give yourself a star. Each time you hit a certain number of stars, say 10, reward yourself with something like a manicure or a yummy smoothie.

21. Find someone successful to imitate.

As Anthony Robbins says, “success leaves clues.” You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Speed up your progress by modeling the program of someone who has been successful in the area in which you wish to succeed.

22. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Repeating tasks is the way to mastery. You should repeat one or two of the same tasks that are crucial to the change you want to make each and every week. Before you know it you will be able to do them on autopilot.

23. Be still once a day.

If you have had a good day, consider this an opportunity to energize yourself and tap into your insight and creativity. If you haven’t had a good day, a quiet moment serves as a fresh start. Clear your mind, clean your slate, and begin again.

What are you committed to changing this year? In what ways do you like to start fresh?