Facebook
Edutopia on Facebook
Twitter
Edutopia on Twitter
Google+
Edutopia on Google+
Pinterest
Edutopia on Pinterest Follow Me on Pinterest
WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

While 45 percent of people make New Year's resolutions, only 8 percent of that group report achieving their resolutions. Why do so many fail? What can we do to increase our odds of accomplishing these all-important goals? In this blog, I'll share some of the tricks and apps that have helped me accomplish my resolutions for the past four years.

Set Your Goal

Step 1: Name Your Year

Name your year with a mantra or purpose statement. I've celebrated "the year of the habit," which I focused on making good habits, and "the year of intentional living," where I reexamined every commitment.

Step 2: Name Your Goal

Effective goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. Stephen Covey always added that they were also "owned" through the specific decision to achieve them. This is important for students, because it must be their goal, not their parents' or teacher's.

Step 3: Put Your Decision in Writing

Internalize your goals by writing them down. You don't need to call it resolution. Find a favorite method for keeping short-, medium- and long-term sets of goals according to the method of your choice. Type it into your electronic notebook. Record yourself reading it on your phone. Listen to your plans every day during January. You become what you think about most of the time. If your goal never crosses your mind, it won't cross your calendar, either. Habits are powerful, so write it down!

Step 4: Evaluate Your Goal

  • Does it fit with your purpose? (Jon Acuff discusses knowing your purpose.)
  • Have any negative habits caused this goal to become necessary?
  • What would you give up to make this goal happen?
  • Is this goal worth a year of your life to achieve?
  • If you have more than one goal, prioritize them and start with the first one.

Set Your Habits

A habit is a regular practice. You don't have to think about habits. They're just what you do. You can improve or replace habits you don't like, because they won't go away on their own. When you establish a habit, the mind doesn't have to work so hard, and you’re free to create new ones. Work on one new thing at a time until it becomes automatic.

Step 5: Find the Habits to Achieve Your Goal

Too many of us believe those who are successful are just "lucky" when it actually required hard work. Start by finding people whose circumstances are similar to yours but who've achieved the success you desire. They are your pattern.

As teachers, we use patterns every day -- they're called lesson plans. As part of my January goal-setting lessons, students research and create presentations about those they admire who have a success that they aspire to reach. The presentation, however, is not about the accomplishments but requires students to explain at least three habits that the person used to achieve their goals. Two of those habits must be before they were "famous." Emphasize to students that, rather than copying personal mannerisms, they should consider emulating habits. As Brian Tracy says, “We form our habits, and then our habits form us."

Step 6: Assess Time Needed for Specific Habits

People who want to lose weight often say, "I'll exercise more and eat less." What does that look like? How many calories? How often will you exercise? When will you weigh and what kind of accountability group will you join? Remember that negative habits are part of your life, too. You can’t just eliminate them -- you need to replace them with something else. And that takes time.

Step 7: Calendar Your New Habits

I made a private Google Calendar called "A Routine of Excellence" where I schedule appointments with myself based upon my goals for the year. Reschedule key habits -- never delete them.

7a. Schedule Large Habits
Focus on building one large habit at a time until it is permanent by setting appointments with yourself each week. If it takes longer than 15 minutes (working out, quiet time in the morning, an hour of reading), put it on the calendar.

My Google Calendar: “A Routine of Excellence”

Credit: Google

7b. Aggregate Smaller Key Habits
Small habits chained together are a routine. Build routines by using apps like 30/30 or HomeRoutines to create small sets of routines at key times in the day. Keep the routines to 15 minutes or less, and add only one at a time until it becomes habit. Some of these routines will have key habits related to your goal (a glass of water first thing does help weight loss), but others will just help you smooth out your day. Be intentional about the routines and habits you choose.

Items from my 12-minute "Beginning of school routine" on the 30/30 app.

Credit: Binary Hammer

Step 8: Set Up Visual Cues and Trigger Environments

If you'll be exercising at work, then your evening routine should include packing your workout clothes. If you're using a FitBit, Jawbone or another health-tracking gadget, schedule a weekly charge. Make it easy to do your habit by removing your excuses. If you write with a candle burning, leave the spent matches to tally your sessions per week.

Many authors create a routine to invite a creative mood. I light a candle each morning when I write, leaving the extinguished match on the plate as a visual cue for my goal to blog five times per week.

Credit: Vicki Davis

Step 9: Enlist a Support Group

The Lift, Lose It and Fitocracy apps let you link with others to mutually encourage accomplishing various habits. Never underestimate the power of a face-to-face support group, particularly if (like me) you struggle with weight or any other hard-to-tackle problem that comes from negative habits.

Step 10: Adapt and Reset

Four years ago, I set and met a goal to lose 35 pounds by joining with a group. Last year, I permanently injured my knee and can no longer run. I promptly gained back the weight I had lost, but I won't count it as a failure because circumstances change over time. Don’t treat your 40-year-old body like a 20-year-old body. Give yourself a fresh start with no guilt.

Count the Cost and Resolve to Change

The Arbinger Institute's Leadership and Self-Deception tells us that "by being in the box, I provoke others to be in the box." As teachers, we teach with our lives. Our habits become models to the children who look up to us. If we choose to stay fat, for example, we lead others to do the same. Conversely, if we choose to move forward and get out of our box, whatever it is, others will follow.

You are what you think and what you do every day. Resolutions may be made in a day, but habits take a lifetime. First you make your habits, then your habits make you. Start building a new life today by building your habits.

Make this New Year your year of the habit. Choose wisely, for you are making your destiny one day at a time.

Recommended Reading

Comments (8)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Jennifer Gonzalez's picture
Jennifer Gonzalez
Blogger at Cult of Pedagogy
Blogger 2014

This is a good reminder to set some goals. I've gotten out of the habit of making New Year's resolutions because I kind of re-calibrate throughout the year. But some of these ideas are new things I'd like to try. I love the idea of naming the year -- that's a fun layer to add, a nice way to package it. I also love the visual cues.

I used Lift earlier this year to start building a meditation practice and to get myself to do a better job of keeping up with the news. The community aspect is a nice component, but I found that trying to participate actively ended up being too time-consuming.

Thanks for a useful post!

Sam Mirs's picture
Sam Mirs
Director of Math Education: Amazing Math Tutor Inc.A

I wanted to emphasize more on how effective writing your plan and goals are. You need to write them down and look at them on a regular basis. Few years I started to do this to give it a try and sure enough, I have been always surprised how beneficial this habit can be.

Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher's picture
Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher
Computer Fundamentals, Computer Science and IT Integrator from Camilla, GA
Blogger 2014

Hi Sam! Absolutely it is vital that goals are written down. I keep them written in Evernote and in the back of my levenger paper planner and revise them throughout the year. Written goals make a huge difference according to the research -- read 7 habits of highly effective people and more about this. Thanks for commenting. Conversation is important and when educators share tips with others it helps important points resonate.

Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher's picture
Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher
Computer Fundamentals, Computer Science and IT Integrator from Camilla, GA
Blogger 2014

Thanks Elisha! I think the important thing is that "treat" doesn't have to mean "eat" or you end up having to make other resolutions that involve lots of sweat!! ;-)

Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher's picture
Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher
Computer Fundamentals, Computer Science and IT Integrator from Camilla, GA
Blogger 2014

Yes, Jennifer. Naming the year makes a huge difference.I even take that word and put it on my iPad and iPhone screen to keep it top of mind.

[quote]This is a good reminder to set some goals. I've gotten out of the habit of making New Year's resolutions because I kind of re-calibrate throughout the year. But some of these ideas are new things I'd like to try. I love the idea of naming the year -- that's a fun layer to add, a nice way to package it. I also love the visual cues.

I used Lift earlier this year to start building a meditation practice and to get myself to do a better job of keeping up with the news. The community aspect is a nice component, but I found that trying to participate actively ended up being too time-consuming.

Thanks for a useful post![/quote]

Kristen Shore Zajdel's picture
Kristen Shore Zajdel
Classroom Eductor, Worcester County, MD.

This is such a well written blog, that I was literally taking notes as I was reading it. There are so many wonderful ideas listed here for me to take back to my learning community and share with them. My team of teachers and myself have been struggling with trying to find new ways to have students engaged, motivated, and accountable in their learning. Your ideas of "naming the year" and "naming your habit" are wonderful.
I also love the fact that you recognize that we need to truly focus on our habits in order to accomplish our goals. Our students look up to us for so many different things in our school, and by us setting the example and showing the students that they can reach their goals, will be huge for them. I plan on making my habits known with my students and you are right, I need to set my patterns and emulate them, so that my students will follow this path.
I look forward to sharing your ideas with my team and seeing what the rest of this school year holds for my students and their new strategies for accomplishing their goals for 2014.

Sign in and Join the Discussion! Not a member? Register to join the discussion.