Yes, believe it or not, somehow the New Year is almost upon us again – and this means that all around the world, hordes of people are turning their minds to things like New Years Resolutions, and to the ways in which they might be able to change certain features of their lives for the better going forward.

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Unfortunately, although there are all sorts of services out there designed to help individuals through a variety of difficult situations in life, such as, New Year’s Resolutions tend not to actually have a very good track record in terms of sticking and being successful.

Just think of how many people annually sign up for a gym membership and commit to working out regularly, only to go strong throughout January, and then falter somewhere in the middle of February.

In order to make this New Year different from the previous ones, it’s important to have the right awareness going into things, and to be mindful of the approach you take, and the particular practices you adopt, to help to facilitate the change you are after.

Here are a few suggestions for making this New Year different from the other ones.

Surround yourself with people who embody the change you want to make

Have you ever heard of the idea of “social contagion?”

Essentially, “social contagion” means that we can end up “catching” certain behaviours, habits, tendencies, and viewpoints, from other people – as opposed to just developing those things independently.

On some level, everyone is probably aware that individuals can influence each other’s views and opinions. But did you know that a lot of what passes for “social contagion” actually happens under the radar, in a way that’s very difficult to even begin to understand?

For example, people apparently tend to end up weighing similarly to the individuals they spend the most of the time around.

Using the power of social contagion in order to help to solidify and entrench the habits that you want to establish in your life, and to move your life consistently in the right direction, can be extremely powerful and effective.

So, how could this play out in practice?

Well, if you wanted to get in shape and to become more sporty, joining sports clubs and socialising more with physically active individuals might be a great idea. Likewise, if you want to become an entrepreneur, joining entrepreneurial groups and networking regularly might likewise prove very helpful.

It’s a lot easier to end up “dropping the ball” when you’re only accountable to yourself, but if you know that there are other people out there who have expectations for themselves and for you that match the goals you have set, it’s a whole different story.

Take steps to train yourself into being more action-oriented and less stuck in your head

Society tends to place a lot of emphasis on the importance of being self-aware and introspective – and it’s certainly a good thing to have a good baseline level of self knowledge, and to be able to get in touch with the deeper parts of your internal emotional landscape.

But introspection is by no means always a good thing, and it can certainly end up spiralling out of control just like everything else.

For individuals who are chronically introspective, it can be all too easy to end up falling into a self-undermining and harmful spiral of rumination, with one negative thought leading to another negative thought, and where the idea of actually getting up and taking action becomes almost unthinkable.

Unfortunately, much of the reason why we tend to fall short of achieving our potential in life is connected to the simple fact that we get too wrapped up in our own fears and perceived limitations, and end up convincing ourselves that our negative thoughts about things represent reality.

When you actually get up and start doing something, though, you’ll virtually always find that the experience itself is a lot different from the mental picture that you had painted of it, while sitting around and introspecting.

Unfortunately, we are all pretty good at rationalising our hangups and fears. If you want to start going to the gym and to get in shape, for example, your mind may well end up spinning you a story like “you don’t have the right workout gear so there’s no point in starting just yet… You should do some training at home first to get in better baseline shape before training in public, but not this week… You probably won’t be able to work out effectively in the gym because of…” and so on.

Determining to be more action-oriented, and less stuck in your head, is one of the best ways of making a powerful change in the New Year.

Take up at least one hobby or project and resolve to stick with it for a set period of time

If you’ve ever found yourself in a situation in life where you felt as though things were “stagnating,” and as if you simply didn’t have any real sense of direction or motivation, there’s a good chance that part of what you were missing was a hobby or project to invest yourself in over a prolonged period of time.

For many of us, it’s difficult to identify one thing to focus our attention and energy on, and to stick with it consistently over a period of time. And it’s certainly not necessary to become completely single-minded. Many of the most interesting and successful people throughout history have had a variety of different interests.

Nonetheless, making a significant change in your life – especially when it’s marked by a time period transition, such as New Year’s Resolutions are – really requires you to begin directing your energies in a more focused and motivated way.

It almost doesn’t matter which hobby or project you pick to invest your time and energy in. The important thing is that you commit in advance to sticking with it for a set period of time – say six months to a year – and go after it with enthusiasm.

You may be surprised by just how much more energetic, motivated, and driven you are across the different dimensions of your life if you do this.

Get more focused on doing the right thing each day, than on lofty goals and targets

Perhaps one of the key reasons why people end up failing to stick with their New Years Resolutions, is because they aren’t proactively striving to change the everyday routines, but are instead just pursuing some kind of goal or “target” down the line.

An example of a New Years Resolution that is goal-focused in this way, would be something like “I will weigh x amount by y date.” Ultimately, though, these sort of resolutions have a way of being unfulfilling and unsustainable, because you’re fundamentally not engaged with the process, but are impatiently trying to get to a particular outcome.

By getting more focused on the process itself, and by doing the right thing each day, you can learn to fall in love with the new habits you’re trying to cultivate, and can therefore end up creating a more sustainable and effective path forward.

One good idea might be to use a motivating habit tracker that gives you an extra boost and sense of achievement every time you repeat a given habit on a daily basis – such as, for example, spending a certain amount of time each day studying a new language.