Every year, as we get ready for the thrill of the New Year’s Eve ball drop countdown, millions of us are also feeling that tingling excitement that comes with making a drastic change in our respective lives. We are feeling that heady high that accompanies any life-changing decision, and each year, we know that THIS will be the year we change for the better. January 1st represents a clean slate, a new page, a chance to start over with resolve. What didn’t work last year WILL work this year. We have resolved to lose 20 pounds, to eat only clean and organic foods, to go to the gym every day, to cut our spending by 25%, to organize every aspect of our life, to live life to the fullest…
Fast forward one week into January, and a quarter of us have already abandoned our resolutions. Polls indicate that 40-50% of us will make at least one resolution, yet the same polls show that up to 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail every year.
So why bother even making resolutions if failure is seemingly inevitable?
There are many very compelling reasons for making resolutions – whether at the start of a new year or in the middle of summer. Setting a goal for yourself that involves changing a detrimental habit or starting a new, beneficial habit can be motivating, it can lead to lasting changes, it can inspire those around you, it can lead to a healthier, happier life. But this year, a few tips to keep in mind before you set your resolutions – tips that will hopefully simplify the process and lead to successful resolutions rather than frustration!
- First and foremost, reflect on your resolutions from last year – what worked for you, what didn’t work for you? Use these reflections to make positive changes in how you set your resolutions.
- Choose quality over quantity – instead of resolving to change every bad habit at once, choose two or three obtainable goals (or even just one). Otherwise, you set yourself up for failure. Most of us have existing obligations and can’t devote all of our energy to our resolutions, so be realistic about how much time (and energy) you have!
- Be specific! Vague, overarching goals like “live life to the fullest”, “become fit and healthy”, “get organized”, etc. don’t usually work because you have no measuring stick. Instead, choose goals that you can measure and set a specific plan of action for getting there. For example, instead of “become fit and healthy”, you could resolve to eat dessert only twice/week, or to run 3 miles 3 times/week, or to stop smoking. Your plan of action could involve rewards, or bringing a friend on board to help keep yourself accountable.
- Choose resolutions based on what is most important to you, not others’ ideals. It may be trendy to resolve to “eat clean”, but if your sticking point is financial, or you’ve been trying to work up the motivation to go back to school, or you want to make your family your priority this year, center your resolutions there. If you aren’t passionate about what you’re trying to change, chances are, it won’t work.
- Be realistic! Quite often, we set ourselves up for failure because we simply aim too high. It’s good to challenge ourselves, but it’s also imperative to keep in mind that have other obligations. If your goal is to lose weight, start with 10 pounds instead of 30. If your goal is to go to the gym, start with 3 times/week instead of every single day. Want to save more money? Start with a realistic sum or percentage of your income. It is important to assess what time constraints we have in our lives, and it is important to recognize our strengths and weaknesses. If your strength is organization, plan out your weekly workouts and post them on a calendar in your kitchen. If your weakness is organization, on the other hand, enlist a financial advisor, or find an app that helps you track expenditures with minimal record-keeping required.
- Be ready to fail! Small failures, that is. We are all human – there WILL be set-backs, days when you simply can’t get to the gym, days when that office birthday cake is too tempting to resist. Nobody’s perfect, so be ready to cut yourself some slack and just get back to your plan as soon as possible. And you may not be able to anticipate – or prevent some of these set-backs. Childcare, house maintenance, car maintenance, health care expenses…you can’t plan for every expense.
- Be flexible! Your resolution was to save 10% of your monthly salary but your car broke down, then your child’s preschool tuition went up? Don’t beat yourself up. Focus on the here and now and get back to your resolution when you are able to.
- Finally, above all, stay positive and have fun! Resolutions should not place undue burden on your life, nor should they cause additional stress. The right resolution will help initiate positive change that leads to a happier, healthier life.