It’s almost New Year’s Day, which means it’s time for everyone to spend the next few weeks talking about their resolutions and how excited they are to change their lives over the next 12 months. While resolutions are always noble goals, it’s rare that anyone actually accomplishes everything they set out to do. By the time mid-spring rolls around, many resolutions are pushed to life’s back burner to be left for another day. We’re here to help you change that! Around this time last year, we gave you some tips on how to transform the way you think about resolutions to make them more achievable, and this year, we’re back with a few more ideas to help inspire you to be a better version of yourself in 2016. Here we go:
1. Start Small
When making resolutions, there’s a temptation to go for broke and aim for massive life changes all at once. All this does is make your resolutions seem daunting, and by the time the enthusiasm of the New Year is lost, many of these larger goals may feel unattainable (I call this the “biting off more than you can chew” method of goal setting). Most goals, like losing weight or saving money, are achieved gradually, so working towards them in this way will help you succeed. As we said last year, if you do have a large goal you’re working towards, it’s best to break it up into smaller pieces and reward yourself after the accomplishment of each piece.
Another twist on that idea is to set your target goal at a place that’s a little lower than your initial thought and then work towards that. For example, if you’re real “biting off more than you can chew” goal is to lose 25 pounds this year, start out by working towards 15 pounds and see what happens. If you get to 15 pounds and it’s only September, you can tack on another 5 or 10 pounds to your goal and make that your target for the rest of the year. Achieving this lower goal with provide you with a sense of accomplishment, and give you the inspiration to continue on with new benchmarks. You’ll also avoid the disappointment of falling 5 or 10 pounds short of your goal, which can sap your enthusiasm for new resolutions heading into 2017. Overall, the idea here is to be abundantly realistic with your goal setting so that you can really achieve what you set out to do.
2. Work Towards One Thing at a Time
We’d all love to start the year working on 5 (or 10, or 20) goals at once, and achieve all of them before the year is over, but the reality is that it’s hard to make even one lifestyle change stick for the long haul, let alone several. If you do have more than one goal you want to work towards, that’s great! We certainly don’t want to encourage you not to set more goals for yourself, but we do suggest working on those goals one at a time.
If you think about your resolutions as positive habits, then it’s ideal to work towards forming one habit before you try to form another. Unfortunately, the science behind the idea that it takes just 21 days to form a habit is pretty weak, and in fact data shows that it takes people roughly two months, on average, to form a new habit. That’s ok! If you prioritize your resolutions, you can start with what you consider to be the most important and make it a habit. Even if it takes you longer than average (say, 3 months) to form this new positive behavior, that still gives you 9 more months to work on additional goals, which is plenty of time to get several resolutions accomplished before the year is done. By working on one thing at a time and feeling confident in your new habit before moving on to the next goal, you can be more certain you’ll actually stick with it in the long run. Additionally, by starting on new goals throughout the year, you’ll be giving yourself extra reminders about the importance of working on self-improvement year-round, not just at the start of the year.
3. Focus on What Matters
Many of us think of the New Year as the goal-setting clearinghouse for all the things we want to accomplish with our lives. This can be exciting, but it’s also not realistic (see tip #1). Your resolutions should center around the life improvements you really want to make now, not the dreams you have for the next few decades. I 100% support the idea of having an ongoing, evolving bucket list of life-long dreams, but lumping these huge goals in with your resolutions can take away from the energy you’ll put towards those important, immediate changes you’d like to make. If your real immediate goal is a “bucket list-y” goal like traveling to every continent, then do it, but remember to keep it realistic and manageable. Also, be sure to also not let that big goal get in the way of calling your mom more or eating healthier snacks because those smaller, more attainable “resolution-y” goals are important too and will work wonders for your day-to-day happiness.
Furthermore, making one or two New Year’s resolutions you truly care about rather than 10 you sort of care about will be way more productive in the long run. Also, as we said last year, be explicit about why you’re making each resolution – having a definite reason for each goal will help you accomplish them.
4. Remind Yourself What You’re Working Towards
One of the biggest issues with making resolutions is that it’s easy to forget them as you get further into the year. There are tons of ideas out there on how to best remind yourself of your goals, but the overall point is to find something that works for you. Regardless of how you remind yourself of your goals, you need to start by writing them down so you have some record of them! After that, whether you need sticky notes, a sign on your bathroom mirror, or a regular Google/iCal or cellphone reminder, just pick something that you’re guaranteed to see often enough to accomplish your goals.
Have your own tips on keeping New Year’s resolutions? Let us know in the comment section! And if you’re in need of some inspiration to set your resolutions for the year, we encourage you to come out to our 2nd annual Resolution Health & Recreation Fair on January 24th!
– Matt (Lightning 100’s Community Engagement Director)