It’s just about time for New Year’s Resolutions again. Most people have a love/hate relationship with this tradition. The truth is pretty simple though. Some of us just don’t have the best track record with resolutions. We set big goals and before long, we’re uttering at the old “I’ll try again next year”. I’m trying a new approach this year, and I’m inviting you to try it with me. There’s something magical about the calendar flipping over to January 1st and getting a fresh start for a new year. Here are 5 tips for making successful resolutions for 2018.
1. Get specific.
The key to success with resolutions is to know your goal and specify your steps. For example, a common resolution is weight loss. Instead of making such a broad resolution, ask yourself HOW you will lose weight. Try making smaller resolutions that lend themselves to your ultimate goal. It’s a lot less daunting to commit to cutting back on soda than to commit to losing 50 pounds. Here’s a few more examples of how you can specify different types of resolutions.
I read a great article about setting SMART goals. Your resolutions should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. If you are very clear in your resolutions about exactly what you want to achieve and how, the actions to get there will be so much simpler.
2. Focus on one big change at a time.
Don’t overwhelm yourself with life changes when you write your resolutions. If you put too much pressure on yourself at once, the outcome could end up being the opposite of what you hoped. Looping back to the weight loss example, examine your current habits. What are the current behaviors that have kept you from reaching your ideal weight? Once you have given yourself a clear picture of what kind of changes need to be made, prioritize them. Chances are, you didn’t form your less-than-perfect habits overnight. In the same fashion, you won’t get rid of them overnight either.
A person who isn’t super active and eats a lot of junk is going to feel extremely overwhelmed if they try to make January 1st the day that they become a an avid gym-goer and health food nut. January 1st should be the start of the ball rolling, when it comes to the resolutions you make. It doesn’t have to be a switch that flips and turns you into a never-failing superhuman.
3. Find a source of accountability.
It’s a lot easier for most people to stick to goals or resolutions if they are held accountable. It makes sense, really. If nobody knows what you were aiming to do, there’s no one to tell you to keep going when you’re about to quit. Find a source of accountability for your goals this year. It could be a friend, family member, co-worker, or even a Facebook group. (There’s a group for everything now, seriously!)
You might end up finding someone who isn’t just a source of support for you, but whose resolutions align with yours. No matter who you choose, just talk about your goals. Talk about why the changes you are striving for are important to you and how you plan to get there. You’ll be giving your accountability partner all of the tools they need to help you when you need it. Talking about your resolutions out loud will also reinforce them in your own mind, and might be the boost you need to get started.
4. Expect and forgive failures.
There’s not a perfect person in this world. Well, I certainly haven’t met any. We all have our individual strengths and weaknesses. New Year’s resolutions don’t have to be a flawless process. If you slip up, keep going – know and accept that you may stumble sometimes, and forgive yourself for those times. If you want lasting and meaningful changes in your life, it’s important to give yourself time to adjust to them and a grace period for setbacks.
Nearly everyone I’ve talked to who has abandoned their resolutions in the past has done so at the first sign of “falling off the wagon”. It’s a point at which people feel a significant amount of disappointment in themselves because their fresh start is now tarnished. I’ll just say this…January 1st is no different than January 5th, or July 8th, or September 18th. January 1st is only your fresh start in the sense that it’s the day you changed your mindset and resolved to accomplish something throughout the year. Dust off your disappointments and focus on the end game.
This article does a really nice job of outlining the truth of how long it takes for new behaviors to become a natural part of your life. Understanding how habits function is key when it comes to understanding your successes and setbacks.
5. Track progress and reward yourself.
Rewards are motivating! If your resolution was to read 50 books, reward yourself every 10. The importance behind tracking your overall progress is that you won’t get so down on yourself if you feel that you stalled for a few weeks. You can really do this part in any way you want, but I truly think that reaching small milestones is a crucial part of any journey to a big goal.
Show yourself some love when you achieve something, big or small. Especially for those of you who are parents, you know that we spend most of our time thinking about other people. Take the time to celebrate yourself and the progress you have made at various points of the year.
There you have it. If you look at most of these steps, it comes together in one clear picture. If you want your resolutions to succeed in 2018, take the steps to make lasting and manageable changes. It’s a longer road, but sometimes racing to the finish isn’t how you win.
Wishing you a wonderful and safe New Year!