“New year, new me!” It’s more than just a familiar phrase. I’m not sure why we’re convinced there’s something magic about a change of the calendar; but we are. We purchase gym memberships, start diets, and attempt new habits like jogging or stopping smoking. So why is it that when March rolls around, nothing has changed? Here are some tips on how to set realistic resolutions that can have excellent, long-lasting benefits.
1. Small Goals Make Big Changes
Massive goals like losing large amounts of weight, amassing a huge savings account, or quitting cigarettes cold turkey are not only often times unrealistic, they’re also easy to ditch. Think about it, if your goal is to work out every single day of the week for the upcoming year and you miss one day in February, you’re more inclined to stop pursuing your goal at all. Instead, make smaller goals. Despite what you may think, smaller improvements can actually have huge impacts on your life. For example, be realistic about how often you can make it to the gym, and give yourself a little leeway.
2. Set Realistic Success Metrics
Your focus should always be on improvement. Instead of deciding you’re going to cut out all unhealthy sugars or artificial sweeteners and never indulge in a little sweet treat, choose to eat less sweets. Base your success metrics on relative progress, not impossibly huge and challenging absolutes. This also makes it possible to reward yourself more efficiently. Furthermore, if you feel like you’re succeeding, you’re more likely to continue on with your resolution.
3. Ask Someone to Hold You Accountable
It doesn’t matter if you tell the world or just your best friend; if you know someone’s watching, you’re more likely to stick to your guns. Don’t keep your resolution to yourself, ask a close friend or family member to hold you accountable. The truth is that it doesn’t even necessarily require that they do anything at all, simply knowing that you’re not alone in this promise to yourself is going to help motivate you and keep you focused on days when you may be inclined to cheat.
4. Put in Place a Rewards System
This can be as simple as a sticker on a calendar that marks the days you’ve successfully completed your workout. Adults are inclined to think they’ve developed beyond the simplistic reward methods that are used on children, but the truth is that even the mature mind receives an influx of positive emotion and reinforcement from seemingly small “rewards.” Additionally, your reward for keeping your resolution should never directly contradict your overall goal. For example, if you’re wanting to eat healthier in order to lose a little weight, never set the “reward” for a healthy week as a cheat meal. This only bates you to slip back into old lifestyles and ultimately fail in your resolution.
5. Make Sure Resolutions Are Sustainable
You want to make a life change that positively impacts you for the rest of your life, not just for this year. As with fad diets and other temporary fixes, the short-term solution does little to actually improve you or better your quality of life. Focus first on selecting a resolution that truly will help you become a new, better person. It doesn’t have to happen overnight, but look at the new year as a stepping stone for what will become a healthier, happier you in the years and decades to come.
On January 1st, you’re still going to be the same person with the same habits that you had all of December, and November, and the entire year before. So what’s the point in resolutions? While there’s nothing magic about a new year, it is still a great opportunity to open a new chapter or start working towards a new goal.