10 Tips for Making, And Keeping, Your New Year’s resolutions
The time has come again for New Year’s resolutions and making healthy promises to ourselves. January represents the fresh start of a new year and leaving old habits behind. It also is the busiest time of year at fitness facilities, but within three months, attendance drops and people fall comfortably back into old habits, and feelings of guilt replace our feelings of motivation.
How can we use this fresh start to our advantage and avoid failure? Is it even worth it to make such a big deal about resolutions, or should we just not make promises to ourselves that we can’t seem to keep? The truth is that change can happen anytime, but often needs some sort of catalyst to start the shift. What better time than to use the new year as your jump start, fire and motivator. Here are 10 tips to help you plan your change and give you a better chance of success.
1. Choose a goal! It could be anything! Just make sure it’s one that YOU want to work on and not just one that other people think you need to change. Your goal could be anything from weight loss, to better eating habits, more mindfulness, improved emotional health, or better time management. Take some time to think about what bugs you the most in your life right now, and make it a goal to work on it.
2. Make yourself a priority by making a commitment to you. No excuses, this is about your commitment to yourself and your promise to make the space and time to realize your goal. You wouldn’t miss an important work meeting or a commitment to your family. So why think twice about following through when you are the focus. Ideally you should be the most important person in your life, so it’s imperative that you learn to treat yourself that way (if this is hard for you, maybe this would be a worthwhile goal to pursue).
3. Come up with three concrete steps that you can use to work towards your goal. Make the steps as small, or as large, as you think you can manage, keeping in mind that if you bite off more than you can chew, you may get discouraged. Take the resolution of improving mindfulness as an example. You’re not likely to be successful if you make a commitment to meditate for one hour a day if you have never done it before. It would be more realistic to start with ten minutes a day and go from there. Baby steps.
4. Identify your inner saboteur and come up with strategies to conquer it. This is about predicting your pitfalls on the path to reaching your goal. For example, if you are a night owl and never go to bed before midnight, it might be unrealistic for you to plan to get up a 6 am everyday for a run. Even with the best of intentions, it’s important to be brutally honest with yourself before you start making changes, about the ways that you are most likely to fail. Then adapt your plan accordingly (i.e. maybe plan to do your run on your lunch break, or after work instead).
5. Seek professional help. When trying to achieve a new goal or even revisiting one you’ve already tried to conquer, it can help to work with a healthcare professional, personal trainer, pilates instructor, nutritionist, meditation guru or join a class or group – you get the picture. It can make the process much easier (and in some cases, safer) in the beginning and help you get started by giving you direction/pointers. Working with a professional is typically more efficient too, as they can steer you away from common pitfalls they have seen time and again.
6. Identify your biggest fans. For added supported and accountability, include/inform friends and loved ones of your journey so that they can cheer you on. It can also help to try the buddy system and find a friend to work on your goal with (just make sure the other person is as committed as you to making a change). The support and accountability can help keep you going when you aren’t feeling motivated.
7. Plan ahead. Schedule in advance the time you need to achieve your goal as if it were an important meeting or date. Having a road map and a date with yourself makes it easier to stay on track because it makes it more official.
8. Track your progress. Choose a measurable way to keep track of how you’re doing with your goal. Having tangible proof of seeing how well you’ve been doing along the way will give you an opportunity to acknowledge your progress, motivating you forward. For example, you could use a calendar and mark each day that you make the time and/or successfully work towards your goal.
9. Reward yourself for staying on track. When it gets really tough to stay committed, sometimes the goal itself isn’t enough of a reward. It can help to create a reward system for yourself like daily stickers to mark your calendar or a gift at milestones that will keep you motivated.
10. Do it for at least 66 days. Research has shown that on average, it takes 66 days to form a habit. So give yourself at least that long before expecting it to feel like a part of your routine (for some people, it can take even longer). That’s a good time to plan a celebration of your success. Just don’t let your success give you an excuse to slack off and backslide. You’ve worked so hard to achieve your goal, enjoy it and keep it as a new part of your life.
Finally, all you need is to do it! Figure out what you need to shift most, and make your plan.
Start the year by making a commitment to you. And remember, self-improvement is a path and a journey, not a destination, so practice patience and self-compassion with yourself along the way.
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