It’s that time of year again, when we resolve to change our habits – finally lose weight, work out every day, get organized, stop procrastinating, etc. Sound familiar? If it does, it’s because many of us make the same resolutions every year, only to have them fall away days or weeks after we make them.
Making New Year’s resolutions over and over that are hard to sustain only sets us up for failure. The key to making resolutions you can keep is to approach it with a positive outlook and cultivate attainable habits that add to your life, instead of taking away from it. Shifting the focus to what you CAN do, rather than what you’re not allowed to do anymore, greatly increases the chance you can keep your resolutions and improve your quality of life.
Change Your Approach
The word “resolution” has a weighty and final feel to it. Instead of making resolutions, make goals. Goals are something you aim for and do your best to achieve, without the all-or-nothing feel of a resolution.
By implication, approaching New Year’s resolutions as an opportunity to improve means that in some way you aren’t adequate just the way you are. This isn’t to say that changing habits and setting goals isn’t a worthwhile endeavor – it is – however, if you think about how you want to feel in the upcoming year, ways in which your life could be enriched instead of ways in which your habits or behaviors are somehow ‘wrong’, it alters your internal narrative from the negative to the positive.
Break Things Down
Instead of setting general goals, like “lose weight”, be specific about the way you will achieve this goal. Make sure whatever steps you take are achievable and not too lofty. In the weight loss example, instead of saying “lose 10 pounds” you can set specific goals that delineate how you will achieve this. Set a goal of making a grocery list every week that has more fruits and vegetables and less unhealthy snacks. Start small and build upon these initial first steps.
Keep it Simple and Understand Why
You don’t need to tackle everything all at once. Make a list of the goals you want to set for 2020, and then prioritize them into no more than three goals. If you take on too many things, it becomes overwhelming and easier to give up.
It helps to understand why you want to make changes. If you want to lose weight, for example, is it to look better? To have more mobility? To be healthier? Lower your blood pressure? Understanding (and stating out loud!) your motives for change drastically increases the chances you will stick to your goal.
Focus on Changing Habits
It is often said that it takes 21 days to make something a habit. Research studies indicate that 21 days is the start, but to solidify a habit it takes 90 days. The difference between setting a resolution and developing a new habit is that a resolution has an “or-else” feeling about it – like there is a negative consequence if you fail. A habit is something you aim for and do your best every day to achieve. Habits don’t happen overnight, but rather from making small adjustments every day. This is more achievable, less punitive, and not as overwhelming. Aim for your goal, but start with small, manageable changes.
Habits begin with small changes to routine. If you hit snooze on your alarm every morning and get up at the very last second, a new habit could be to get up when your alarm goes off the first time and take some quiet time for yourself before you have to start your day. Take a look at your routine and seek opportunities to make small changes that help you achieve your goal and improve your quality of life.
Lifestyle Changes vs. A Finish Line
The goal you set is the objective, but habits are about lifestyle changes. Sticking with the ‘losing weight’ example, if you achieve your goal of losing 10 lbs., you aren’t going to give up on the changes you made to achieve your goal. The goal then becomes a way of life. Resolutions imply a finish line – when in reality meaningful changes mean that once your goal is achieved it is something you can sustain and weave into your daily routine.
Don’t Go It Alone
Think carefully about people around you who can help support your goal and your new routine. Choose people who have proven themselves to be supportive and trustworthy, and talk to them about your goals. Let them know of ways they can help when things get tough, and allow them to help you move forward. It’s always easier to do things with the right support!
Our Thrive advocates have also set resolutions for the New Year that they wanted to share with readers:
“My main resolution in 2020 is to complete writing and publishing two books that I have been working on for a few years now. The time has come to share these gifts with the world. Committing to writing and editing on a daily basis will be two positive habits that will allow me to reach my goal so that my books will be ready to go by the end of November of 2020.”
– Scott Chesney
“My number one health resolution (every year) is to keep myself healthy by means of annual/biannual visits with urologist, dermatologist, podiatrist, vascular and physiatrist. This year since I’m getting older, I’ll begin to see a cardiologist and optometrist on an annual basis. Also, my fun resolution is to travel out of US (first time ever) to some nearby countries. Just received my passport (Christmas present to me) and waiting for warmer weather, likely summer.”
– Ryan Gebauer
Goals and new habits don’t have to be all about deprivation. Remember to think of ways to reward yourself, find time to do the things that fill you up and bring you joy, and prioritize self-care. If your goals are only about taking things away or depriving yourself, you are reducing your quality of life and decreasing chances of success.
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