New Year, New You: 7 Steps to Creating a New Year’s Resolution + Sticking to It
There is no more popular time than the first of the year for goal-setting. We often have grand visions of how we will look, feel, and live before ringing in the next year by knocking out major resolutions left and right. For some, the major lifestyle changes stick. For others, resolutions are long given up on, or forgotten, just a few weeks into the new year.
Having a solid plan in place before taking on a goal is key to seeing it through. Here are seven steps you'll want to take before diving into your New Year's resolutions in order to stay on track and motivated throughout the year and beyond!
Often, the reason we're only able to keep up with our resolutions for a short period of time is because we've overloaded ourselves with goals and struggle to prioritize and focus on all of them at once. Narrow down your list of goals and select just one or two that you really want to knock out of the park. You can always come up with more later in the year.
Keep it Specific
Another surefire way to set resolutions up for a quick derailment is by being overly general or incredibly lofty with our goals. For example, it's easy to say, "Get fit," "Finish a novel," "Save more money," or "Travel more often," but it's equally easy to second guess what you mean by these general goals, or feel discouraged because you don't feel like you're making any progress.
Instead, make your resolutions as specific and as realistic as possible. Rather than setting the goal, "Get fit," think about what "fit" means to you. Replacing that short statement with, "Walk for one hour per day three times a week and enter a 5K charity walk by September" provides you with more clearly defined steps, that you can adjust as needed, to reach the big-picture goal. And don't just keep the specifics in your head... write them down!
Consider how you'll start and stick to your goal. How will you find the time in your schedule to dedicate to it? Will you schedule it into your planner, give up another responsibility, start waking up earlier? Research and purchase any equipment, memberships, or literature you need to get started before the day you plan to start and keep these items in a visible, frequently visited place (your purse, nightstand, door handle) as a constant reminder of your resolution.
Don't forget to anticipate hurdles. Think about any unexpected curve-balls that could be thrown your way - you may wake up late, catch a cold, have to stay at work after-hours - how will you get past those obstacles and still dedicate time and attention to your resolution? Have backup plans in place.
Choose a Start Date
January 1 is probably one of the worst days we can choose to implement a major lifestyle change. We're worn out from the chaos of the holidays, sleeping off the celebration from the night before, and busy getting our homes and schedules back in order. Select a date that you know you'll be able to kick your resolution off on the right foot. Maybe it's first thing Monday morning, or even a few weeks or months down the road.
Once you've selected the big day, then go all out with reminders. Set a phone alarm, schedule an Outlook appointment, jot it down in your weekly planner, and stick Post-Its in places you look at daily so that when the day arrives, you can't use the excuse of "forgetting."
We are lovers of instant gratification, and if we don't see improvement or results immediately, we're onto the next thing. This is another reason resolutions flicker out so quickly. Keeping track of progress, no matter how small it may be, is key to staying the course.
Invest in a notebook, a binder, or a journal, and utilize Apps like OptimizeMe, Strides, LifeTick, Habit List, and MyFitnessPal to keep track of your progress so you can reflect frequently and see that your efforts are paying off. If you take the time to write out your progress, make sure to note how you're feeling emotionally day to day, too, to pick up on any patterns and help you to determine what changes you might need to make to cast out any negativity. | Related: 7 Apps to Help You Achieve Goals & Build New Habits
We can all admit that incentives aren't just for kids and pets. They work well for the rest of us, too. In your planning stages, select a few milestones in which you'll be able to reward yourself. Keep in mind though, that your reward shouldn't negatively impact your progress (if your goal is to lose weight and you reward yourself after losing 10 pounds with a giant slice of cake, it'll be tempting to fall off the wagon.)
Rewards can come in many forms - a weekend getaway, a trip to the spa, a gift card, a fresh bouqet of flowers, a night out with friends, a Netflix binge, taking a half day off of work, sleeping in on Sunday morning... Take some time to think about the kind of rewards that will get you excited to stay on track and incorporate them into your plan. | Related: 101 Ways to Reward Yourself
Have set dates - once a week, once a month, once a quarter - to review your progress and make any adjustments to your goal as needed. Were you able to finish a 5K long before you thought you'd be able to? Then readjust and add to your goal! Did you totally fall apart and abandon your resolution a few months in? Consider what caused you to get off track and make adjustments to your goal - and personal habits - to pick up where you left off, with a plan to avoid that particular hurdle from diverting you from your resolution again.
- Go Public: Announcing your resolution to your friends, family, or social network holds you more accountable to succeed than keeping it to yourself and letting it quietly slip away. Plus, you'll have some additional encouragement and follow-up throughout the process from the people who matter most to you.
- Come Together: For some, when it comes to goal-setting, being a part of a group with similar resolutions can pay off in big ways. You'll have people in the same boat, experiencing the same ups and downs. You can share your progress, your tips, and hold each other accountable week to week. Pair up with a family member, round up a group of friends, or join an online forum in which others are working towards the same goal.
- Think Positive: Practice the habit of using positive language, even when thinking to yourself, instead of negative. For example, on a slow and gloomy day, when you find yourself thinking or saying, "I'm too tired to go to the gym," immediately follow up with, "However, I always feel so energized after a workout!"
2015 is going to be your year, reader, for setting New Year's resolutions and seeing them through. We believe in you!
What are your goals and what are your best tips for sticking to them? We'd love to hear. Share your thoughts in the comments section below!