Making Resolutions that Last!
The New Year is approaching and filled with hope for new beginnings. We start off the year with great intentions and make resolutions to improve our lives. We purchase a gym membership, join a diet plan, or sign up for a class. Then the enthusiasm starts to fade. The resolution that seemed so great a few weeks ago is not fun. We are lucky if we even remember what our resolutions were by February. According to statisticbrain.com, while 45% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, only 8% achieve them. Why is this? Are resolutions inherently destined to fail?
New Year’s resolutions don’t work because of how they are made and kept. Resolutions are really goals and intentions for how we want to change to improve our lives. New Year’s Day is not the only time we have a new beginning. Each day is a new start and an opportunity to revisit our resolutions. I made a resolution to avoid fast food and have kept it for years. Here are my tips on how to make New Year’s resolutions that last.
- Be realistic. Notice my resolution was to “avoid fast food.” It does not say I will never eat fast food. For me, “avoid” means I will not eat fast food when I have other options. For example, I was on a road trip with family and they were stopping for lunch at a fast food drive-thru on the way out of town. I did not want to inconvenience everyone and demand we go somewhere else. So, I ordered healthy choices from the fast food menu and did not feel guilty. My resolution was not “black and white” and allowed for flexibility when needed.
- Get back on track if you didn’t meet your goal today. In the previous situation, I could have given up, thinking, “I messed up, so why even bother with this anymore. It’s too hard and I can’t do this.” Instead, I focused again on my goal. When you have setbacks, focus on your goal once more and use it as a learning experience. From this experience, I learned to either bring non-perishable foods with me, or go grocery shopping once I get to my destination when traveling so I have healthy food options.
- Be specific and create measurable goals. According to statisticbrain.com, the number one resolution for 2015 was to lose weight. While this is a great goal to have, it is much too broad. In order for a resolution, goal, or intention to work, you have to break it down into what you are specifically going to do to reach your goal. For the weight loss resolution, your resolution should provide you with a “road map” to guide you towards your goal. For example, your resolution could state that you are you going to work out 4 times a week for 30 minutes each session. Your resolution could state that you are you going to eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. These resolutions are also measurable; you clearly know when you have met your goal or if you need to make some adjustments. This brings us to the next tip.
- It is OK to update your resolution. Resolutions are not “written in stone.” Maybe your resolution was not specific or realistic. For example, if I resolved to never eat fast food, my resolution would have failed because of the one time I ate fast food in years. I probably would have quit. Instead, I could change my resolution to avoid fast food and get right back to my goals. Don’t give up, be creative and think of ways you can make the resolution work for you.
- Pay attention to “streaks.” One thing that has been helpful to me is to consider how long I have been able to continuously stay with my goal. How many times have you said, “Oh, I could never __________.”? Insert whatever habit you want to change in this sentence. If you have in fact maintained this change for weeks, months, or even years, you know you have really accomplished something. If I am ever tempted, I think to myself, “I have gone this long, I am not going to change today and ruin my “streak.”
- Revisit your resolution, intention, or goal every single day. This is the most important tip. Bring these intentions into your consciousness daily. Show gratitude for what you have and celebrate what you have achieved. I wake up early every day to write out affirmations and statements of gratitude. I am not a morning person and I was resistant to waking up early to take time to do this. However, writing out affirmations and statements of gratitude as part of my morning routine enables me to make better choices the rest of the day. It sets the tone for the day and gives clarity to what I hope to achieve. I highly recommend this practice.
These tips will help you achieve your wonderful resolutions, goals, and intentions for the New Year, or any other time you want to make positive changes in your life. If you would like personalized assistance with reaching your goals, contact me to schedule a session. Happy New Year and Best Wishes for 2016!
Joy Carter, MSW
Mindfulness & Spiritual Coach