The New Resolve
How did your New Year’s resolution(s) turn out? Not so good? Don’t worry; we’ve all been there. January 1st hits, and you are feeling optimistic about the possibilities that the new year has to offer. You make some big proclamations about what you are going to change, maybe make a couple of financial investments in anticipation, and then you go right on living like the year on the calendar hasn’t changed. Or maybe you make some changes for a period of time, only to find yourself falling back into bad habits.
Perhaps you have gotten to the point that you have given up on New Year’s resolutions altogether. And who could blame you? It’s rough having to admit that we might not be able to snap our fingers and immediately become the person we want to be. Don’t lose hope though! It’s not you that’s the problem; it’s the failed system of New Year’s resolutions.
Who says we can only try changing once per year? Every day presents opportunities for positive change. We hope that by the end of this article, you will feel inspired and empowered to make a change in your life.
Aside from the mindset that you can only make a change in January, New Year’s resolutions often also do not present a definitive timeline with which to make your changes. Are you someone who procrastinates on work or school assignments? Then not creating short-term and intermediate goals is setting yourself up for failure! Building in some short-term accountability with your goals can set you up for long-term success.
“Setting smaller ‘stepping stone’ goals along the way not only gives someone a sense of urgency, but it will also give them small successes that are so, so critical for building overall self-esteem and self-efficacy,” says Tracy Cusick, one of FitMe Wellness’s certified wellness coaches. “People don’t always realize how hard losing 50 or even 25 pounds can be when they create their resolutions. But if you ask someone if they can lose one pound, you will get a definitive ‘yes’ for an answer.”
In addition to an increased likelihood of success, achievable short-term goals also can give us much-needed feedback. “Those small goals give us a sense of hope when we do well, but then also allow us to assess and adjust if something doesn’t go as planned,” says Cusick. Consider someone who might make a resolution to lose 50 pounds this year. If that person breaks up this goal into 50 week-long goals of losing one pound, it suddenly sounds much more achievable. And if you don’t lose a pound (or even manage to gain a couple) in one week, you can evaluate the choices you made that impeded your progress and apply what you learned to your next week-long goal. “It’s about progress, not perfection,” says Cusick. “That’s one of my favorite mottos.”
If the change you want to make is to improve your health, make sure you are going into it with the right mindset. “What people really need to make is a lifestyle change; your lifestyle choices got you to where you are, and positive lifestyle choices are what you need to make to get better,” says Barb Fredrickson, another of FitMe Wellness’s certified wellness coaches. She cautions against making drastic changes. “People have a tendency to try to change everything at once, but change is difficult. Making one small change gives you a better chance of success and gives you the confidence that you can make more changes going forward.” For people trying to get healthier, she suggests starting with removing soda from your diet or adding a serving of fresh fruit at every meal.
Fredrickson also recommends trying to introduce an element of fun into your exercise approach. “Most of us were probably fittest when we were kids and we spent a portion of our day playing,” points out Fredrickson. “If you can incorporate activities that you enjoy into your workouts, you’re more likely to stick with it.” Consider some activities you might intrinsically enjoy, like riding bikes with friends or competing in some friendly pick-up games, to liven up your physical activity. Fun can also be a consideration when setting your goals. “Rather than choosing a number that you’d like to weigh, set an activity-based goal, like being able to walk a 5k,” says Fredrickson.
Whatever you do, don’t give up on yourself! Do not let your past define who you are. Let go of the emotional weight of past failures. Identify and set an achievable short-term goal for yourself; make sure to ask for help from loved ones or professionals if and when you need it. Once you’ve hit your goals, make sure you keep setting new ones! The momentum of your achievements can be fuel for future ones. If you don’t hit a goal, be honest with yourself about why it happened and identify what you need to change or what help you need from others. When your friends start discussing New Year’s resolutions this December, you will be able to look back upon your successes and smile.