The Christmas decorations are packed away and, although your feet might still be aching from spending the night tearing up the dance floor, the confetti-flecked dust of the holiday season has finally settled. And now it’s time to take on the gorgeous blank canvas of a New Year! Of course, with every new year comes the same old questions: What are my New Years resolutions? How am I going to start fresh?
It’s a time that challenges us to reflect on the previous year, take a look at our daily lives and find a few small ways to improve.
“Three main factors stop you from keeping your resolution: unclear goals, poor self-control, and failure to gauge your progress,” says New York Times writer Thorin Klosowski in an article on Life Hacker.
So this year, I’ve taken a new perspective to New Years resolutions, and I’m excited to share my tips to help you make more worthwhile goals for the new year . . . and actually achieve them!!
Pause and reflect.
When I sit down to think through my resolutions for a new year, I always look back on the year behind me. What challenges did I overcome? Where did I succeed and what do I wish I had done better? What lessons were learned? When you ask yourself these questions, hopefully some ideas start churning. If not, poll a friend! Go over some of your favorite shared memories or the challenges you’ve helped each other through. Then use those to mold your vision for the coming year.
Dare to dream big.
If there’s one tip I’ve heard way to often when it comes to New Year’s resolution, it’s “be practical.” As for me, I want to set one goal for the new year that pushes me farther than the last. Don’t be afraid to set a big goal for the year — something out of your comfort zone — and push yourself to achieve it! Dare to be a little less practical.
Set (specific) goals to better yourself.
While eating well and exercising are always great to keep top of mind, this year, I’m challenging myself to be more thoughtful about the resolutions I’m setting for myself by choosing ones that benefit others as well. For example, I’m making a goal to stop being late all the time. I have a habit of dashing out the door for work, dinner or whatever, mascara brush in hand, running a good fifteen minutes late! So while I may set this goal to better myself, I know my family and friends will really appreciate it, which is even more motivation for me!
Set a firm date.
Think realistically about when you hope to cross each resolution off your list. 3 months? 9 months? Just in time for swimsuit season, or your best friend’s wedding? Set a time frame that allows you enough wiggle room for your resolutions to be accomplished, to fall into a habit (particularly if it’s a brand new one).
Then, find yourself a big permanent marker, and circle that date on your calendar and in your planner (I just got myself this Shannon Kirsten planner from Anthropologie!). A countdown toward your big goal might be just the motivation you need to follow through on your resolutions. And don’t forget to reward yourself once you finally meet your deadline!
Don’t forget action steps.
Sooner or later through the year, some of us are bound to get distracted, feel worn out, or hit a plateau with our progress. So once you’ve decided on no more than three resolutions, break them down into manageable action steps. “This is perhaps the most essential ingredient for success, as the more planning you do now, the more likely you are to get there in the end,” says author Jane Collingwood in an article on Psych Central. And I couldn’t agree more!
Creating a goal that’s too vague just won’t work. “You’ve got to develop a specific action plan for change,” says John Norcross, Ph. D., coauthor of Changeology: 5 Steps to Realizing Your Goals and Resolutions. So to help you achieve your goals, go ahead and list out some action steps that you can take immediately to get the ball rolling. Then, set some short-term and long-term goals that will help you to achieve your resolution by the end of your desired date.
By making a clear, realistic plan and focusing on the next step in front of you, you’ll be able to stay on track and feel more in control of the situation.
Make it visual.
In addition to writing down your goals, you can use other visual reminders to help keep them fresh in your mind. Placing your bikini at the front of your closet, creating a vision board with pictures of healthy foods, or a picture of the house you are saving up for are all very powerful symbols of what you are setting out to achieve. By keeping these visuals hanging around your home, you will have a constant reminder to stay motivated and stick to your plan.
Track your progress.
Like Klosowski said in his Life Hacker article, “poor self-control” is one of the major causes for failing to keep our new years resolutions. But tracking your progress is a great way for sticking to your goals. And thanks to technology, tracking almost any goal you set is super easy!
While I enjoy writing down my goals, I also seek out specialized apps to help me along the way. I just recently downloaded StickK, an app that gives you the ability to set a goal, tell a support group of friends, enlist a “referee” who judges your success, and you even have to option of setting stakes. I also downloaded Today habit tracker, an iPhone Editor’s Choice app that’s method encourages a more deep and mindful approach to help you strengthen each step of the habit information process through positive re-enforcement.
But there’s seriously so many options! Test out a few for the first month or so and just see which one works best for you to help you sticking to your resolution.
To each her own.
Don’t let someone else try to shove their own method for success down your throat. New Year’s resolutions are meant to bring more joy and positivity to your life, not give you a panic attack! There’s no one-size-fits-all way to go about making and keeping resolutions. So each person’s approach to reaching their goals and resolutions will be different.
Focus on the journey . . .
. . . Not the outcome. Even if the results aren’t exactly as you imagined or you let a few goals fall to the wayside, just remember what you learned about yourself along the way. If the purpose of New Years resolutions is to take another step towards a life well-lived, doesn’t merely trying it out count for something? Hell yeah it does!