Stacy G. Smith, MS, LPC
New Year's Resolutions Gone Right!
It's that time of year again! 2017 is right around the corner, and you may have already started thinking, "Should I set a New Year's resolution?" "If so, what should it be?" "But if I always wind up breaking it by February 1st, should I bother this year?" The answer is... yes!
A New Year's Resolution is simply a personal goal. It can be large, small, short-term, long-term, or anywhere in between. Some of us choose to exercise more regularly, eat healthier, quit a bad habit, save money, etc... There is certainly no right or wrong when it comes to goal setting, as each goal is a personal commitment to improving our lives - in our own unique way.
For many of us, the New Year symbolizes a fresh start, a clean slate, and a chance to begin anew. We've probably been setting resolutions since we were children, or know others who have. We may put great pressure on ourselves to make the new year great - to make it the best year of our lives! However, I think there's a general consensus that year after year, resolutions are quick to be broken. We then set the same resolution the following year, and round and round we go - a series of setting resolutions and breaking them, over and over again. Sound familiar?
Here are some helpful strategies to keep in mind when we all (hopefully) set our New Year's resolutions this year. Remember, setting goals is important in keeping us focused in a positive direction. How long it takes us to get there is to be determined - it's not a race. All that matters is that we are moving forward, putting one foot in front of the other.
1.) Make your resolution specific.
"Eating healthy" is not going to cut it. Think, what does "eating healthy" mean for you? Does it mean having one piece of fruit every day? Eating dinner at home at least 4 nights per week? Having protein with every meal? If we cannot define "eating healthy," all we're doing is working towards a vague and unknown goal. When a resolution is too broad, there are too many opportunities for perceived failure. Below is a brief sample of common resolutions. If any of them sound familiar, I encourage you make them even more specific by reflecting on the questions that follow.
"I want to be nicer to my family/friends/coworkers." - Think, what does being nicer mean? What specific behaviors would you like to demonstrate? What was getting in the way of demonstrating those behaviors in the past?
"I want to feel successful at work." - What does success personally mean for you? Is there a specific position you are striving for? A specific company? A salary? Do you have a plan to achieve this goal? Or is your resolution more of a wish?
"I want to quit smoking (or any bad habit)." - Excellent resolution! Now, what is the game plan? With no plan, this resolution may be quick to fail at your first craving. Would you like to substitute smoke breaks with something more positive? Gradually quit by reducing the number of daily cigarettes? Use the patch? Gum?
"I want to exercise more." - When you say more, how many days per week are you thinking? How much minutes per workout? Do you have any routines in mind that you would like to do? Do you have any classes set up? A friend to go with? Have you blocked out time in your schedule? If so, which days and times? What will get in the way of exercising, and how will you overcome it?
As you continue reading, remember, New Year's Day does not somehow work miracles. There is no magical genie that comes around granting wishes (ooo...wouldn't that be nice!?!) If eating healthy was challenging December 31st, it will continue to be challenging January 1st. You probably will not come to magically love exercise or instantly become a morning person. Therefore, it is important to develop an initial plan of how you could give yourself the best chance of following through on your goal. It takes work, patience, and commitment to seeing a resolution through.
2.) Make your resolution realistic.
I know some of us may be eager to say, "My resolution is to go to the gym 5 days per week." While I admire the determination, 5 days per week may not be sustainable, especially if you had only been going once per week, or maybe not at all. 5 days per week can surely be a long-term goal, but it may not be so realistic at first. When we set goals that are too large too quickly, the opportunity for perceived failure is also very large.
3.) Refrain from an all or nothing approach.
This is probably the #1 resolution breaker! If our habit is to stop biting our nails beginning January 1st, and we accidentally find ourselves chomping on our pinky January 4th, we may be tempted to label our resolution as "failed," and then give ourselves permission to resort to old habits, saying we will try again next year. The problem with this is that we do not consider the challenges of breaking a habit. If habits were easy to break, we wouldn't need to make it a goal - we would just do it! The key is to recognize when you are engaging in this habit, increase your awareness, and then choose an alternative activity to engage in instead. By throwing the towel in at the first mess-up, we lose out on so many important opportunities for change.
4.) Think about why the resolution is important for you, and write it down!
We are much more likely to stick with a goal when we can identify why it is important for us. Many times we choose to pursue a goal that isn't meaningful. Perhaps we've been pressured from society, friends, or family. When a goal isn't truly ours, our motivation and desire to pursue this goal remains low. After all, if it's not something we truly want, why go after it? Therefore, I encourage you to set a resolution, and then take some time to write out what that resolution means for you. Why is it important? And how will your life be different when you achieve it?
5.) Never give up!
While it may take weeks, months, and even years to accomplish an important goal, you'll feel so much more rewarded than never accomplishing it at all! When you fall down, get right back up. If plan A doesn't work, try plans B,C,D.... If we give up on a resolution in February because we made a mistake, we are missing out on the opportunity to make progress the rest of the year. A year is a long time, and a lot can happen.
I would like to wish everyone and their families a
happy and a healthy New Year!
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