How To Stick To Your New Year's Resolutions
By Jenna Igneri
Sure, the days leading up to New Year’s Eve have everyone feeling motivated to take on the next year and conquer the world. However, once the dust settles and life goes back to normal, our motivation can start to slip. That’s why around this time, it’s important to get ourselves remotivated with our resolutions for the year, especially when the resolution is something you're looking to change.
Joshua Klapow, PhD, clinical psychologist and author of Living SMART: 5 Essential Skills To Change Your Health Habits, suggests thinking about a specific goal you have in mind and writing down the answers to these questions: If I don’t make this change in my life, how will I look in a year from now? How will I feel emotionally in a year from now? What will my physical, mental, and spiritual health be like in a year from now? How will my family and friends be impacted by me not changing?
“These questions will help give deeper meaning to the desire to change,” says Klapow. “They will boost your motivation levels by making the change something that is more than just a desire, it has a purpose. Remind yourself, I don’t have to be highly motivated, I just need to be able to say that I want to make a change. Motivation is like a gas tank—it doesn’t have to be full to move forward, you just need to keep it from being empty.”
Rethink and rewrite, if necessary
Sometimes we get so caught up planning for the new year, we set goals that just aren’t realistic or feasible—and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean that what you want is always out of the question; it just needs to be reworked or reanalyzed.
“You are your own boss,” says integrated wellness and life coach and board-certified yogini Didi Wong. “If you find that you had some resolutions that were too difficult to achieve or you put down something that’s sure to set you up for failure, just rework the resolution to make it more manageable.” She suggests changing around the wording of your goals, but making sure that the general idea is still there. If your goal was to lose 20 pounds in three months, she suggests changing it to something more realistic: I want to be more active and be more consistent with my workouts while losing a pound a week. This way, you can better track and plan your goal, and set yourself up for success.
Klapow also supports the decision to rework a goal. “Focus on what you can achieve in a week, not what you think you might achieve in six months,” he says. “Do a quick gut check—if you’re struggling right now, ask yourself, Is this something that just needs to be made easier, or is this something I don’t want to do? We all have things we need to change. If your heart isn’t in it, pick a different action or behavior that you’re more motivated to work toward.”
Overall, these resolutions should be things that you’re super excited to accomplish, not ideas that give you anxiety. “An interesting thing happens when we set goals that make us feel good—we actually accomplish them,” says Alionka Polanco, women’s life and success coach. “If your goals don’t light you up, if they don’t make you excited and motivated then, by all means, rework them. It doesn’t make sense to work toward something that doesn’t make you happy.”
Keep your goals visible
In order to stay motivated to stick to your resolutions, the more you literally see them, the better. “Write the resolutions down and stick them where they’re visible—on your desk, on the fridge, or your bathroom mirror,” says Wong. “You can make it more creative by using colors, magazine cutouts, and more to remind you of your goals.”
Wong recommends making a vision board every year and displaying it somewhere you can see it every single day. “Put everything you want in your life for that year on it—whether your goals, pictures of family and friends, or simple drawings of dollar signs to invite financial increase.” This will help you visualize and manifest the end goal and stay focused to follow through.
For those of us who are glued to our phone (i.e. everyone), Polanco suggests setting calendar alerts on your phone to remind you of the daily resolutions you want to keep. “We have so much going on in our lives, we need a constant reminder of our goals in order to achieve them,” she says. “Seeing them every day makes it nearly impossible to forget or ignore.”
Have a solid plan
In order to successfully achieve goals, it’s important to have a plan.
Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, PhD, organizational psychologist and author of The YOU Plan, suggests setting a destination—your end goal, but with a specific and achievable timeline—and then creating the road map to get there. “It’s one thing to decide on a destination, and it’s entirely another to actually get there,” he says. “I recommend four basic steps when it comes to creating your roadmap: list the necessary activities, identify any requirements or barriers to completing these activities, organize them on a schedule, and, finally, set regular checkpoints, whether weekly, monthly, or quarterly
Another way to create a solid plan is to set long-term goals with a road map of short-term goals that lead to it. This is something that Polanco works on with many of her clients in order to drive them to success. “Once we define what the long-term goal is, we build backward so that all of their goals and benchmarks leading up to that will leave them right at the doorstep of the end goal,” she says.
She explains that people tend to get overwhelmed by the idea of long-term goals because they’re so far away, but once you know what that goal is, and it’s clearly defined and you choose the right short-term goals to lead you there, you can put the long-term goal on the shelf—you’ll get there anyway.
Once you have each step of the way mapped out, it’ll be hard for you not to be successful.
Expect setbacks, and embrace them
Things aren’t always going to go as planned, so you should expect to hit some setbacks or difficulties from time to time over the course of reaching for your goals.
Setbacks are a part of any behavior change process,” says Klapow. “It’s normal, so anticipate and have a plan for them. The vast majority of any life change we’re making does not require you to be perfect every day. The key is to be able to constantly get back on track.”
So, you were too tired for the gym the past two days, or you had some office birthday cake even though you’re cutting sugar from your diet. So what? As long as you’re able to get back on track, quickly, that’s what counts —so let yourself slip a little here and there. Klapow goes by something he calls the three-day rule, which prevents you from ever going more than three days without a plan to recommit to your goal. “If you’ve gone three days without committing to your goal, top, write down any reason you failed to do it, and pick an exact date when to start back up. This will keep you cognitively engaged and prevent three days from becoming a week, month, or the full year.”
Get some support
According to popular belief, you can get by with a little help from your friends. And, well, it’s true.
Dr. Woody suggests firing up your support network when you're trying to keep yourself goal-oriented. Let those close to you know what your goals are. If you have weight loss goals or plans to get yourself a new job, make your loved ones aware and keep them in the loop, every step of the way. Not only will their support push you to work harder, but they’ll hold you accountable if you don’t stay on track. “There is nothing like a little public pressure and personal support to motivate action,” he says.
Wong suggests going as far as posting it on social media, such as your Facebook. “It’s a good way to have all of your friends in on your goal,” she says.
At the end of the day, you should always reward yourself for working hard toward something positive. “Once you see small increments of achievements, you can give yourself a reward,” says Wong. “It could be a tangible gift or an experience, or maybe a nice dinner out where you can treat yourself to something you love in moderation.”
So go ahead, indulge. You’re doing a great job.
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