It’s that time of year again, time to implement your New Year’s resolutions. January ushers in a great opportunity for a clean slate. Tabula Rasa. And who doesn’t like another chance at a fresh start, a chance to take that pottery class, shed those pounds, drink less alcohol, exercise more, find a job, find a partner or be a better partner? In short, to be your best self.
It all sounds wonderful in December, particularly planning your goals and writing them down. But then January 1 arrives and you’re either hungover or the post-holiday blues have set in. In that depressed mindset, who can possibly fend off that enticing bowl of ice cream or forgo that glass of Merlot or get to the gym?
But don’t give up! According to experts, there are a couple of key ways to keep your goals. The first is two-prong and so obvious, it’s easy to miss. Begin by clarifying to yourself why you want to achieve a certain goal, and then, clarify how you want to feel by achieving it, because that is really the key to positive transformation. When you understand how you want to feel, then you understand the underlying meaning your goal has for you, which may open up additional avenues to achieving that same feeling. For example, if you’re like the majority of Americans and one of your New Year’s resolutions is to lose weight because you want to look good in a bathing suit, identify how you want this to ultimately make you feel. If you dig a little, you’ll probably discover you don’t want to look good merely to feel good, your ultimate goal is probably something more profound like you want to feel more confident or healthy. Which is great news because there are other ways to usher in these additional feelings, like focusing on your attributes for confidence (practicing daily affirmations is a good start) or eating healthier (more fruit and vegetables, less sugar) for improved health. What’s more, expanding your options is not only a plus in its own right, but has the added benefit of taking pressure off your initial goal, in this case losing weight, which makes you more likely to do what you need to do to achieve it.
Another key way to maintain your resolutions is by making them realistic. In our “go big or go home” culture, people tend to make unrealistic goals, like exercising five days a week when they’ve barely hit the gym one day a week the previous year; when it’s time to begin implementing their goal, it feels overwhelming and often they give up altogether, leaving them feeling defeated – hardly the objective. A better alternative would be to take baby steps.
If you’re only used to exercising once a week or not at all, then start with once a week, eventually increasing your frequency. This gradual approach gives you time to mentally and physically acclimate to the change, incorporating it into your schedule in a more natural way, which ultimately will be more sustaining.
And don’t beat yourself up if you can only stick to once a week, it’s better than none so give yourself credit. Self-help guru and best-selling author Martha Beck took this minimalist approach when she was having trouble writing her dissertation. She had a bad case of writer’s block and finally broke her daily writing sessions down into a very short time period. She would literally just work on her dissertation 15 minutes a day, and eventually she got it done. She wrote about her experience in “Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day.”
Lastly, think outside the box. There’s never just one way to accomplish your goal. If you’re trying to meet a romantic partner, maybe try a different dating website than you’re usual one or start taking those tango lessons or art classes you’ve always wanted to take, because your fella or gal might be there – and the best part, you already share something in common!