The Resolution Solution – 6 Ways to Actually Stick to Your Goals This Time
If you’re like me, you view a new year as a fresh opportunity to make change in your life. You might even have a list of resolutions you’ve tried to enforce year after year, only to feel defeated and frustrated with yourself for “failing” to achieve them.
Quick loving reminder – no matter where you’re at on your current journey, you are not a failure! You are growing, and you need to be gentle with yourself at every step in this lifelong process.
I am the kind of person who checks in with myself several times a year about what things I’d like to start or stop doing and what new things I want to learn. This means that I have lots of opportunities throughout the year to begin a new habit, not just in January, and I want you to experience that freedom too! You don’t have to be at the mercy of a calendar to achieve change in your life. Just start wherever you’re at, whether it’s January or July!
Should I make “goals” or “resolutions”?
I recently learned from a wise lady that “goals” are different from “resolutions”. Who knew!
Goals are intentions for life changes that have a definite end point. (eg. lose 30 pounds, pay off debt, renovate the bathroom)
Resolutions, on the other hand, are essentially ongoing, daily promises to do better (eg. exercise 3 times a week, don’t eat anything after 8pm, be on time)
Depending on your unique challenges and aspirations, both goals AND resolutions probably have a place in your life as we start off 2018, as long as you make them thoughtfully.
We’ve all heard the S.M.A.R.T. system of making goals – if your goals are smart, they must be
In addition to the above 5 criteria, I believe that the SMARTEST goals are also
Exciting (be energized to reach YOUR goals because YOU care about them, not because someone else does)
Self-central (because you cannot change anyone except for yourself), and
Tracked (so you can reflect on your progress regularly, since you made sure to pick something Measurable)
***Note: all criteria for making your SMARTEST goals apply to resolutions as well, except for being Timely***
Here are 6 tips to consider while you make your personal plans for 2018:
1. Small and steady wins the race
No matter what your ideal year involves, the number one thing to keep in mind is small = successful. Think about one little thing you can do each day to gently ease yourself into success, and make that your focus.
Get lean -walk up one flight of stairs and take the elevator the rest of the way up to your office
Stay clean-divvy up a pack of cigarettes into a few Ziploc bags and only pack one bag in your
purse to limit the number you have access to each day
Be less mean-take a few sips of water, a deep breath, or briefly leave the room before
responding to an emotional situation to increase your likelihood of staying calm
Save more green -order a smaller size coffee or tea in the morning and put the spare change in a piggy bank in your car (or – BONUS POINTS – bring your morning drink from home instead!)
As you start excelling at these small steps, you can adapt your goals and resolutions to reflect your development in various areas. A good rule of thumb is to check-in with yourself each night before bed or at the very least once a week. At regular intervals (weekly or monthly work best), add another small layer of challenge onto your current goal. You’ll be amazed at how great it feels to accomplish lots of (specific!) little things!
2. Set the biggest timeframe you can (applies to goals only)
If you’re set on getting a bikini body by March Break, you’re almost certainly setting yourself up for disappointment and frustration (unless you’re already 98% of the way there, in which case congrats!!). Ideally, you want to set your end date as far away as possible so you’ll think about it less, allowing yourself to focus on progress more than perfection. Since resolutions are ongoing indefinitely, this tip doesn’t really apply to them.
3. YOUR best interests are not everyone else’s best interests
Inevitably, someone in your life is probably also setting New Year’s resolutions and/or goals for themselves. You also likely have someone in your life who “knows what’s best for you” or who has plenty of ideas for how you can improve (and somehow very few ideas for how they could improve themselves…). Although it can be tempting to follow other people’s life-improvement ideas rather than thinking up your own, doing so would violate the E of SMARTEST goals (because how Excited will you be to stick to a goal someone else decided was essential for you?) The whole point of human existence is that we’re not all the same, so make sure you’re really taking the time to identify areas of YOUR life that YOU want to improve and thinking of ways you can get from here to there that work for YOU.
4. Give yourself all the tools of the trade
It might sound like an equipment-less sport, but setting (and keeping!) your goals and resolutions does, in fact, require a couple of things other than your own sweet self. Maybe you need actual items, maybe you need to spend some time researching, or maybe both! What will be helpful for you will obviously be determined by what you are working to accomplish, so I can’t really list the ingredients for a successful year here since the possibilities are endless. Once you’ve identified your focuses, think about what resources you’ll need in order to succeed. A few examples from my own resolutions for 2018:
>>To help me get out of bed more easily so I can be on time, I asked for a sunrise-simulating alarm clock for Christmas. Instead of jolting awake angrily to the harsh BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP of an alarm clock from Hell, a gradual “sunrise” slowly signals my body to stop producing melatonin (the sleep hormone) and start producing cortisol (a wake-up hormone) instead, so I can wake up gently and much more naturally!
>>To help me practice positive affirmations, I purchased an extra coloured ink cartridge for my printer, so I could print out several visually-appealing reminders to post around the house in helpful spots.
>>I also bought one journal to help me track my progress on my various goals & resolutions and another to write down my dreams in the morning.
5. Be gentle
I’ll save you some time and tell you right now — some days will be better than others. When you have a less-than-ideal day, just acknowledge it. Write about what made it hard to follow through. Focus on the parts of the day that WERE successful (maybe you didn’t work out but you DID have a healthy salad for lunch!) Place your hands on your chest, recognize how crappy you feel for not being perfect, take a slow deep breath, and then exhale and spread your arms wide and release that bad feeling out of yourself. Forget about it. Move onto the next moment with excitement!
*Note: if you’ve just slipped up for the first time in the day, DO NOT CALL THIS DAY A WRITE-OFF. Just do the above exercise in gentleness, release your guilt, and get right back on track at your VERY NEXT opportunity in the day! Writing off a whole day (or even worse – a whole weekend!) is a common pitfall that many people fall into; please don’t be one of them!
6. Be prepared but not obsessed
Sometimes there will be temptations that threaten to derail your determination (like if you’re aiming to workout everyday right after work, but tonight your coworkers are all going out to celebrate a birthday and you don’t want to be left out). For this reason, you should always be prepared to deal with challenges. Maybe you get a mini-workout in first, then meet everyone at the bar right after, or you join them straight from work but stick to just one drink and focus more on socializing. You have to leave room for some flexibility in your goals/resolutions, otherwise you’ll be missing out on life. The trick is to find a balance that makes you feel good without obsessing about successes or perceived failures. (For example, if you work at a BIG office where celebrating birthdays over drinks will be a regular occurrence, you could surely skip some of them to stick to your usual after-work workout, then attend some other times, behaving with moderation).
To share or not to share?
Many people find it helpful to share their goals and resolutions with friends and family to increase their own accountability for succeeding, but it’s important to remember that sharing your goals works both ways. Yes, your mom will be patting you on the back when she hears you completed your first 10k on the weekend, but she’ll also be raising her eyebrows judgmentally when you reach for another brownie after a family dinner. If you aren’t making progress as quickly as you would have liked, it can be EXTREMELY DISHEARTENING knowing that all your friends and family are expecting you to change and even worse if/when they ask about your journey and you have to explain your struggles. (Again, some people find this level of accountability helpful, so you’ll need to decide what works best for you).
I wish you all tons of happiness, health, love and energy for 2018!