Can you believe it’s almost 2019? For a lot of people, this means sitting down and thinking long and hard about what to make of the new year. Will it mean reaching a certain goal? Taking on a new image? Getting healthier? Although New Year’s resolutions are developed with the best intentions, there is overwhelming pressure around formulating, achieving, and maintaining these goals. Wouldn’t it be nice to set a goal and actually make it last the whole year and even longer?
The pressure around New Year’s resolutions can be so overwhelming that they’re almost impossible to maintain. In fact, fewer than 10% of adults manage to keep their resolutions for more than a few months. Instead of fixating on a specific set of goals and beating yourself up when you don’t achieve them, this year we encourage you to shift your mindset and find ways to turn your resolutions into a lifestyle that you can actually maintain!
Here are our strongest suggestions for honing in on your “New Year’s lifestyle”…
Don’t be too specific
People often enter the New Year with a specific list of what they want to work on. While it’s helpful to zero in on your desired achievements, it can be extremely frustrating and discouraging when your exact goal isn’t met. Often times, being too specific with your goals quickly leads to failure because once you discover how difficult it is to achieve or maintain something so specific, there is more likelihood you will give up on it all together.
Try broadening your resolutions by giving yourself more room to work with. For instance, instead of setting a goal to reach a certain number on the scale, set yourself up for better success! Try changing your goal to “making myself feel good by eating wholesome foods and moving my body.” By taking a specific number out of the equation and focusing on how you actually feel, it will be easier to transition this resolution into a way of life.
But also don’t be too broad
There is a happy medium between being too specific and being too broad with your New Year resolution. Broadness allows too much ambiguity, making it difficult to hone in on your desired achievements. For instance, if one of your New Year’s resolutions is to “be healthier,” this is a good start, but it might be difficult to turn into a lifestyle because “being healthier” could mean a wide range of things.
Try asking yourself why you want to get healthier and what getting healthier looks like to you. Do you want fewer sick days? To get into better shape? Eat a more well rounded diet? Now what does this look like?… Will you take more vitamins? Work out more days of the week? Incorporate more plants into your meals? These types of questions are what you should ask yourself so you can tailor your goals to YOUR personal needs and create a more maintainable lifestyle.
Set Realistic Expectations
It’s difficult to set yourself up for success when your list of resolutions are way out of reach. The term “false hope” syndrome is characterized by unrealistic expectations about the likely speed, amount, ease, and consequences of self-change. Research suggests there are psychological consequences of failure after repeated attempts with overwhelming odds that aren’t in your favor.
You may feel inspired and determined to reach a far fetched goal, but if you think you’re unlikely to achieve it, then remove the frustration by making your resolutions ones you know you can achieve. For example, it may not be achievable to tell yourself you’ll go visit your sister across the country three times a year (knowing that doing so will be expensive, difficult to get time off work, and almost impossible to find a house sitter for kids or pets). Instead, focus on a more achievable goal, like calling your sister once a week to catch up. This might be more realistic and attainable!
Learn to be OK with struggle
There is a reason you set a New Year’s resolution in the first place- You weren’t already doing something, and you now want to do it or improve upon it, which will inevitably result in struggling a little along the way! For this reason, you may want to ask yourself, is the struggle worth it? Will I feel better if I struggle through the hard part? If the answer is no, then move on to a new goal. If some part of you yearns for the struggle because you’re determined to reach your goal, then keep on trucking!
For example, if your goal is to eat a more plant based diet, but you’ve never liked the taste of plants, ask yourself if it’s something you want to struggle and improve on. If you’re determined to boost your health by eating more plants, then find tastier ways to include plants into your diet. To start, try out some delicious plant based recipes, and who knows, you may soon work yourself up to that one spinach salad you never thought you’d be able to stomach.
Celebrate small victories
Working towards a goal doesn’t mean you can only reward yourself when you reach it! There are many victories you have to conquer along the way and enjoying the journey is a big part of reaching your desired achievement.
When honing in on a New Year’s resolution try setting an overarching goal, then listing the steps you will take to get there. If you are currently exercising two days a week and want to work your way up to five days a week, then congratulate yourself with every day you build on. You should be incredibly proud that you’re actively taking steps to get there, even if you haven’t quite hit your mark.
Try looking outside yourself
Although New Year’s resolutions are usually focused on ourselves and our own personal goals, they don’t always have to be. Your New Year’s resolution can also be focused outside of yourself. For example, your resolution could be volunteering more often or doing something nice once a week for someone else, like cooking a meal for a friend. Whatever it may be, we encourage you to find a New Year’s resolution that focuses on bettering the life of someone around you, your community, or the environment you live in.
If you’re trying to discover what this should be, try reflecting on your passions and interests (check out how to find your life’s purpose here) and seeing how you can incorporate them into a New Year’s resolution focused outside of your own personal goals. For example, if your passion is cooking, maybe try finding a soup kitchen you can volunteer at once a week to start. While it’s important to better ourselves, bettering others or the environment can go a long way in our own personal journey!
As the year comes to a close, we can’t wait to see what the new one will bring. Honing in on a “New Year’s lifestyle” doesn’t have to be full of pressure and unrealistic expectations. Just remember to work on achieving your goals in a way that make the most sense for you so you can keep them for the long run!