January 1st has rolled around again. How often have you said to yourself in January, , “New year, new me!”? We often start this month with the best of intentions. The new year inspires us to want to make the positive changes we’ve been seeking. Maybe this is the year we want to get organized, get healthy, or work on career goals or finances. Too often our New Year’s resolutions fall by the wayside along with our motivation. Parenthood, work- life in general gets in the way of what we set out to do. We find ourselves committing to the same thing each January, only to watch our efforts wane by March. How can we actually keep the resolutions we make?
Instead of resolutions, set goals: Often we make resolutions that are very broad like. “I want to get healthy”. What does this mean to you? Does it mean eating a more nutritious diet or starting an exercise routine? Does it mean drinking less alcohol or quitting smoking? It’s important to identify specific goals and exactly how you will achieve them. What specific dietary changes will you make? What will your exercise routine look like (what activity will you choose and how often)? What specific plan will you use to quit smoking? If furthering your education is a goal- what specific steps do you need to take to make that happen?
Make sure your goals are practical: What can you realistically achieve? If someone hadn’t exercised in years, but told you they planned to run a marathon tomorrow- you’d be correct in thinking this probably won’t work out for them. The same applies to the goals we create for ourselves. We can’t go from zero to 100. What can you realistically achieve in the time you’ve planned for?
Create a plan and set timelines: Rather than set a year long goal- set a realistic timeline for yourself broken up into weeks or months, so you don’t feel overwhelmed. For example, if your goal is to further your education, you may consider setting a small goal of researching programs you may want to attend, learning the application deadlines, what’s required, and how financial aid works over the next month. The following month you may set a goal of obtaining your transcripts and beginning applications. Lay out a plan to break up the process of what you want to ultimately achieve, and get there step by step.
If greater health were your resolution, you may want to increase your exercise gradually. You could set realistic goals for yourself on a two week or monthly basis. For example, you may commit that this month, you will do 20 minutes of physical activity three days a week. Then, if this feels doable, you could lengthen your workout time or increase the days you do it the next month.
The point is when a goal feels too big, we can easily lose motivation. When we break it down into small steps and accomplishments we feel good about our success, stay motivated to continue, and are far more likely to accomplish what it is we set out to do.
Monitor your progress and adjust accordingly. Sometimes life gets in the way of what we want to accomplish-. Let’s say you haven’t met your timeline, it’s important to keep a growth mindset. If it didn’t go as planned, it doesn’t mean you have “failed”- seeing it this way is a sure path to giving up. Instead, view it as information you can use to adjust the goal. Maybe the goal or timeline you set wasn’t practical. How can you change it to make it work for you? It’s a journey, not a race toward what you want to accomplish for yourself.
Remember you have the potential to accomplish what you seek, but giving yourself the tools to do so is key. Be realistic, be patient, set a practical timeline and adjust it if necessary. Celebrate your successes, learn from your missteps, and you will achieve anything you set your mind and your efforts to!