New Year’s resolutions start with the best of intentions, but many times end in late January amid frustration and defeat. Whether it’s losing weight or eating healthier, making big life changes is a difficult and emotionally trying process that takes time.
Don’t go into the new year with the same unsuccessful approach you’ve used in years past. Instead, use these tips and tricks to help you achieve your resolution.
Do some introspection
It’s worth the time to sit down and really think deeper about why you want to achieve your goal and make sure you are realistic about what achieving that goal will bring to you and your life. The American Psychological Association advises making sure that the resolution is something you want, and not what friends or family want. To succeed with a resolution, you have to be truly ready to commit to changing your lifestyle, and if the goal isn’t really yours, than you will not be as motivated to achieve it. It’s also important to think about the expectations you have for the benefits of your goal. Psychology Today gave the example of a New Year’s resolution to exercise more often. The diet industry flaunts the idea that losing weight will make you more attractive, be more popular and bring you other benefits besides improved health. Be realistic, and as the source noted, understand that exercise “will lead to a more toned body and not necessarily a rockin’ social life.” By reflecting on your motivations for setting a resolution and managing your expectations, you have a better chance of achieving your goal.
“Zero in on one goal that you can realistically accomplish.”
You can’t change your entire life all at once! Zero in on one goal that you can realistically accomplish. “Setting small, attainable goals throughout the year, instead of a singular, overwhelming goal on January 1 can help you reach whatever it is you strive for,” said psychologist Lynn Bufka in an interview with APA. The association urges people to only set resolutions they actually think they can keep, and change just one behavior at a time. Otherwise, you’re almost guaranteed to get overwhelmed and give up. Brainstorm small steps that you can take to help you achieve your goal, and look for places in your daily routine where you can swap out a behavior or routine for one that helps you get closer to success. For example, if your resolution is to eat healthier, APA recommends replacing dessert with something else you like to eat, like a certain type fruit or yogurt. Small, achievable steps and simple swaps to your daily routine will help you achieve your goal.
Another key to sticking with resolutions is understanding and expecting that you will mess up sometimes. If you don't accept this simple fact of life, then just a single mistake will derail your plan. Psychology Today emphasizes acknowledging that implementing a resolution is a long-term process that will have many trials and tribulations before the goal is met. The source specifically warns against dichotomous thinking, a thought process that people can be particularly susceptible to if they don't take this long-term perspective. An example of dichotomous thinking is when someone thinks that since they ate one cookie, they might as well eat the whole box, and learning to recognize this kind of internal rationalization is vital to avoiding it. Another part of anticipating problems is being able to forgive yourself. APA reminds resolution-setters that minor mistakes are to be expected, and that you shouldn't feel bad because you messed up. Beating yourself up goes against the long-term perspective and gradual change necessary for sticking with a resolution, and only discourages you from trying any more. What's important is that you shake it off and keep working toward your goal.
Spending the time to think about the reasons why you chose a resolution and the expectations you have will help you achieve your goal.
Frame it positively
The words we use for our resolutions are just as important as our action plans to achieve them. Framing your resolution the right way can make all the difference in whether or not you stick with it. Psychology Today advises people to use positive phrasing for their resolutions and avoid negative phrasing, giving the example of using "I'm going to eat healthier in the new year" instead of "I'm going to stop eating sweets in the new year." If you go with the second resolution, you will feel like you've failed every time you make a mistake, whereas if you go with the first one, you'll feel lots of mini-successes every time you follow through. Kirsti A. Dyer at Columbia College also suggests referring to resolutions as "intentions" to commit to change. By framing resolutions in a positive context that is less about stopping a certain behavior and more about adding little successes along the way, you won't feel as discouraged when you make mistakes and will feel more confident that eventually you will reach your goal.
These tips and tricks will help you overcome self-doubt and unrealistic expectations to help you make next year different than all the rest.