I am a bit conflicted about New Year’s resolutions. On one hand, they’re usually made with good intentions and at time of year when the wind-down of the holidays makes me feel ready for some positive change. On the other hand, setting myself up to not be successful with a goal can have the opposite of the intended effect. My life has enough stressors, I don’t need to invent more. But I do think this time of year and “resolutions” can be a good chance for me to think about ways I can improve- big and small.
Full disclosure: I’m not some kind of big resolution booster – my most successful New Years resolution was over ten years ago and it was to stop drinking bottled water. I drank bottled water three times that year and almost never drink it now. I will not bore you, however, with my much-longer list of failed resolutions.
Here are a few suggestions to make those resolutions stick:
- Plan ahead. This seems obvious, but if you decide on a resolution a couple of glasses of champagne in and as the pinecone is dropping (whether at midnight or Flagstaff’s Noon Years Eve, no judgment)… you’re less likely to take it seriously and be successful.
- Take inventory. This can also be a chance to recognize what you are doing well. And a chance to think about why this resolution is important to you. For me and the bottled water, I wanted to reduce my waste and my carbon footprint and to not make waste mindlessly. I come back to that example, though, because I think it’s important that resolutions don’t have to be huge. Maybe you can work out every day in 2019 and never snap at your kids. Or maybe you can take an inventory and realize, I am really doing a good job. One small way I could improve would be…
- Make it quantifiable. “Eat more vegetables,” “exercise more,” and “spend less money” are so squishy and so easy to let yourself out of because who even knows what “more vegetables” means? Is it my three-year old’s negotiated additional bites of broccoli or a plant-based diet? Resolutions are also so much easier to stick with if you’ve given yourself somewhat of a roadmap. What about, “sign up and train for a race?” Or “volunteer once per month?” Or “only buy coffee once per week?” One year a good friend resolved to run 1,000 miles that year. She figured out how much she would have run each day to accomplish it- 2.7. And so she knew if she didn’t run one day, it would be close to 5.5 the next day. Being “more patient with the kids” is a lot more likely to happen if you have a path forward- whether its through meditation, relevant self-help books or more regular mom me-time.
- Keep yourself accountable. Some people report their progress on social media, but even just telling family and friends what you’re doing increases your likelihood of success. For some people, staying accountable to themselves may be enough through a fitness tracker or journal (not me, I’m only too willing to let myself down, but way less likely to let someone else down.) Also, set some parameters. For me and the bottled water resolution, I allowed myself to drink other beverages in bottles I felt like it was necessary. So, at a catered lunch for example. But I gave myself that out ahead of time, so it wasn’t a failure but an exception. I didn’t just swap water for iced tea or soda, but I did give myself a way to stay within my resolution even in situations I couldn’t totally control.
- New Years Resolutions are not all or nothing. There is nothing magical about the switch from December 31 to January 1. We can make positive changes at any time. There are some other times of year that might even feel more natural to make a change. For me, the fall and the start of the academic year always feel like a time of change, but spring can feel that way, too. If you fall off the resolution wagon over a tough winter, you can always renew your commitment to your goal as the daffodils start peeking out.