We’re coming up on 2021, and you know what that means: looking back on the past year, evaluating your triumphs, and ruminating on all your faults. No one should be particularly hard on themselves for whatever happened to them in 2020. If you gained a little weight, that’s probably because we were all stuck inside while a global pandemic was raging outside our front doors. Not exactly the best environment for physical exercise. Maybe you indulged in a few more drinks than you should have, but god, it seems like the only appropriate way to memorialize 2020 is to drink muring New Years, right? Whatever you’re trying to fix, there’s a good chance that the new year will bring a resolution, and there’s also a good chance that you’ll spend two weeks committed to it before abandoning any aspirations of self-betterment. If this sounds like a retread of every other New Years resolution, here are some tips to actually stick the landing this year.
Keep Your Goals Small
Taking on a New Years resolution is like taking on any other responsibility. It takes dedication, knowledge, and most importantly, a sense of realism. It’s important to remember that you’re just changing a single part of your life, not your entire life.
To properly accomplish your goals, the goals need to be manageable enough to actually warrant realistic change. Saying you want to lose weight is great, but saying you want to drop 50 pounds is impractical. Instead, go with a smaller adjacent goal: say you’re going to give up soda instead. That’s a fairly reasonable goal, and it will inch you closer to the bigger picture.
Break Them Apart into Manageable Steps
There’s a reason the most famous rehab program involves 12 steps. Quitting anything cold turkey, whether it’s drinking or drugs or bad eating habits, is damn near impossible, largely because the problem is often bigger than the person trying to get over it.
Let’s say you want to get into shape. You’ll probably want to go all the way: no drinking, only healthy meals, lots of physical exercise. But that’s not realistic to take on all at once. Instead, make each of those a different step. January can be for focusing on an easy baby step, with each month adding something new. This way you’re not overwhelming yourself with
Write Them Down
It might seem a little silly, or a little redundant to write down your resolution. After all, you’ve got it in your head, and you are not going to forget it. But forgetting your resolution is not the problem.
What writing down your goals is to give your brain a constant reminder to keep reaching for them. It’s not that you’re going to forget what the goal is, but you might forget your motivation for doing it. There is a real cognitive difference between having abstract goals and having concrete, physical, written down resolutions. When it’s written down, all of a sudden it becomes more real, and you feel an increased dedication towards staying on track. Otherwise, your resolutions may be lost in the abstract.
Keep a Calendar
This piggybacks on the previous point, but it’s distinct nonetheless. Writing down your goals is important, but adding a calendar is one more step towards committing yourself fully to achieving those goals.
An exercise calendar is good to keep track of what you’ve done, what you’ve accomplished, and what’s coming next. A meal calendar is useful for tracking calories, knowing what prep you have to do for the next day, and where you are in the long and sometimes arduous process that is losing weight. Even if it’s just a hobby, a calendar can be used to know what days you’ll have some free time to dedicate towards learning an instrument, picking up a skill, creating your own art, or whatever you might want to accomplish. You can never be too organized, and a calendar is the easiest way to make sure your New Years resolutions have some organization.
Get Together with Someone Who Has The Same Goals
No matter how strong you are, there’s nothing harder than going solo. You’ve disappointed yourself before, and you are most likely going to do it again. You can live with disappointing yourself. What’s harder to deal with? Letting someone else down.
It feels a bit strange to be integrating a guilt trip into what is ostensibly a foray into healthy attitudes, but sometimes you need some negative reinforcement to nudge you into positive results. If you’re losing weight, learning a trade, or doing just about anything, a surefire way to stick with it is to bring someone else into the fold. Having a workout buddy gives you a reason to commit to going to the gym. Having a diet buddy means you get to go with someone to the grocery store. Learning an instrument with someone means you can start a band. Whatever the case may be, using the buddy system is a surefire way to stay on target with your New Years resolution.
Be Kind to Yourself
More than anything else, a positive mental attitude is indispensable when trying to stick to a New Years resolution. Part of that involves being optimistic about accomplishing your goals, and part of it involves forgiving yourself if you don’t quite reach them.
The truth is that we all know how resolutions go: you make them with grand ambitions, but the realities of sticking to them start to drag you down until eventually you dispense of them. Whether you accomplish your goals or not, what’s important is to not beat yourself up about the outcome. If you do get the most out of your resolution, celebrate! If you don’t, that’s okay. Making a resolution and not sticking to it is better than not making any resolution at all. A new year is the perfect opportunity to make changes, but the most important changes that you’ll end up making are the mental ones: the changed habits, the empathy, the ability to see yourself in a positive light, and the ability to be kinder to yourself.