Everyone seems to give the same advice around the holidays: make a resolution, then… “commit to it.” Commit to it? Easier said than done! It’s amazing how quickly the wave of optimism from January 1st wears off and we realize the horrifying immensity of the promises we’ve made to ourselves.
It’s not just you. Relying on motivation and self-control alone in the face of temptation, inconvenience, and uncooperative weather is a losing battle for the best of us. Give yourself a chance to succeed with these simple tips to making your resolutions more fun, grounded, and possible!
1. Reframe your resolution positively.
Too often we approach our resolutions from a place of shame and self-blame. However, motivation rooted in negativity rarely lasts. Challenge yourself to rethink your resolution with a positive spin. Instead of “lose weight,” consider “treat my body to exercise and healthy food.” Instead of “stop biting my nails,” try “keep my nails neat and in tact.” Once you disentangle yourself from deep-rooted negativity and remind yourself of your potential, you will find yourself naturally moving away from the bad habits you are trying to undo.
2. Make your goal specific.
It’s easy to say we want to “be more” and “do more.” However, the immensity of “more” is probably more overwhelming than helpful. Without finite goals, our frenzied daily trips to the gym can easily become three times weekly, then once weekly, until they peter out completely. Consider shifting your resolutions so that each one has a number associated with it (“Exercise More?” Instead, think “Exercise 2x Per Week”) and an end date (recommit and adjust on January 31st.) Then, decide on the basics - the what, where, and how - so you have the tools to follow through on your plan.
3. Make your resolution reasonable and achievable.
If you are making a resolution, chances are this is something you’ve been struggling with for a long time. Be realistic and gentle with your expectations. Give yourself the chance to under-promise and over-deliver. Do you have a sweet tooth? You probably don’t want to commit to cutting out sugar completely right away. Limit yourself to three days a week to indulge in a treat, keep the portions small, and just skip your scheduled dessert whenever you’re not feeling the craving. Eventually, you’ll likely surprise yourself with how easy it is to substitute yogurt and berries for that big chocolate sundae!
4. Work with your existing habits instead of against them.
In forming new routines, there are enough forces working against our success without adding unnecessary barriers to the mix. Take the path of least resistance and use your existing habits to encourage yourself to make changes. Do you want to read for an hour before bed, but find that you are exhausted by that time and just want to sleep? Odds are that you won’t be getting through that book any time soon! Instead, take the down time you spend commuting and read on the train or listen to audiobooks in the car. Needs and desires are part of being human, so listen to yourself and plan accordingly.
5. Turn your commitment into a game.
Just because we’re adults doesn’t mean we don’t get the same thrill from play as kids do! Think about the games or activities you’re already addicted to. Why do you love them? Get creative and structure your goals around the elements of these games that motivate you most, whether it be the competition, the socializing, the repetition, the thinking, the humor… Want to save more money, and you already love playing on your phone? Perfect! Download an app that lets you play with your budget and offers rewards to hold you accountable.
6. Build in time for reflection and adjustment.
Although the New Year is a great time to set ambitious goals for yourself, real growth never occurs with a just once-yearly commitment. Set a reminder on your phone at a regular interval - perhaps on the last day of each month - to reflect on your successes and missteps so you can reconsider how best to advance your goal. Did you commit to calling your mom once a week, but you consistently had a hard time finding a time that worked for both of you? Maybe it’s time to agree on a time that you can both schedule in to your calendar. No matter how important a goal is to you, it’s easy to get swept up in the day-to-day activities of our lives. Build in time for reflection so you can enthusiastically recommit to your resolutions with as much optimism as you had on January 1st!