With a new year there tend to come new challenges, new mindsets, new accomplishments and new disappointments. Arguably, one of the most challenging things in a new year is sticking to our resolutions. So much so, that some even argue that you shouldn’t set new year resolutions at all. While there might be wisdom in both arguments, is it possible to find your way to the middle of this conflict?
Should you even set a New Year's resolution?
If you’re wondering whether a New Year's resolution is the right thing for you, you might want to consider who you are and what is the purpose of setting your resolution. You know you best, so you know how you deal with failure, disappointment and motivation. For some of us, goal setting creates high anxiety, triggers perfectionistic tendencies and leads us into spirals of negative thoughts. If that sounds like you, you might want to start with a very simple, easy to achieve resolution rather than one that is competitive or difficult to achieve (i.e. losing 10lbs over the year rather than 50lbs).
The purpose of your resolution is also important to consider because it will impact your motivation in completing it. No one wants to admit it, but many people set resolutions to have something to talk about with friends and family who they also expect to have resolutions for the year. Consider if you are ready to really commit to the resolution you have in mind or if it just “sounds good” to a listener, seems impressive. When we set goals for ourselves without being fully committed to them, we will be much more likely to fail at them. Failure, regardless of how serious we are about the goal, is always going to sting and impact us in some way.
What do you want your New Year's resolutions to be?
Your resolution can be anything and everything; traveling more, saving money, losing weight, starting a business, learning a new skill, practicing gratitude, starting therapy, increasing intimacy, cooking more frequently, making more friends, focusing on spirituality, volunteering, and so many more options. What you choose as your New Year's resolution is absolutely up to you but… you need to consider if it is doable in the span of this year.
For instance, let’s say your resolution is to get out of credit card debt this year and you have $20k of debt. If you’re spending half your paycheck every month to make that resolution come to fruition, what are you going to have to give up? How will giving these things up impact your life and your emotional well being? If the impact will be great, is it worth it to you? If not, you might want to think of a different resolution, maybe paying off half, or even a quarter of your debt this year and not adding any more over the year.
How can you stick to your New Year's resolution?
Even the most well thought out resolutions can be hard to achieve. These are year long goals after all, and life happens, so we might become distracted and forget all about our resolutions. To stick to your resolution, or any goal, try the movement through scaling technique, keep a journal of your progress, set ongoing reminders, and check in with your motivation from time to time.
Movement through scaling is a strategy that helps you break down big goals into smaller, more manageable components that are less overwhelming. You consider your goal and create a scale that makes sense for it. For example, if your goal is to eat less processed food, you might create a scale of 10. You start with considering how much processed food you currently eat. If you eat only processed food you will be at 0, if half the food you eat is processed you might be at 5. From there consider the rest of the numbers, how much processed food will you be eating at 6? What types of processed food would you cut out at 6? What will you replace that processed food type with at 6? And you go through all of the numbers like that. Once you’ve done the scaling, you schedule it out for yourself and slowly move forward with your goals.
You might want to keep a journal of your progress, especially for complex resolutions or those that are more difficult to gauge change with. In your journal, every time you take a step towards your goal you want to record it, how you felt about moving forward in it, if it changed anything in your life. Re-read your journal as you go to recognize the hard work you’ve put into this resolution, the changes you’ve created for yourself and keep yourself motivated.
When starting to work on a resolution or any goal it is usually a good idea to set reminders, at least at first. Reminders can be digital or in the form of sticky notes around your home, people in your life encouraging you and asking questions periodically, etc. Reminders are always a good starting point so you can get used to maintaining your resolution. If a time comes when you no longer need reminders, you can always get rid of them if you feel confident in your ability to maintain your track on your own.
Motivation is not linear, it goes up, plateaus, goes down, and back up again over time. So being Mindful of your motivation to maintain your resolution is important. If you find that you’ve missed taking steps in your resolution, your motivation might be decreased and if you don’t notice it in time, the year might just pass you by. So, be Mindful of these motivational decreases and use your journal to encourage yourself. Remind yourself of what your life might look like once you have achieved your resolution and talk to close friends and family who might be encouraging to you.
Resolutions can be a great way to create more joy, health and balance in your life. They can also be the source of anxiety, hopelessness and feeling bad about ourselves if they aren’t accomplished. Be honest with yourself about whether you are really committed to your resolution and if it is realistic and achievable. Set out to accomplish your resolutions in a way that doesn’t overwhelm you and sets you up for success. Good luck and feel free to let me know about your resolutions and how you plan to achieve them in the comments below!