Oh, New Year’s resolutions. Why is it that we must start the year off giving ourselves seemingly impossible expectations? Lose weight, save more money, learn something new, get organized, quit
As it turns out, failing at our resolutions is largely what we, as Americans, succeed at. According to studies cited by the Times-Tribune, only eight percent of us keep our resolutions all year, and a whopping 80 percent of us give up within a month. Yikes!
Since 2020 has been nothing short of a train wreck into an iceberg, we want to start 2021 off right. And, for us, that means with a realistic, positive resolution that we can stick to. For real. So we asked some self-improvement experts for their advice.
Goals > Resolutions
Perhaps we tend to drop the ball on our New Year’s resolutions because resolutions are too extreme. “The definition of ‘resolution’ is a firm decision to do or not do something,” says health and wellness coach Julie Kaminski. “That’s like saying, ‘I will NEVER have a warm, chewy, chocolate chip cookie ever again.’ And I don’t know about you, but I like the prospect of a chocolate chip cookie in my future. Maybe that’s why most resolutions are abandoned within the first month.”
Kaminski explains how the idea of goal setting is much more palatable, more positive. “Research in positive psychology indicates that people who set goals and work towards achieving them have a greater sense of happiness,” says Kaminski, who has over 30 years of personal training experience under her belt. “When you reframe your efforts this way, your focus shifts to curiosity and learning.”
Kaminski also advises to allow yourself space to find what works for you. “If your goal is to exercise on a regular basis but find that running hurts your knees too much, try something else. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed; it means you need to keep experimenting until you find the exercise that works for you.”
Make Sure Your Goals Are SMART
SMART is a goal setting tactic that we often see in the business world, but it applies for personal goals, too. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-based. By making sure your goal ticks all these boxes, your goal becomes well-planned and trackable.
“When the goal is to set up a new habit, set SMART goals,” says Dr. Krystal L. Culler, DBH, M.A.F. “Making sure to set a goal that is realistic, within a reasonable time frame, helps with the management of expectations to create a new habit, and how to know that you have achieved your new habit.”
Confused? Culler breaks it down with one of our favorite resolutions: getting more sleep.
“Someone might be sleeping four to five hours per night and be working towards the goal of seven to nine hours of sleep per night,” says Culler, who explains that this change will require adjusting your daytime routine as well as your nighttime regime. “The SMART goal would be to add one hour of additional sleep within one month. The person could aim to go to bed 15 minutes earlier for one week and gradually add 15 minutes of sleep in subsequent weeks to achieve his/her healthy sleep goal by the end of one month.” By making this shift bit by bit, one additional hour of restorative sleep will be added over the course of the month.
If the goal doesn’t feel achievable to you, Culler says to adapt your plan according to what works for you. “The plan could be adjusted to 15-minute intervals every two weeks, reaching the one hour of additional sleep goal within two months.” It’s all about finding your groove.
If SMART goals feel slow-going, it’s because they are—but that’s what makes them realistic. By breaking your goal out into a measurable structure, you’ll probably realize your target is a bit further away than you thought, which is totally okay. It’s better to be realistic than ignorant.
Do It for YOU
“You have to decide what is necessary and valuable to you, so you can set a goal that comes from within,” says fitness coach DeBlair Tate. Oftentimes, we get so wrapped up in doing what we think we should be doing, that we forget to look to ourselves for what we want. “If the drive and motivation don’t come from your own personal ‘why,’ that typically leads to failure.”
Life coach and meditation teacher Stacey Cook says to avoid this type of failure, it’s important to link your goals back to your own core values. She uses the age-old weight loss resolution as an example.
“The goal of losing weight might be right for your health, but if health isn’t one of your top five values, what will motivate you? Whether we are consciously aware of our values or not, motivation often stems from them,” Cook says. She recommends looking at your core values to find where your personal goal fits into your life. “If caring for others is your top priority, this can become the driving force, and losing weight is just the means to the end. Now, the goal is full of purpose, because it promotes the health required to live a life of personal meaning and fulfillment.”
Focus on the Here and Now
Sometimes we get so caught up in the end goal that we forget to give ourselves credit for along the way. “If your concentration is only on the outcome, you will probably give up before that goal is reached,” says life coach Jennifer Wisniewski. “You will either grow tired, resentful, or bored before it is realized.”
Instead of burning out quickly, Wisniewski asks her clients how they can be just one percent better today than they were yesterday. She explains that this type of thinking encourages people to live in the present moment, rather than look to the future for their happiness. “I believe anyone can be one percent better than they were yesterday (regardless of what they want to change or achieve), and it is my belief with this mindset the change will be everlasting.”
By being kind to ourselves, as well as being realistic, we can keep our resolutions. Do you have a resolution you’re determined to keep? Let us know in the comments below, and happy new year!
Featured image: @itsginaj