It seems like every year I make the same three new year’s resolutions. I want to eat better, move more and spend less time looking at screens. It also seems that every year I swiftly abandon all three of these noble goals by Valentine’s Day.
Last year, everything changed. Last year, I took a different approach to the promises I made to myself, and it paid off. I really did start moving more! I got in gear by tapping into four surprisingly simple strategies.
Don’t Overdo It
The temptation to shoot for the moon when it comes to new year’s resolutions is real. It’s also a really easy way to sabotage yourself before you even begin, and here’s why: When you set a lofty goal, it’s easy to be discouraged by your progress, no matter how great it is in actuality, because it seems small.
For example, if you want to lose 50 pounds by next New Year’s Day, seeing just a pound or two trickle off the scale each week can be underwhelming. It can feel like you’re never going to reach your goal.
The thing is, losing a pound or two each week is outstanding. It’s the ideal way to lose weight, in fact! What needs to change isn’t the approach, it’s the goal and its framing. Instead of resolving to lose 50 pounds by next January, which feels like it’s 100 years away, resolve to lose a pound a week. Accomplish that little goal consistently, and you’ll hit your goal weight before you know it.
Lasting changes happen slowly, so instead of focusing on some grand result far off in the future, focus on the here and now. Speaking of which…
Don’t Fixate on Goals
Goals can be great. For many of the most common resolutions, however — such as the desire to lose weight, be active or save more money — setting a goal isn’t the best route. A better means of making real change is to focus not on the goal but on the practice. In other words, don’t resolve to run a 5K this summer; resolve to become a runner. If you focus on the process instead of some semi-arbitrary end result, you’re far more likely to build good habits that last.
Don’t Go It Alone
Accountability can do wonders for a resolution. If you want to stick with your commitment, rope some friends, family members and even strangers into your plan.
Trying to lose weight? Tell the people in your household so they can motivate you and refrain from bringing home so many cookies. Want to work out more? Join a class at your local gym. Ready to quit smoking? Tell your friends. Odds are, they'll be excited and supportive.
Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself
You’re going to screw up sometimes. That’s a fact. It’s human nature to skip a workout, dive into that extra piece of pizza or spend a little extra on your granddaughter’s Sweet 16. Here's the important part, though: It matters less why you momentarily broke your resolution than it does how you bounce back from it.
Like so many women, I’ve been fighting the battle of the bulge my entire life. When I cave and have a piece of cake I didn’t budget for, I don’t let it derail my entire plan. I think of my plan — and my practice of being a person who eats fresh, nutritious food — like a circle. I stepped out of the circle momentarily, found it covered in delicious sprinkles, thoroughly enjoyed it, and now it’s time to gingerly step back in the circle.
You know the old saying: Rome wasn’t built in a day. If you want to see your new year’s resolutions through, commit to making small changes, and when you go astray, don’t give up. Dust off the sprinkles, and jump back in the circle instead.