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January 01, 2020 8 min read


Holding New Year sparklersWelcome to the start of a New Year and the best decade of your life! The beginning of 2020 is a rare opportunity to say, "New Decade, New Me." This article will provide you with the simple steps needed to select a resolution that will stick not just for the next twelve months, but for the next ten years.

New Year's resolutions are famous for being nearly impossible to keep. While only about 1 in 5 people stick with their New Year's resolutions for any amount of time, the majority of Americans admit to not even setting any1.

New Year goals often result in gym memberships that see little use past February and mood journals with no entries dated past March. We always have the best of intentions, and then life comes rushing back and gets in the way. All those noble plans we made in the middle of our year-end vacation begin to feel undoable during the hustle and bustle of our regular work-life schedule. 

It doesn't have to be like this. In this guide, we're going to equip you with the knowledge and tools you'll need to get your new decade started right. Successfully achieving your goals is possible with the right game plan, a positive mindset, and little extra effort. 

Making Resolutions

Writing New Year's ResolutionBefore you can keep any resolutions, you have to come up with them. Selecting the right New Year resolution is just as integral to success as your motivation. Don't set yourself up for failure by selecting resolutions you know you won't be able to keep. Failing to achieve what you set out to accomplish triggers a negative domino effect, hurting your emotional wellness and reducing the likelihood of accomplishing and new future resolutions.

Give yourself the best chance at success by choosing the right resolution and preparing yourself mentally to tackle the challenge. 

Be Willing to Change

There's no point in making resolutions if you don't want to change. Some people just aren't to this stage yet. You may be making commitments to yourself based on what other people are doing or what you think society is telling you to do. If it isn't a change you genuinely want, you'll be less likely to be committed to working at it and much more likely to fail. 

How do you know if you're ready to change? Signs that it's time for change include dissatisfaction with your life, a yearning to do more, or a call from your very soul. Yet you don't have to be going through significant life upheaval to be ready for a healthy change. Spend some time establishing self-trust and reflecting on your wants and desires. If you're prepared for a change, you'll know it. 

What's most important here is selecting resolutions for yourself and not for anyone else. Don't let society, your family, or your friends influence your decision. The desire to change has to come from inside you, not from external pressures. 

Pick the Right Resolution

Setting yourself up for success means choosing a New Year's resolution that fulfills your specific needs. Too many people pick generic promises like "go to the gym" simply because they sound like healthy lifestyle changes, and everyone else is picking them. You need to choose a resolution that will help you, regardless of what others may think. 

Use the criteria in "S.M.A.R.T." to help decide on the perfect resolution. S.M.A.R.T resolutions are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely.

Specific

Don't let vagueness keep you down. The more vaguely worded your resolution is, the easier it will be for you to cheat yourself with excuses. 

Let's say your "New Decade" resolution is to stay more connected with family. Don't just leave it at that. Be specific. Identify which family members you want to get closer to and outline ways to do so. Maybe it's your out-of-state relatives or your very busy children. Are you going to send them more letters? Text messages? Phone calls? Which ways of communicating or spending time together will work best with their lifestyles?

Measurable

Create monthly goalsSelecting a goal that you can easily measure is another crucial aspect of keeping up with your resolutions. For example, a declaration like "be healthier" is not only too vague, but you have no metric by which to measure your success. Take resolutions like this and break them down into specific, measurable goals like "eat three servings of vegetables a day" or "lose ten pounds" because your ability to track your progress is vital to your overall success. Measurable goals also allow you to establish success metrics or milestones that are times to celebrate your wins.

Attainable

Think twice about making New Year's resolutions that shoot for the stars. The mental gratification of succeeding at your resolution is essential to its longevity. If you set your sights too high, you will feel like a failure, even if you accomplish a lot. 

For example, if you make a resolution to go for two walks every day, but you only manage to do one, you will feel like you failed. Even though you've taken a fitness walk each day, you've been unable to follow through with the goal that you promised yourself. Now imagine you had set your original intention to take one walk every night after dinner or every other day. Now you get to feel the satisfaction of succeeding in your goal. You'll be more likely to stay motivated and keep up your daily walks if you approach them from this mindset.

So pick doable resolutions. Remember, you can always challenge yourself to do more later, once your healthy habit has set in. 

Relevant 

Make sure any resolutions you make are relevant to your life and your long term plans. For example, a commitment to save 300 dollars every month will fit in nicely with your goal of going on that dream vacation. 

Timely

Long term goals are great to have. Yet if your New Year's resolution won't pay off until next December, you may find it hard to stay motivated. Try to choose commitments that are more quickly satisfying. If you do go in for a more ambitious resolution, try to break it up into a series of smaller goals to help build confidence and momentum towards your long-term goal. 

Create a Plan

Creating goalsThe sooner you get organized, the better. After you identify your resolution, take some time to figure out why you need this resolution in the first place. If your New Year's goal is to eat healthier dinners, what about your current lifestyle if preventing you from doing that already? Do you not have time to cook? Do you not have a lot of experience with nutrition or healthy meal planning? It's vitally important to address these pitfalls before you get started. 

By identifying potential hurdles before you get started, you will better equip yourself to handle any difficulties that come your way. 

One Resolution at a Time

Quality over quantity applies here. It can be tempting to pile on multiple resolutions, especially if the first one you chose seems easily attainable or small. There's nothing wrong with having a queue of exciting goals waiting in the wings, but don't be too anxious to get to them. Instead, stay focused on one resolution at a time. 

Wait until you have a solid grasp on one lifestyle change before trying to implement others. Splitting your attention will also reduce your chances of success. Remember that we're starting a whole new decade in a few days, not just a new year. It's okay if you take the first few months of 2020 to get one resolution securely under control before starting on a second. Establishing new health habits or improving your emotional wellness isn't a race. 

Keeping Resolutions

Deciding to change is simple. Committing to change is hard. Studies of human behavior pinpoint two months as the magic number for forming new, healthy habits (forming unhealthy habits seems to take distinctly less time). However, it is worth noting that this time frame can be very malleable from person to person. Two months is just a safe estimate for most of us2

So how can you make sure that you're one of the people that stays committed to establishing a good habit?

Share Your Goals

We, humans, are social creatures. Don't keep your resolutions to yourself. Instead, share them with friends, family, or coworkers. 

Overcome Hurdles

There are going to be hurdles, slip-ups, and unforeseen complications. You are trying to set up a lifelong healthy habit, so you'll need to be flexible. Most of the hurdles will be internal. Try not to allow your doubts or excuses to get in the way of your progress. Here are some examples of very common exclamations of self-doubt. 

"I don't think I can do it."

You have to believe in yourself. Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you will be right. If you don't have the desire and motivation to change, then you won't succeed. 

"My goal is so far away."

Change is a gradual process. If you can accomplish and master your New Year's resolution in a day, then it's not a resolution. Just remember that time will pass whether you work towards your goal or not. In a few months or a year, don't you want to be able to look back on all the progress you've made?

"I don't have enough time."

hourglass on the groundTake time into consideration when you're deciding on a New Year's resolution. If you have very little free time, try to select goals that can fit with your schedule and don't overextend yourself. Plan well at the beginning, and time will never be a problem.

"I'm too old (or young) to do this."

Whatever your age, you can accomplish your goals. Focus on what benefits your age provides. Remember that you're trying to meet your objectives, not the goals set by others. If you find yourself worrying that you're not able to fulfill your resolution, that's a pretty clear sign that you've chosen a goal set by others and not yourself. 

"It's just not working."

Staying positive is essential. There will always come a time where it may seem like you aren't achieving your goals. If this happens, take a deep breath and reevaluate your progress. Chances are you have made more progress than you think. All are rarely lost, and you absolutely can get back on track again. 

Keep the following acronym in mind as you navigate your goals: W.O.O.P. This stands for "Wish, Outcomes, Obstacles, Plan" and can be a helpful tool for staying positive. 

"I made a mistake."

Ordered a donut with your morning coffee just a week after committing to eating healthier? Don't panic. Don't give up on your goals just because you slipped up once or twice. Instead, identify what led to your slip up. Reevaluate your plans and then set back to work.

Track Progress and Celebrate Wins

Man with arms raised for victoryNo matter what your resolution is, find a way to track your progress. Resolved to be more thrifty? Keep a journal of all the times you've saved money, watching your savings grow until you have enough to treat yourself.

This last part is important: remember to reward yourself. Rewarding yourself at predetermined milestones is especially helpful if your overall goal is long term. Little rewards help keep you motivated as you move forward. 

Check-in and Reevaluate

Set some time aside to check back in on your progress. You may find that you're moving along more quickly (or more slowly) than you expected. Use this as an opportunity to realign your goals. 

According to Havard Health, you should spend some time reflecting on your goals each time you make a move towards meeting them. This time can be short, even 10 to 20 seconds. Consistency can make this seemingly small time commitment very powerful3

New Year, New You

Woman at the peak Why do we set these kinds of resolutions at the start of a new year? We could set these goals for ourselves at any time. Still, there's something particularly motivational about the beginning of a new year.

There's a level of camaraderie, as well. Everyone is setting these resolutions at the same time, and we feel an extra sense of motivation to live up to our goals. 

Above all else, stay positive

Your goals and resolutions should never put you down. Try not to frame your goals in a negative light, or you'll never achieve them. Maintaining good mental health and a positive outlook on life is an essential piece of undertaking any journey of self-improvement.

 

(1) Ballard J (2018 June) One in five Americans has stuck to their 2018 New Year’s Resolution
(2) Lally P, Jaarsveld C, Potts H, Wardle J (2009 July) How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world
(3) Campos M, MD (2017 Dec) Answer these 5 questions to help make your New Year’s resolutions stick


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