By: Alicia Galvin MEd, RD, LD, CLT, IFNCP
As we head into the New Year, many of us may feel like we are trying to recover from the Holidays- maybe your diet was not pristine, maybe being with (or without) family was stressful, and maybe your bank account is also trying to recover. So now that the gift wrap has been cleaned up and the sparkles and decor of the Holiday celebrations have been put away, we are now faced with an ENTIRE YEAR that is brand new….a blank slate… and you are ready to tackle all the changes you have told yourself you would make “once things settled down”. Sound familiar? Well before you leap into those New Years resolutions, think about this- studies have shown that less than 25% of people actually stay committed to their resolutions after just 30 days, and only 8% accomplish them.
So why is this? And what does this mean for you? And if you want to make changes this next year, what can you do to make sure you are successful?
1) First, reframe what you are actually trying to accomplish
Make sure that whatever change you want to make is something YOU want to make. Not what you think “should” happen. Should-ing all over yourself is not going to make for a successful outcome. Make your reason to change be something that is motivating for you. If you want to lose weight, is it because you just want to look good for summer or because you want to be healthy and active for your new grandbaby that is about to arrive? Do you want to work out more because you know it’s good for you or because you know you feel better and it will reduce your risk for a heart attack or stroke (and you want to be around for your children and grandchildren)? Look at the real reasons for why you want to make your changes.
2) Think about why you are making your decisions
Every decision we make as humans is to either bring us toward pleasure or away from pain: You brush your teeth to avoid the pain of developing a cavity or bleeding gums. You eat to avoid the pain of hunger. You go on a vacation to move toward the pleasure of some stress relief and to recharge. But the ultimate avoidance of pain or movement toward pleasure can be short term or long term- eating a cookie to make you feel better may move you away from pain, but is it moving you toward the pleasure of feeling better long term? Try to see the short and long term effects of your choices and decide which is more important to you.
3) Do not make your goals unrealistic and unattainable from where you are now.
If you are not exercising at all currently, then going from 0 days a week to 5-7 days a week will likely not happen. Or at least not for long term. Treat your goals for 2020 like you are running a marathon- you take it a step at a time. Start small- if you want to work on reducing stress levels, maybe spend 2-5 min a day, 3 days a week with some simple breathing exercises…not a 60min yoga class 5 days week and 30min meditation daily. Even though the long term goal may be something more advanced, it will be much easier to get there if you allow yourself the space to ease into it
4) Allow yourself the space…
Many people have the mindset that if they mess up this day, or this week, that the whole resolution is ruined and they slide back into old habits. Not the case, because every day is a new day and is a blank slate to start over and do better. So if things didn’t go as you would have liked yesterday or today, decide how you will do it differently tomorrow. I say “differently” because not doing something you hoped to do is often accompanied by self talk such as “I failed” or “I need to to better”. This is a negative mindset that will make achieving your goals less enjoyable, so allow yourself the space to not be perfect
5) Be specific with what you want
Making goals like “I want to reduce stress”, or “I want to eat better”, or “I want get into an exercise routine” are all too vague. Be specific: “I want to eat better by increasing my vegetable intake by 3 vegetables a day, at least 3-4 days a week.” This gives you something more tangible and can be more motivating than a vague goal that may not allow you a feeling of accomplishment.
6) Believe that you can make the change.
If you have tried to change something about your life and have not followed through in the past, don’t allow that to cloud your vision to do it differently this time. Elicit the help of a family member, a friend, a colleague, a coach, or a professional to help you do it in a new way this year than what you have done in prior years. Maybe the first step is to call a CPA as part of your long term goal of getting financially organized. Maybe asking your wife or brother to help you stay accountable is key to helping you stay focused and motivated.
7) DO NOT CALL THIS A “New Years” RESOLUTION
Finally, do not, under any circumstance, refer to this as a New Years Resolution. If you do, you have already put a timeframe on it and it already has the unnamed label as a sprint, and not a marathon. You may feel like you did not make progress if you aren’t perfect in February. So view this new year as well as every new week, new day, new hour, and new decision, as an opportunity to change how you do life.