Ahhh, the new year. A time, when we all collectively rush out to buy gym memberships we will use for a month and pay for for the next eleven. I’m completely guilty of rushing headlong into resolutions – like a bull charging a red cape. And surprise! – that cape continually gets yanked out of reach – until even looking at the color red makes me feel guilty and annoyed. Studies show that only 8% percent of people keep their resolutions, which begs the question: Are we doomed to fail?
Well, yes and no. People change – but they don’t change much. Our goals are often too lofty or unrealistic. If we’ve lived for thirty years without listening to our moldering pile of Rosetta Stone CDs, odds are we aren’t going to start now. So where do we start?
1. Set a meaningful, achievable goal.
I’ve had a Goodreads account since 2007, but in the past two years, I’ve started setting a yearly reading challenge for myself. Last year, it was 50 books, which I surpassed by 54. This year, it was 60. I read 127. (A lot were graphic novels or comics, but progress is progress, right?) This year, I set a goal to read 80 books. Since I have a TBR (to-be-read) pile 100 books deep and I surpassed last year’s goal twice over, this shouldn’t be too difficult to achieve. Find something you already like doing and that’s meaningful to you and try to set the bar higher.
2. Set a measurable, quantifiable goal and a realistic time in which to achieve it.
Setting a measurable goal is the difference between saying “I want to read more” and “I want to read 80 books this year”. If you want to lose weight, set yourself a number goal. “I want to lose 20 pounds in three months.” If you want to save money, say: “I want to put $200 into my Savings account every month.” Make sure your goal is time-bound and that you break it into smaller, achievable chunks.
3. Track your Progress.
It’s easier to keep track of goals when you can see the results in real time. Use a budget tracker app like Mint to keep track of your spending. Use a weight-loss app like MyFitnessPal to keep track of your calories and exercise. Use Goodreads to keep track of books you’ve read. Use DuoLingo to learn a new language. Using an app will help keep you accountable and show you quantifiable results. Not technologically savvy? Try keeping a journal. Using a “Habit Tracker” page in your bullet journal will help you keep a daily log of your goals. One neuroscience study claims: “People who vividly describe their goals are 1.2-1.4 times more likely to successfully accomplish their goals!”
4. Be kind to yourself.
Don’t get too down on yourself if you slip up. There will be days, weeks, or even months where you mess up. Human error is to be expected. The real key to lasting change is to keep going, despite setbacks. If you go on an online shopping spree and blow through your savings goal, there’s no need to throw away all your hard work and go into a spending bender. Just start fresh the next day.
5. Don’t spread your focus too thin.
Don’t set too many goals for yourself. Pick or one two meaningful goals you know you can stick to. If you’re a busy person and want to meditate, it’s easy to set a five-minute timer each day. But if you want to meditate, take up yoga, make your own soap and climb a mountain, you’ll quickly be overwhelmed. The goal is not to entirely change who are you are, but to create a slightly elevated you.
6. No goal is too small!
It might not seem like a big deal to others, but sometimes the key to developing a new habit is to KIT (keep it simple). You might want to set a habit of washing your face every night. You might want to shower every day. You might want to change your sheets once a week. Setting small daily goals can vastly improve your mental health and well-being. If you’re someone that struggles with depression or mental illness, it might be hard to muster the energy to do big tasks. Setting yourself smaller goals is the way to go!
7. Make a list.
Not every resolution has to be a long-term goal. This year, I want to do more crafting, so I made a list of crafting projects I want to try, like: Making a needle-felted animal, knitting a woven wall-hanging and making a calming, glitter jar. Pinterest can be a great way to get ideas and keep them organized. If you have kids, instead of setting a vague goal like “spend more time with my kids”, you can set a goal like “do a weekly craft project with my kids”. If you like to travel, like I do, make a list of places you want to visit this year. If you don’t have a ton of money or resources, find local places of interest. Try goat yoga or visit a museum or a pop-up art instillation. Visit a trendy ice-cream place. Go ice-skating. Having a list of small, easy-to-do goals can boost your esteem and confidence in your ability to achieve. Plus, it’ll make life more fun.
2018 was a crazy year for many, but 2019 is a fresh slate. Make it count!