The celebration of New Years is an old tradition, dating back in the pre-Christian era. And the custom of setting New Year’s resolutions began about the same time in Ancient Rome. New Year’s resolutions way back then focused on morality, essentially being good to others.
Nowadays the most popular resolutions involve self-improvement. And as a result of those newly set personal goals, health clubs are jam-packed in January, and everyone is bringing a salad to the office for lunch. But come March, most of us have forgotten the goals we set for the year, and we’ve been eating donuts instead of veggies.
But how do you avoid being a victim of New Year’s resolution fallout? Or in a broader sense, how can you set goals that are achievable and really do create positive change?
1. Set a smaller goal
So you want to lose weight in the coming year? That is a great and admirable intention – but it’s so big and open-ended, it’ll be difficult to start unless you divide it into smaller steps. An easier-to-define goal that leads to the bigger outcome of weight loss would be a better start. Try changing one eating habit, like replacing that breakfast muffin with a green smoothie, or adding a certain number of workouts a week.
2. Focus consistency to build a good habit
Forming a new behavior takes practice. As Aristotle said “we are what we repeatedly do”. Some studies cite 21 days as the duration it takes to form a new habit. Others say 96 or 254. Regardless of the numbers, we know that daily repetition is key. It’s easy to say you’ll floss more. But if you’re goal is to floss two times a day, it’ll eventually become automatic to reach for that floss after you put down the toothbrush.
3. Plan for longevity
I personally like a resolution that is permanent. If I’m going to work to improve something about my life for 12 months, why not keep it going? Consider a resolution that becomes a lifestyle change. Three years ago, I made it my New Year’s resolution to start a journal. After a lot of false starts over the years, I really wanted to follow through this time. It was a humble goal at first; to write down 3 things I was grateful for everyday. And it worked. I’ve certainly missed entries, but I had started and I was feeling good about the success. So after that first year, I kept it up. I’m happy to say that I’ve filled up 4 notebooks and keeping up my journal now provides some quiet time I look forward to every week.
4. Be accountable
If you really want to follow through with your changes for 2014, you’ll tell friends or family what you’re planning. Hopefully they can provide you with support and suggestions, or at least keep you honest if you fall off the wagon. Tell your buddies about that 5K you want to run, and hey, maybe they’ll join you. Or you can torture your loved ones like I have in the past, by asking them to do a fun run with me as part of my birthday celebration.
Happy 2014 and good luck with all you have planned.