Less than two weeks. We have less than two weeks until the new year, and we all know what that means.
New Years Resolutions.
I love resolutions. I love a fresh start, a new opportunity to begin again.
And, like the vast majority of Americans, it’s not long before I lapse into old habits again.
The thing is, change is hard. It’s especially hard when we’re tired and busy and overwhelmed by the demands of work and home and children. We tend to put ourselves at the bottom of the list. When that happens, it can be hard, if not impossible, to summon the energy, self-discipline, and willpower to make meaningful changes.
I’d like this year to be different. I’ve done some research and put together a few ideas about how to make my resolutions stick this year:
Start small. REALLY small. For example, if you want to start a meditation practice, make it a point to sit and breathe for two minutes a day. Yes, I mean two minutes. If you can do that for a few weeks, then try five minutes. But start with two.
Start where you are. I got this idea from Gretchen Rubin’s list of Personal Commandments, which she wrote about in The Happiness Project. Your resolutions will be more likely to succeed if you start by acknowledging who you are, what you like, and what you don’t. For example, I’m not a big fan of vegetables, so a plan to eat a giant plate of kale each day isn’t going to get very far. But if I can start by eating more of the vegetables I do like, I might eventually work my way up to kale.
Re-evaluate on a weekly basis. It can be hard to know how to make changes in our lives. If you decided to get more exercise, but only made it to the gym once in the first week of the new year, don’t give up. It doesn’t mean you’re not capable of exercising, it just means you haven’t found the right path to change yet. Do you need to find another time of day to go? Would you prefer to exercise outside? Perhaps you need a friend or a trainer to hold you accountable. At the end of each week, reflect on the past seven days, and see what went well and what you could be doing better. Make some changes, and then reevaluate again a week later.
Set reasonable expectations. I got this idea from Dr. Jessica Michaelson, and I love it. When you were in school, did you expect to get an A+ in every class? Did you drop out when you got anything lower? Of course not. So don’t hold yourself to unattainable standards now. If you can achieve your goal even 80% of the time, that’s a B. Totally respectable. Stick with it.
Don’t go at it alone. It’s so much easier to make changes when we have a friend to hold us accountable, cheer us on, and remind us that we’re not alone in the struggle to keep resolutions and make change. Keep in mind that online connections can be a strong source of support as well!
Keep track of your progress. A shiny star chart can help your child stay motivated to make good choices, and we grown-ups are no different. Set yourself a reasonable goal, give yourself a star each time you achieve it, and then give yourself a reward when you meet each milestone.
Use technology to stay on track. My activity tracker keeps me motivated to get 10,000 steps each day and get to bed on time. (I have a Jawbone UP 24 that I love, and there are many other great models available.) There are a number of habit tracking apps that can help you set goals and track your streaks. A friend of mine swears by Habit RPG, an app that helps you “gamify” your life.
Forgive yourself when you screw up. This is a biggie. Research on self-compassion confirms what most of us have experienced: when we beat ourselves up for our mistakes, we’re more likely to feel stuck and make poor choices. But when we can forgive ourselves for our lapses and remember that we’re not alone in how hard this all is, we’re more likely to make better, more skillful, and healthier choices. If and when you fall off the resolution wagon, don’t get too upset. See if you can figure out what went wrong, and then let it go and get yourself back on track.
Have you been able to successfully keep your resolutions? What’s your trick?
Want more mindfulness and mindful parenting? Follow me on Facebook and Twitter and check out my new book, Parenting in the Present Moment: How to Stay Focused on What Really Matters.