Dec 30, 2019

How to Make – and Keep – New Year’s Resolutions

By Joyce Venezia Suss

In theory, the new year seems like a good time to make a change in your life. After a holiday season often filled with indulgences like eating, imbibing, shopping and celebrating, a blank new calendar offers a fresh start.

In reality, the cold, dark days of January leave many people with the urge to hibernate under a blanket, content to relax after hectic December.

And that’s OK. Making and keeping a resolution doesn’t have to begin in the new year. Instead, use the first few weeks to follow these steps, and start your resolution when your calendar is clear or when your mind feels ready.

Find one SMART goal – or several smaller goals. The SMART acronym stands for a goal that is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based. There are many articles online that outline this concept.

Don’t make a broad resolution such as “I’m going to save more money” or “I’m going to finally write my book.” Break it down, with steps to follow over a period of time.

Alternately, you can select several smaller goals that are easier to achieve. Perhaps pick one resolution for each month. For instance, “dry January” has become popular among people who feel they overindulged in alcohol during December. Others avoid social media for a month to “unplug” from FOMO (fear of missing out.)


Do Some Research

If you want to become a vegetarian, read up on the subject and confer with friends who may have tips. If you want to start a blog, look at blogs online, start collecting topic ideas in a notebook or folder, and jot down thoughts as they come to mind.

Write down a plan, and expand on it when necessary to keep your goal moving forward. Gather what you need, whether it’s new running shoes, new recipes or boxes to fill with unwanted household junk.


Be Realistic

“I’m going to lose 50 pounds” or “I’m going to run the NYC Marathon in November” sounds ambitious, but if you have never followed a diet or run before, those are pretty lofty goals. Trim your resolution to something that is definitely doable. If it’s going to be a challenge to lose 10 pounds or run a mile, that should be your first goal. If you achieve that, you can make another resolution to lose another 10 pounds or run two miles!


Don’t Set a Deadline

Deadlines kill too many resolutions. Life happens, and it may take longer to reach the next step in your plan. In order to remain focused on the goal, follow the next step:


Track your Progress

Every little move you make toward your goal should be recorded, whether it’s in a notebook, spreadsheet, journal or folder. If you want to play Chopin on the piano, master Chopsticks first. If you want to learn how to draw, fill the first few pages of a sketchbook with doodles, trace some pictures, then move on to simple drawings.


Expect Setbacks

Despite your best intentions and effort, setbacks are inevitable. A snowstorm or the flu may prevent you from visiting the gym for several days. An emergency car repair may keep you from making a monthly deposit into your savings account. Those aren’t failures – they are opportunities to learn and move forward, proving you have the tenacity to continue onward.

Some setbacks need personal reflection. If you are having trouble reaching a goal, it may be necessary to change strategies, or it may just take longer to achieve.


Be Ready to Feel Discomfort

If you start climbing the stairs in your office building instead of taking the elevator, expect to be out of breath for the first few weeks. If you want to organize your home, be prepared to discard or give away things.


Find a Buddy

Many people have the best success when they work with an individual or group striving for the same goal. Or enlist the help of a close friend who can help keep you motivated – like a personal cheerleader.


Reward Yourself

Each major goal you meet can be marked with a treat, whether it’s dinner out, a movie or your favorite chocolate bar. This can be especially important in the beginning, when you need the encouragement to continue.


Simplify Resolutions

Still not convinced you can keep a resolution? Here are some ideas that don’t take time or energy: Say good morning and smile at people more often. Hold the door for people behind you. Drink more water. Go to bed earlier. And always have something to look forward to.


Happy New Year!