Every year we go through the same task of making New Year’s Resolutions… and every year we struggle to achieve them. People often fail at accomplishing their goals because they set really high expectations that are difficult, if not impossible, to follow through with. Setting unrealistic goals can cause unwanted stress, depression, and anxiety, rather than doing what we intend them to do – make us better. So how can we become our best selves and start fresh in the new year if we don’t make resolutions?
Rather than making huge, overly ambitious goals, start with small steps. Commit to just one or two well defined goals that you know you can follow through with. Stay away from extremes and demanding tasks. For example, rather than committing to buying a gym membership and rearranging your entire schedule, you can start by going for a 10-minute walk after dinner each evening during the week. It is a well defined, easy to attain goal that adds up to over 2500 hours of exercise a year without any major disruptions to your routine. These small goals are motivating and will give you a sense of accomplishment you can be proud of. Make sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew and whatever goals you set are easy to follow through with. If it is too much of a change, you won’t end up doing it.
Make Gradual Changes Throughout the Year
Don’t reset your goals or wear yourself out too early. Set one or two small goals in January, and continue adding easily achievable goals as the year goes on. Your resolutions or goals don’t have to be set at the beginning of the year. Ease into your changes and you’ll avoid unwanted feelings of shame and guilt, and be more likely to adhere to the goals you’ve set. If you try to accomplish all of your goals at once, you’ll end up quitting them all.
Set a Theme to Your Goals
Think about your goals and what you hope to become. Do I want to be a better person? Do I want better relationships? Do I want more time for self-care? Set small goals throughout the year that fit with this goal. Like I said before, don’t create a huge list and try to do all of them in January. Build upon the theme as the year goes on to help you make better choices. What are small things you can do to accomplish your goal? What are things you can do to have a better lifestyle? What are things you can do to have a better work-life balance? Give yourself permission to be creative, think outside the box, or try things outside of your comfort zone. For example, if your goal is be physically healthier, in January commit to eating at least one serving of vegetables a day. Then in February, drink 2 liters of water a day. Have fun with it! Try something you’ve never done before like rock climbing, yoga, or dance lessons. It will also help if you set a theme with a friend or family member. If you both want to achieve the same goal, whether it’s saving money, finding inner peace, reading more, or anything else that will help you be your best self, you can come up with ideas together and each have your own separate tasks that will help you accomplish your overarching goal. You’ll have someone on the journey with you to talk about your obstacles and successes.
If the idea of committing to a new goal each month is stressful, don’t do it! No one is telling you how many resolutions or goals you have to accomplish throughout the year. If you have been doing a good job of slowly adding changes to your lifestyle and sticking with them and looking for more, great! Add new, small challenges or goals. If you find you are having a hard time committing to the goals you’ve already set, ask yourself why you think you aren’t sticking with them. Is it a major disruption to your routine? Is it fun? Do you need a support system? If it’s not working out, give yourself permission to change your goals. Don’t hold on to shame, guilt, or stress. Just keep looking ahead and hold onto that idea of becoming your best self.
Need more support, advice, or encouragement? Serenity Lane Psychological Services offers therapy so you can find inner peace and be your best self. Contact Dr. Heather Violante to schedule your first appointment.