New Years Resolutions

New Years Resolutions

A new year begins. Did you make any new years resolutions? I heard of one from a stranger at the checkout counter today. His resolution is to be healthier; he was buying a pair of dumbbells. This fits in perfectly with the topic I’ve been wanting to write about this week.

Every year millions of people make resolutions, and millions minus a few eventually feel frustrated then guilty for not following through and ultimately abandon them. A resolution is “a firm decision to do or not to do something” or “the action of solving a problem, dispute, or contentious matter.” People resolve to be healthier, to get along better with their significant others or family members, to get rid of things which no longer serve them. They decide it’s time to commit to someone or something or move on, to leave an unsatisfactory job and do something more worthwhile or fulfilling, or to just be more positive overall.

Two reasons so many of us “fail” in our resolutions isn’t lack of or misguided vision or intent, but under-defined goals and lack of plans for reaching them. Let’s look at the goal to “be healthier.” It sounds like a great goal…who can’t benefit from becoming more healthy? But what does that mean? If that’s the whole goal, it’s extremely vague and not very motivating for making changes. It’s also difficult to measure follow through and progress.

When we set goals we need to be very specific, create plans for achieving them, then evaluate and make adjustments as needed. In order to be healthier do you want to improve your diet, exercise more, get more sleep, drink less alcohol, incorporate meditation into your life? Once you have a more specific goal, it can be further refined to make it easier to achieve. If you want to get more sleep, identify how many hours you get regularly now and how many you want to get in order to be healthier. But don’t stop there.

It sounds great to have a goal of getting an hour and a half more sleep, on average, every night, but just wishing for it won’t make it happen. Will you set an alarm on your phone for an hour before you want to be in bed so you can be ready at your new bedtime? Maybe you will make a to do list on Sunday evening with specific items for each day and schedule them in so you don’t find yourself trying to achieve multiple tasks a half hour before bed. Maybe you’re a napper and will schedule a nap every other day. The point here is to be specific and set into motion a plan that will work.

As you proceed along the path of fulfilling your resolution, it helps to check in. Is your plan workable or do you need to make adjustments? How many hours of sleep are you getting regularly now? It’s also a good idea to have small rewards periodically to keep you motivated, and to allow for slip-ups without condemning yourself. Sometimes it helps to make changes gradually so you’re not overwhelmed. Maybe your goal is to add an hour and a half of sleep each night, but that’s a big change, so increasing by a half hour every month or two might be more reachable. You can always increase more quickly if it goes really well, but expecting too much at first can lead to “failure” and abandoning the goal because it’s too difficult.

It is good to reflect on the past year and make reasonable goals for the new one. Hopefully we’ll all choose a resolution or two that are workable and make specific plans to achieve them, then reward ourselves as we make progress along the way. It feels great to achieve goals—small, daily ones and major life-changing ones. Here’s to making 2017 the best year yet!

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