There should be a word for the type of excitement behind New Year Resolutions. That specific kind of almost deluded elation that makes us genuinely believe this will be the January I’ll keep up with a work out routine and journaling and I’ll meditate and drink my daily gallon of water. Oh, yes — this January I’ll spend more time with friends and family, I’ll read more, travel more, save more.
If it’s exhausting just thinking about the long list of goals we set for ourselves every New Year, imagine how overwhelming it’ll get trying to execute them all. And yet, every new year we box ourselves in these lists, suffocated by the pressure to succeed, and in many cases, the fear of failure.
The simple truth is this: creating change takes effort and trying to create real change in multiple areas of your life, all at once, is sure to wipe you out. So, how can you create effective new year’s resolutions? What can you do to anticipate life’s inevitable curveballs, overcome them and still use such setbacks as fuel for your goals? Here are some of our tips:
1. Define Your Why
Defining why you want to make a change before you even start trying to make it happen is essential to keeping you on track. Your why is your purpose, an anchor to ground you in the moments when life inevitably happens and throws you off track. For example, if your goal is to establish a meditation routine, you need to figure out why you want to meditate in the first place. If your why is “I want to meditate to help with my anxiety” clearly establish this from the beginning and bare it in mind when you’re thrown off track.
2. Manage (Realistic) Expectations
Managing expectations is crucial to creating New Year resolutions because it helps you be realistic about your goals, results and anticipate setbacks. If you’ve never meditated in your life, learning to manage expectations will help you understand that you likely won’t be meditating for 30 minutes in the first month, let alone the first week. This will help ground you in the moments when you feel like maybe you’re not moving fast enough, helping curve frustration and disappointment. On the days you fall short, managing expectations will remind you it’s about progress, not perfection.
3. Track Progress
Whether it’s through journaling, making lists, or taking photos, tracking your progress is a great way to stay on track and remind you of points 1 and 2. On days when you feel like you haven’t done enough, reading back through journal entries or comparing photos “provides visual proof of your hard work — a subtle reminder of how far you’ve come” (Atomic Habits, page 198). Tracking progress is a grounding practice, so that when the high of the new year energy dwindles and fades, your excitement for self-improvement won’t burn out with it.
4. Be Patient
We get so excited about everything we want to do come the new year, we forget that most of the goals we set for ourselves require time and therefore, patience. A big obstacle in staying patient is how skewed our concept of time can be. Waiting a year to reach a goal of losing 30lbs pounds can seem like an eternity, but just think back to how quickly last year went by. Truly internalizing this from the beginning will help you manage expectations more effectively which in the long run helps keep you disciplined when motivation wanes.
5. Have Grace With Yourself
This is a big one. Creating new habits and changing lifestyles forces you to confront the hard truths of the habits and lifestyles you’re trying to change in the first place. This can be a really vulnerable, uncomfortable place. The last thing you need in a state like this is negative self-talk or self-loathing for feeling like you’re not doing enough, or even worse, that you’re not enough. Be kind and encouraging to yourself. Become your number one fan. Have grace yourself and watch how being forgiving of your own perceived flaws and shortcomings can be a solid foundation upon which to build tangible, long lasting change.
Regardless of what many self-improvement gurus may say, (e.g. “Don’t wait until the new year, start tomorrow!”) the New Year brings with it an innate sense of renewal that undoubtedly sparks in us a desire for change. Successfully implementing this change at this time means being able to use this as momentum and not with the mentality of “I’m doing this because it’s my new year resolution.” The spark will fade, January comes and goes, and all you’ll have throughout the rest of the year is discipline you begin cultivating today. We hope these tips help you do just that in 2022!
For more tips like these subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Instagram at @amp_mental_health