Ringing in the new year feels like a fresh start, and many people view it as an opportunity to set goals for themselves for the upcoming year. Common new years resolutions are exercising more, eating healthier, learning a new skill, and managing money better. Especially after the relaxation of the holidays, you may have felt invigorated and ready to begin challenging yourself on January 1. However, as the month of January comes to a close, you may be feeling a little worn down and less motivated. Perhaps you let some of those new years resolutions slip- you skipped the gym for a few days, had a piece of cake at that work party, or procrastinated signing up for that finance class.
Here are some tips for getting back on track with your goals:
- Pare down. Maybe you went a little overboard with the goal setting- getting too ambitious with your new years resolutions can lead to failure. Choose just one or two of your resolutions that are the most important to you, and place all of your focus on those. Trying to implement an exercise routine and also going back to school may be trying to squeeze too much in; after all there are only so many hours in a day. If you really feel that all of your goals are necessary, try implementing them in stages instead of all at the same time. Once you’ve settled into your new school schedule, then start the workout routine.
- Revise. You may have set some goals that are a tad too lofty, like exercising six days a week, eating absolutely no sugar, or saving $200 a week. When you make resolutions that are too difficult, this can be frustrating and cause you to want to just give up altogether. Making your goals more realistic and attainable is encouraging, and it’s better than doing nothing! Start with working out just three times a week, allow yourself to splurge on dessert on Sundays, or save just $50 a week.
- Make a plan. We’ve all heard the saying that organization is the key to success. Just saying you’re going to learn French this year isn’t enough. You are going to need to plan this into your schedule. For example, set aside one hour after work on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to stay at the office and work on learning the language.
- Accept imperfection. Trying to be too rigid with your resolutions is the best way to sabotage yourself. Being very strict with your goals can cause fatigue, which may be why your resolutions have slipped. Trying to quit smoking cold turkey works for some people, but is not realistic for most. It’s ok to use the patch or a nicotine gum. And if you have a moment of weakness and smoke one cigarette, or even go on a binge on a stressful day, that doesn’t mean you should just say, “screw it” and start smoking again. Accept the fact that you messed up, examine why, and then get back on track.
- Get your partner on board. Studies show that people are more likely to change bad habits if their partner does as well. Hit the gym with your significant other, and encourage each other by keeping only healthy food in the house. If you are trying to be healthier, your downfall could be a partner that continues to snack on chips at midnight or drink heavily the entire weekend. You may be too tempted to join them in these bad habits. Ask your partner to get on board with your goals. Chances are it will be good for them too.
- Talk about your goals. Telling other people about your resolutions will help hold you accountable. Let co-workers know that you are on a diet, so you may think twice about grabbing a bagel at the company breakfast to avoid their judging stares. Talking with friends about your goals can be a way to recruit their encouragement and support. Also, if they know you are trying to pay down your student loans this year, they may be more considerate of trying to find cheaper things to do together, like having drinks in instead of going out to the bar.
- Reward yourself. So maybe you got off track with your new years resolutions, but stop being so hard on yourself. Make use of the tips above, and then when you make some progress on your goals, give yourself a treat. If you’ve been working hard sending out resumes every day to work towards the goal of finding your dream job this year, even if you haven’t gotten any interviews you still deserve some self-care. Tell yourself that after every 20th resume sent you will allow yourself to watch your guilty pleasure TV show. This will give you the encouragement you need to continue working towards your new years resolutions.
Author: Grace Norberg, AMFT