New Year's Resolutions or Fantasyland?
Happy New Year!
How many of you have chosen your New Year’s Resolutions? I’m guessing most of you have designated 2019 as the year that you change, improve, attempt, or incorporate at least one thing in your life. While I applaud the sentiment because self-improvement is something for which we should always strive, I would also like to point out some of the downfalls of the typical resolution, or perhaps help you improve your likelihood of achieving your goals.
According to Statista, these were the top ten resolutions of 2018: https://www.statista.com/chart/12386/the-most-common-new-years-resolutions-for-2018/
1. Lose weight
2. Eat healthier
3. Go to the gym/get more exercise
4. Save money
5. Focus on self-care
6. Read more
7. Make new friends
8. Learn new skills
9. Find a new job
10. Take up a new hobby
Each and every one of these resolutions is admirable, desirable, and usually achievable…and yet, most of us never move past the resolution-making stage. Why?...because we haven’t followed the #1 Rule of Goal-Setting: A goal should be S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely)
Is your resolution too vague?
What does the term “healthier” mean to you? Healthier than fast-food drive-through or do you really want to start making nutritious meals from whole, real foods? Do you want to clean up your diet or do you NEED to do something because of weight or other health condition (diabetes, inflammation, heart disease, cancer, etc.).
WHY do you want new friends, new skills, a new job, or any of the other changes you have chosen?
Until you have settled on your “why”, it will be extremely difficult to follow through. (I briefly outlined the importance of this in my October blog on the subject.)
Can you measure your progress?
How much time and/or money are you willing to dedicate to the gym, or self-care, learning, or hobbies? How much do you hope to increase your savings account? How much is “more” – of anything?
Are you attempting too much, too quickly?
Your goals should stretch you, but not overwhelm or break your spirit. Overcoming obstacles, taking on challenges, and hard work can improve your self-image, instill confidence, and overflow your feel-good endorphin basket. However, constant defeat, procrastinating, and avoidance can lead to self-loathing, insecurities, and even depression. Plan for simple changes, celebrate your successes, and then set new goals. If you find that you are beating yourself up over an unmet goal, chances are you need to rethink your goal AND learn some self-love.
Are these dreams or honest goals?
First of all, are you being realistic with your goals? If you have never set foot in a gym but your resolution is to buy an expensive membership and fit in daily hour-long workouts, you may be over-reaching. One week into this gruelling schedule will probably find you so sore and discouraged that you decide to “take a few days off” which may stretch into a week or two…and suddenly it’s been a month and you have no momentum (or desire) to start up again.
It is possible that someday you will be making the gym a part of your daily life – many people do, but few of them started out that way. Like most habits, especially those that require discipline, gradual but consistent incorporation into daily life will be the most successful. If possible, start with a short membership – yes, it may not sound as economical as a yearly membership but at least you won’t be wasting the full annual price if you decide it’s not for you after a few days. Some gyms even offer trial memberships or special introduction rates right now – check them out.
Realistic goals are those that you know you can fit into your life, with a little effort – yes, effort. Nothing worth attaining comes without a price tag of some kind. If your goal is attending the gym, start with three, half-hour to an hour sessions each week. Try different times of the day to see which works best for you – before breakfast, during your lunch break, after work, in the evening? Remember, you are unique. Your best friend may insist that the ONLY time to work out is at 6:00 a.m. but all you are capable of at that hour is staggering to your coffee machine. Perhaps right after work, when you may feel the need to sweat off some stress or you just feel more alert and motivated, will be a better time for you. The trick is to be honest with yourself, but also to put in an honest effort. If the gym doesn’t work for you, try at-home workouts with DVD’s or online programs. If you need company for motivation, join exercise classes. If getting off the couch is a big step, just start with walking or hiking. There are walking groups, or you may already have a friend who would love to join you. Find something you enjoy, make it a priority on your calendar, and start.
Are you giving yourself a deadline?
“Someday” is usually never. “One of these days” is about as meaningful as “when I get completely caught up”. Without a deadline, we float along the current of life fooling ourselves that we actually have a game plan when we are doing nothing whatsoever to follow it. If you were to write all your appointments on your calendar and then toss it in the corner and just attend to things as they popped up, would you feel you were accomplishing your goals and meeting your responsibilities? Well, your resolutions are nothing more than fantasyland dreams unless you do something about them.
Say you want to take a course. Have you picked it out? Do you know when it is available? Have you given yourself a time-limit to register and/or complete it?
You’ve been talking about going on a vacation for years. You know where you’d like to go but you just haven’t been able to save up for it. Let’s get serious about this. How much will it cost? Where can you pull a few dollars from your current budget – how much each month? How many months will it take to save up the necessary money? Set a date, maybe a month or two later than the number of months calculated to allow for price increases and emergencies. Open a separate account and be sure to put that amount away every month. Now, you have a goal AND a plan. It may take longer than you like but it’s much more likely to happen than if you stayed with “Someday, I am going to see the ocean”.
Choose a Mantra
Each year I choose a new mantra, a saying or quotation, which I post where it is seen every day. I have found that my annual choice, although of special significance to me at the time, is still important to me today. In effect, rather than replacing my mantra, I am simply adding to my collection each year.
One of the main messages I try to impart to my clients is that it is possible to find life and vitality at any age, that each moment in time is an opportunity for a fresh start. This past year I celebrated by 60th birthday and hope to share my enthusiasm for health with anyone who needs a little encouragement, support, or accountability – regardless of their years.
My mantra for 2019 is a quote attributed to Joyce Meyers: “It’s never too late for a new beginning in your life.”