In preparing for that last hill of the physical and emotional roller coaster ride of the holidays, people turn to planning their New Year’s resolutions and goals.
We’ve had a month or more of overeating, high spending, and putting our best foot forward not only at work, but with relatives and friends we often see only once or twice a year. We’ve wrapped not only presents, but end-of-year sales goals, productivity goals and projects. By now, we’re wrapped up pretty tightly.
Now we’re into January, that dreaded month when we write our resolutions for 2019, unless you started writing in 2018, in which case this is the week you start putting your resolutions to the test. What’s on your list? According to a survey by Inc., the top five resolutions from 2000 people surveyed include:
- Diet or eat healthier (71%)
- Exercise more (65%)
- Lose weight (54%)
- Save more and spend less (32%)
- Learn a new skill or hobby (26%)
Let’s take a look at 4 and 5 for a moment. If both of these are on your list, you’ve pretty much set yourself up for failure. Why? Aren’t these both admirable and worthy resolutions? Certainly. I agree. But… if your goal is to save more and spend less, and you want to learn a new skill or hobby, how much will it cost to learn the new skill or hobby? What happens to “save more and spend less” now?
Was #5 on your list for 2018 or 2017? How far did you get with your new hobby? Do you have a stock of materials for last year’s new hobby stacked in the spare room? Did you actually produce anything? What about the skill? Are you proficient in your new skill, or did you just dabble, and drop it for the next shiny thing that caught your attention?
Sit with that for a moment. Think about why you want to take up a new hobby or skill. Do you want to dabble, or go deep?
Now let’s look at the first 3 on Inc.’s list. After a month of indulging in rich and copious amounts of food, most people are feeling a pinch in their waistbands, especially if exercise went by the wayside during the busy holiday season. If you already have a program of healthy eating and exercise, you’ll probably resume your normal habits, and by the end of the month, your waistbands will be feeling looser again.
But if you’re not someone who has been following a regimen, your journey is going to be different. If your statement of resolution looks like any of the three above, you’re already behind and catching up is not going to be easy. In fact, you’ll probably be in the majority who do not succeed in sticking to their resolutions.
What if you restated your resolutions? Instead of ‘eat healthier’, try something like this:
- In January, I will plan and eat one “plant-based” meal a week.
- In January, I will cut my sugar intake by eating fresh fruit instead of ice cream (for example) for dessert.
Statements like these present one achievable action. You have a time frame (January) and a single action. Both of these are easily trackable. Both will set you up for success.
What about the exercise? Before you rush out to buy new equipment or sign up at the gym, remember item #4: Save more and spend less. Did you buy equipment last year? Is that it hiding under those clothes waiting to be ironed? No, that is not a clothes horse. Why did you stop using it? Or maybe you signed up for a gym last year. Is the membership still being drafted from your checking account? Or did you struggle to cancel a membership you weren’t using last year?
If you can’t bear to use the exercise equipment you already have, sell it. Keeping it around is a reminder that you weren’t able to accomplish your goal. Before you invest in a new piece of equipment, think about what kind of exercise you can do without equipment. Do you live in a temperate climate? Try walking. No need to buy the latest and greatest shoe. Just walk. Go for a little stroll. Check out the geography. The benefits of walking go well beyond toning your body; they also tone the mind and your senses, especially if you forgo the earbuds. If walking is not an option at this time of year, check out some of the exercise programs on YouTube. Again, no equipment investment needed. Find something you like. Do this for January and track it.
Those five resolutions are also among the top five broken resolutions, according to an article in Time (quitting smoking rounds out the top five).
Don’t be among the mass of people who create (or recycle) a list of broad, nebulous goals for the new year. If you must create a long list, space them out. Start one or two in January, and once those have become habits, add another one in February or March. Break your goals down. A series of small victories creates a physical response – dopamine – that will encourage you to tackle the next goal.
You may find that you have enough to work on with just one or two of your resolutions. Your success in January will challenge you to continue. Go deep. Focus on those. And watch how your life will change.
Here’s wishing you a happy, healthy and prosperous 2019!
- 10 Top New Year’s Resolutions for Success and Happiness in 2019 (Inc.): https://www.inc.com/peter-economy/10-top-new-years-resolutions-for-success-happiness-in-2019.html
- Top 10 Commonly Broken New Year’s Resolutions (Time): http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/completelist/0,29569,2040218,00.html