10… 9… 8… 7… waitaminute, is it really 2014 already? A year ago I had a 6-week-old baby, rented an apartment in California, and had plans to return to my job in community mental health when maternity leave was up. 12 months later, life has intervened. We own a home near Seattle, and I’m a mostly-stay-at-home mom to a walking, babbling, mischievous 13-month-old.
Some years all you can do is ride the beast and hang on. But this year, I’m making a New Year’s resolution in an effort to tame and steer it a bit. Since moving to a colder climate and being at home more evenings (and not out playing team sports that were a 3-4-time-per-week part of my pre-baby life), I’ve developed some muscle problems that are starting to impinge on my quality of life. My New Year’s resolution is aimed at dealing with that problem, but I need to keep some things in mind to make sure I make progress toward my goal.
Here are five tips to help keep your New Year’s resolutions:
1. Focus: The first step in focusing is to remember that if you try to tackle everything you want to change at once, you’re setting yourself up for failure. If you need to get it out of your head to sort through, make a post-it note wall or white board with everything you want to work on… and then, one by one, take down the post-it notes that are less important to you until you have one* remaining. Then take that one goal and focus further by making it specific and realistic. Instead of saying I’m going to “get in shape” or “work out more,” I decided to make a plan to do yoga or Pilates two times a week. If I make it to three, great! But two shots at having my husband home from work in time, me getting out the door, and all the stars aligning, sounds more attainable right now. I can always add a session in my living room via podcast if I get in a pinch.
2. Make a plan, Stan: Think or talk through how this is going to work. What will be easy about it, and especially, what barriers will get in your way and how will you address them? Be honest with yourself about your weaknesses and habits, and find ways to work around them, instead of against them. If you’re increasing your savings, will you set up part of your paycheck to deposit to a separate account or IRA, so you don’t spend the money accidentally? If you’re trying to eat better, will you delegate the grocery shopping to your spouse, or bring a list and only the right amount of cash, in order to avoid impulse snack purchases? I’ve decided to purchase Groupons and trial/intro memberships at local yoga studios, because I know that I’m cheap, but if I’ve spent the money (one studio offers the first month of unlimited classes for $35), I’ll be motivated to get my money’s worth and not have “wasted” it.
3. Tell somebody: Accountability is a powerful motivator, for two reasons. We usually focus on how telling others makes us more likely to follow through so that we don’t have to explain ourselves or make excuses. And that’s often true! But telling someone kind, who you trust, such as a spouse or close friend, can also mean that you have someone giving you gentle reminders, or even helping you create the space and prioritize the time to make it happen.
4. Roll with setbacks: I also call this step “be nice to yourself.” There are enough people in the world who will judge and scold us for mistakes and setbacks (don’t let these people be the ones you “tell” in #3!). When we talk to ourselves that way too, a sense of shame and failure can prevent us from picking up and going forward. Create space for setbacks, “failures,” or relapse into your plan. Remind yourself that you’re human, keep the setback in perspective, talk to a friend who helps you extend grace to yourself, and get back on that horse again the next day. You still have the rest of your year to make progress toward your goal!
5. Celebrate small victories: Get through your first week? Give yourself a pat on the back! Make it through January with more “good” days than setbacks? Push through an “oops” in March and keep working toward your goal? Celebrate!! Treat yourself to something small and nice (that doesn’t chip away at your goal), share your excitement with the people who know about your goals, and be proud of the many, many small decisions that are building up to big changes in your life!
* If there are more goals you want to tackle, consider breaking the year up into quarters/seasons or months to work on each resolution, and following all the steps for each time period, rather than attempting multiple at once.
How do you help your New Year’s resolutions stick?