Every January 1st, like clockwork, thousands of people choose a set of resolutions for the New Year. And, just as quickly as they were set, they’re forgotten because they were never realistic or attainable to begin with. There’s no way you’re going to lose 25 pounds in two months if you haven’t worked out in three years, just like there’s no way you’re going to buy a house or a new car by the end of the year if you’re massively in debt and don’t have a savings account. The one thing we forget, year after year, is how inherently difficult it is to make such broad changes in our lives, regardless of how dedicated or ambitious we may be.
To be honest, we’ll all guilty of this behavior, whether we make these resolutions on New Years Day or in June. And the reason they all fail so quickly lies in the fact that we make the deadlines too rigid and the goals too unattainable. Setting goals is hard and requires dedication and commitment, and so many people don’t have the time or tenacity to bring them to life (us included).
That’s why resolutions are complete crap. We’ll never accomplish anything if we don’t actually want to, and most of the time these resolutions are said just to make ourselves feel better and not as something we can actually do. So, instead of superficial or blanket resolutions, focus on goals that can both be accomplished in a real timeframe and are realistic to boot. To help, we’ve garnered some tips from the experts to help make it easier and healthier to accomplish everything and more in 2017.
1. Keep your Goals Fluid, not Rigid
Maybe it’s because we’ve spent the holidays overindulging on food and drink and overspending on gifts and parties, but our first resolutions always come with very strict deadlines. Instead of creating a rigid, unattainable goal (like losing 30 pounds in a month), create one that actually fits into your lifestyle. Losing weight, changing your diet or saving money are big changes for just about anyone, so you can’t expect them to stick the first time around. Instead, create one larger goal (like losing weight, for example) and then construct easy to follow steps that’ll help you achieve it. Book a personal trainer once a week, speak to a nutritionist about changing your diet or opt to take the stairs at work instead of the elevator. These might seem like small adjustments, but they add up quickly when they become a part of your everyday life.
2. Celebrate the Wins, Forget the Failures
We’re humans, we all make mistakes and mess up occasionally. That’s why rigid resolutions never pan out; they don’t take into account that we’re flawed beings to begin with. It’s so easy for us to give up once we’ve made a mistake instead of overlooking it and trying again. However, we’re never going to accomplish that goal if we don’t give ourselves a little wiggle room to still live a happy life. So, instead of focusing on the fact that you went out with your coworkers instead of going to the gym or ate a block of cheese for dinner instead of a salad, celebrate the wins you had that week instead, like forgoing the birthday cake at work or riding your bike to the office. We’re programmed to focus on the negatives in our lives, not the positives, which is why we give up so quickly on the resolutions we create. Even if the win is small, celebrate it. Buy yourself a new pair of shoes for every half pound you lose, or go out for a drink with your friends after skipping happy hour for a few weeks to save money. The more we recognize the things we’re doing right, the less we’ll focus on the things we’ve done wrong.
3. Keep it Realistic
You’re never going to follow through with your resolution to go to the gym three days a week if you don’t actually like the gym. However, if your goal is to simply exercise three days a week, you’ll find it easier to actually accomplish it since there’s so many ways you can. If you find the planned change too hard to carry out or too rigid, adapt it to find one that’s more realistic to your lifestyle (like the exercise example).
Another way to keep these goals more realistic is to remember why you’re doing them in the first place. Write down where you want to be in two, five or even ten years and what you need to do in order to get there. if you can remember why you’ve created these goals in the first place (to get healthier, buy a home, get promoted at work), it’s far easier to stick with them. Remember, goals shouldn’t be just one-off promises we make to ourselves every year, they should be true changes in our thinking and behavior entirely.
John Rone, author and contributor to Success.com, recommends setting your goals up with the S.M.A.R.T acronym in mind. Simply put, S.M.A.R.T goals are ones that are specific, measurable, accountable, realistic and have a healthy timeline. If your goal doesn’t fit within all of these components, it may be harder to follow through with them long-term.
4. Find Accountability Partners
The biggest key to success in goal setting is finding people who can help keep us on track.
“No one makes important life changes in solitude,” says Gideon Kimbrell, CEO of InList.com and founder of Syragon. “We need accountability partners—people who keep us in check and remind us of our goals when we falter.”
Adapting our lifestyles and changing our inherent behavior is a giant leap of faith, and there’s no way we’d succeed if we didn’t allow people to help us. Don’t be ashamed to ask friends and family to support and encourage you as you embark on this journey to becoming a better you. If you’re looking to exercise more, enlist a workout buddy to hit the gym with you every week. if you’re trying to save money to buy a house, host happy hours or dinners at home instead of going out to expensive restaurants and bars. The more people we have in our corner supporting us and holding us accountable, the more likely it is that we’ll accomplish them.
Photo: Colleen Galvin, CC-BY
Claire Volkman is a travel, food, and lifestyle writer based in Chicago.