Most of us have made a New Year’s resolution at some time in our lives, only to see it fail by February, or maybe even by January 2nd. Some folks I’ve talked to have resolved to never make a New Year’s resolution again, because, after all, who needs another disappointment?
But why do our solemn vows, seriously made on December 31st, fade in the light of a new year’s sun? Why can’t we make those life changes we know we so desperately need to make, but can’t stick to, in the face of other, more appealing options? Do we even bother to make a New Year’s resolution?
First, let’s find your why! What does it mean to you to lose weight, pay off those loans, quit smoking etc…? Most of us need a solid and stable “WHY?” to enable our weakening resolve to last through the first week of January.
Maybe you want to lose weight to prevent diabetes, or be able to play in the floor with a grandchild? Maybe paying off those loans allows you to buy your first house, invest in your retirement or give more to your local charity? You see where I’m going? Our “why” is our reason to continue when we feel like giving up. If we have a strong enough “WHY,” maybe we proceed ahead with a goal…
Second, don’t set long-term goals. Wow, that’s a new one, eh? New Year’s resolutions are often something we want to accomplish “THIS YEAR.” What if, instead of our long-term goal: “I want to lose 60 pounds this year,” we create a short-term goal: “Today, I’m going to eat this, instead of that for breakfast, this healthy choice for snack, this for lunch, this for dinner and I won’t eat after 8pm. In fact, I will walk around my block for 15 minutes today.” By planning ahead, we leave less room for last minute decisions, wherein we make our default, counter-productive choices. If we control what we can each day, we will find our goals easier to manage. Large goals can be overwhelming.
Short-term goals can help us keep our “eye on the prize” by making small changes daily as we remind ourselves of our “WHY.” Small changes also enhance our sense of competency, and encourage us to take additional steps as we are able.
Like an infant learning to walk, the child doesn’t stand up and begin to run. Small progression from crawling, to standing, to taking their first step are all necessary to help their leg muscles grow strong enough to walk. Our willpower is similar. We don’t usually do well to cut out all the food we love completely, all at one time. Most likely that ends in us binging on many of those foods as we “fall off the wagon.” Yet, if we make small changes-more veggies today, walking after work instead of snacking, you see how we slowly make our willpower muscles stronger.
Likewise, with debt payoff- if we take our Starbucks money for the day, put it into a jar at home, forego the winter wardrobe and put that money towards debt, we can end up with one BIG accomplishment in the end! Small changes, big results!
Does this make it a New Year’s resolution? You decide! In areas from addictions to money management, we can make changes one small step at a time. Nevertheless, with some issues, we will need additional support. If you have a goal for next year, but aren’t sure how to find your “why,” talk with a trusted friend or seek a professional counselor who can walk through the challenging times and celebrate your accomplishments with you!
Written by: Allison Wray