New Year’s resolutions too often have a shelf life of about two weeks. It takes more than fervent promises to yourself on January 1st to keep your gym membership from lapsing and ensuring all that salad you buy doesn’t wilt in the fridge. Don’t start off 2023 with disappointment — if you’ve been thinking about setting some personal goals or building new habits, follow these steps to set yourself up for success.
1. Pick one specific, realistic goal
Trying to make too many changes at one time will have you spread very thin and struggling to follow through. Focus on making the change you feel most excited about or you think is the most important to achieve right now.
Get specific about what your goal actually is — vague ideas like “read more” or “spend less time on my phone '' make it hard to define success, which in turn makes it hard to work toward success. Identify particular measurements or concrete actions, such as reading one book per month or turning off your phone after 7 pm on weeknights.
It’s OK to pick a goal that challenges you, but beware of aiming too high. If you’re not used to saving money, this is probably not the year you’re going to start saving 50% of your paycheck. Set your sights on something that will stretch you, rather than something unreachable that can cause you to get discouraged and give up quickly.
2. Understand the pros and cons
Spend some time thinking about the positives and the negatives related to the change you are trying to make. For example, unplugging from your phone on weeknights might help you be more present with your family and get better sleep — keeping these in mind will help you stay motivated as you take action.
But, if screen time is your go-to comfort when you feel anxious or you’re in the habit of finishing up work on your phone after hours, unplugging might shake things up for you in an uncomfortable way. It’s important to foresee these potential challenges, so you can think through what are other things you can do to cope with anxiety, and how your time management needs to change so that you can be truly off the clock by nightfall.
3. Plan ahead
Don’t make a resolution on the fly — making a plan for how you’ll achieve it should be part of the process. If you want to save money, do some research on financial tips and budgeting skills to identify tools that best fit your situation. Get any important materials you might need, like accounting apps or an accountability journal.
Pick a date when you will actually start the resolution. January 1st has a nice symbolic factor, but if you’re traveling out of town until January 4th it might not be the most practical. It might also be helpful to pick some future dates to check in with yourself about how you’re progressing.
4. Stay motivated
Change is hard, even positive change! Support your hard work by getting the right motivation. Speak the goal out loud when you get the opportunity, communicating it verbally will make it more “real”. Sharing your goal with a friend can add a little positive peer pressure. If you tell them you’re planning to read a book each month they’ll probably ask you for your latest review next time you get together!
Cheer yourself on as you go. Don’t wait for the end of the year to celebrate your efforts — treat yourself to something tasty that first month you finish a book!
5. Know when to pivot
Even with a specific, reasonable goal that’s well thought out and comes with a good plan, there’s going to be unforeseen roadblocks or complications that are tougher than anticipated. The gym on your block will close. You’ll realize you actually hate salad. You’ll get a new job and all your routines will be turned upside down for a while.
The key here is to adapt, rather than give up. If you no longer have a gym nearby, look into joining a running club. If you’re hating eating “healthy”, explore expanding your knowledge of what healthy foods are by visiting a nutritionist. If you fall away from your goals for a while, start again — change is not a linear process; it’s totally normal to have some ups and downs.
Getting more support
If you’ve struggling to set goals or create sustainable change in your life, therapy could help you gain more insight and build skills for success. I’m ready to help - click the button below to schedule a free online therapy consultation.