Happy 2015! The dust has finally settled from the past weeks of holiday excitement and we are at the beginning all over again! The perfect time to reflect and plan for the year to come. It’s estimated that 40% of Americans make new years resolutions. And although many naysayers scoff at this western tradition, the benefit of even an intention to make healthy lifestyle improvements cannot be argued.
A good place to start is with the word itself: ‘Resolution’ has a bad connotation these days – as it tends to be associated with failure. This is probably because resolutions are often ‘all or nothing’ declarations. Many of us try to start and stop habits cold turkey, resolving to ‘stop or start’ ‘starting tomorrow’ (often while smoking like a fiend or over indulging in salt and straw pints right up until the very last seconds of December, which certainly doesn’t help). None of us are perfect. Placing too much weight on a decision to change can backfire, as one ‘slip up’ sometimes results in straight up giving up.
What if the word was no longer ‘resolution’ but ‘goal’? And we created realistic ones? Suddenly, less pressure right? Instead of NEVER EATING ICE CREAM EVER AGAIN IN THIS LIFE (which, for people like me, is an inevitable fail), what if the goal was to only eat ice cream once a week for the month of January. Then, once every two weeks in February. Cut back again in March. Hopefully by summer I’ll have cracked the addition a bit and can feel good about indulging in those few but far between pints. It’s a matter of working up your willpower, and it’s not easy. Our habits are directly linked to our physiology. Chemicals like dopamine are released in the brain even when we see an image of our vice. But, it is doable, and just like any kind of training – it just takes practice. But before you take action it’s imperative to set your intentions and plan the ‘executions’. Because a mid-traffic daydream about [fill in the blank] is going to be harder to accomplish without some framework set in place.
Check out these tips before you embark on the new you!
Make a List
Yes, it’s cliche, but writing out what you intend to do can help you clarify your goals (not to mention – it makes ignoring them even harder). Think ahead to one year from now. What would it feel good to have accomplished?It also helps to get specific. For example, “Lose weight” is a vague goal without parameters to measure success or failure. “Lose 10 Pounds” is better – “Lose one pound each week for 12 weeks” is even better. Within each goal include your ‘hows’ :
Lose one pound each week for 12 weeks
1.Set alarm every morning at 6:30 and go for an early jog
2. Eat vegetables with at least two meals a day
3. Substitute fresh fruit for dessert all but one day per week
4. Carry waterbottle and drink frequently
5. Walk or bike to work at least twice per week
6. Weigh in every Sunday and track progress
Do it Together
Many people have greater success when sharing their experience with others. Get your friends to join and make it fun – create a facebook page/group and post your progress- join a class you’ve never tried before. Or for those who benefit from even more public accountability, check out StickK – a digital service that helps individuals make goals a reality by using the power of incentives. Set your own goals and choose to add $$ stakes to your follow through.
The great thing about setting goals is that you can always go back and modify them. So start small. Instead of “30 minutes of intense daily cardio’ why not start with ‘5 minutes of intense daily cardio for one week’ and allow yourself to build on that goal as you go. Also, choose just one goal to work on at a time. Trying to quit smoking while swearing off sugar, vowing to give up Facebook, AND promising yourself ‘no more Starbucks’ is quite a lot to manage all at once. Pick one place to put your energy.
Choose a goal you can get excited about. And if it just doesn’t seem possible you could ever be excited about biking to work, for example, try to reframe your perspective. Instead of thinking about how hard it is going to be to ‘get through’ whatever it is, try to think about how good you are going to feel a week, a month, and years from now. If it helps, try a Pros and Cons list.
Reward your Accomplishments
What is hard work without a pat on the back? Celebrate small successes to keep yourself going. Nothing is so bad with a massage waiting on the other side of it 🙂
Whatever you decide to focus on this year, remember: Opportunities to change and improve are everywhere – and you are worth it!
What are your goals this year? How do you plan on accomplishing them? I’d love to hear your ideas and thoughts on this topic!