At the end of December, we all make resolutions to better ourselves in the new year. By the middle of January, however, those good intentions fall by the wayside when the high of the holidays is over and we’re back in the stress of the day-to-day.
Whether you’re striving to eat healthier, exercise more or be savvier about your finances, here are several steps you can take to keep your resolutions in check and see the results you want in 2020:
Step 1 – Don’t get carried away.
There are two reasons many people fail at keeping resolutions—they set their goals too high or shoot for too many goals at once. For instance, if kicking your smoking habit is your top resolution, understand that breaking old patterns can take time. Do it too quickly, and the withdrawal symptoms can be brutal, leading you right back to the pack. Instead, give yourself a few months and work with your healthcare provider on smart cessation tactics.
In addition, keep your focus on one specific goal. Deciding to cut back on snacks at the same time you cut out cigarettes can be too much to take on at once. Tackle your smoking habit first before addressing your next health goal, and you’ll have much better results.
Step 2 – Set measurable and specific goals.
All resolutions should be SMART—specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-sensitive. Simply stating, “I’m going to exercise more this year” is a great goal to have, but what does “more” look like? To see the results you want—enhanced muscle tone, weight loss, more energy—you need to establish actionable steps you can monitor.
A better statement is: “I’m going to take a 30-minute walk five days a week.” Then, schedule those walking sessions into your calendar to be sure you do them. Using a tracking app like MyFitnessPal allows you to view how many calories you burn with each walk, how often you walk, and how much weight you’re losing with your increased exercise.
Step 3 – Take small steps instead of a big leap.
Let’s say your goal for 2020 is to write a book. So, you take a Saturday to start writing down everything you’ve stored in your head. But instead, you sit there with writer’s block and leave the coffee shop with a few notes and lots of doodles. That frustration you feel can leave your book dead in its tracks.
A better option is to start your resolution slowly. Write for 10 or 15 minutes in the morning before work while your brain’s still fresh. Jot down some ideas while waiting in the doctor’s office. Record a voice memo if an idea pops up while you’re in your car. With each little success, you can work up to longer writing sessions, and by the end of the year, you’ll have your manuscript in hand.
Step 4 – Set yourself up for success.
We all know to rid the pantry of junk food before beginning a healthy eating plan. However, it is wise to consider your current physical condition and speak to your healthcare provider before making any change. For example, if your resolution is to improve you balance and gain strength, you may need to attend physical therapy or use assistive devices before venturing out on your own. Becoming stronger and more balanced is a great goal, but there is nothing wrong with having safe options, such as a stairlift, while you make gains on flat (and safer) ground.
Each small change is a step in the right direction. Part of setting yourself up for success is seeking the right help and avoiding potential setbacks that could derail your goals.
Step 5 – Be your best cheerleader.
The hardest thing about keeping a resolution is bouncing back after taking a slip. Grabbing a slice of birthday cake at an office birthday party isn’t a death sentence for your diet. Just make smarter choices at dinner time. If you take a smoke break after being yelled at by your boss, hit the restart button and take a walk instead the next time you’re upset.
On the flip side, be sure you celebrate each critical milestone. Striving to lose 25 pounds? Treat yourself to a scoop of ice cream with friends, or your favorite candy bar when you lose that first 10. Training to run a 5K? Call a friend when you run your first mile without running out of breath.
Any resolution can feel overwhelming at first. But by planning out your journey and taking each step slowly, you can end 2020 on a brighter note than when it started and enjoy a happier, healthier you for years to come!