Every New Year’s Eve, millions of people resolve to make change the following morning. They’ll promise to only drink on weekends, volunteer at their local animal shelter, call their mothers more or stop biting their nails. They’ll swear to stop texting their ex boyfriend at 2’oclock in the morning and finally join JDate. They’ll introduce new habits and break old ones. And most of them will do what they intend. That is, until they stop.
Year after year, countless resolutions and goals are broken in weeks, days, perhaps even hours. Save yourself from this fate with a few clever ways to stay on a positive track.
Keep it simple, stupid.
The year before last, my resolution was to “care less” (I know, it sounds ridiculous, but I stricken with being both a people-pleaser and a worrywart). As you may assume, my “care less” resolution quickly came and went, and for obviously reasons. “Care less” about what? And how would I measure my success?
Last year I learned from my mistake and resolved to “use less paper towels”—very straightforward, easy to measure and also good for the environment.
Oh, you want to lose 30 pounds by the time you go to Hawaii in March? I wish you all the best with that completely unrealistic goal. Take a long, hard look at your lifestyle, the amount of free time you have and how these goals can fit into your life over the long haul. Why not instead strive to go running for 30 minutes, four days a week? It may not cause you to lose 30 pounds in less than three months, but it will be a goal that can become a permanent part of your lifestyle.
According to various studies on human behavior, it takes about two weeks to create a habit. That means, for two whole weeks, you need to use all of your willpower, self-discipline and determination not to screw up. It seems hard, and it is.
I recommend starting off small and creating a time frame for lesser goals that create a big one. Let’s refer back to my “save the paper towels” goal. When I started out on my resolution, I was a full-on paper towel addict. I used them as drying rags, plates, napkins, cutting boards, etc. My first week in, I decided that paper towels could only be used for their actual use of cleaning up messes. The second week in, I invested in a few cloth kitchen towels and napkins (like a real grown-up!) from Sur la Table, and by the third week, I was ripping individual paper towels in half. Over the next few months, I pretty much just stopped buying them. My small, attainable, weekly goals made my super daunting, big goal totally doable!
Create a vision board.
Are you down with The Secret? While it may not be ideal for curbing paper towel consumption, the power of visualization is a real thing and is truly helpful for keeping you motivated. Want to start your own blog by April? Make a vision board of bloggers, typefaces and design themes that inspire you, and keep it in a place where you can see it every day, like on your refrigerator. The constant reminder will egg you on, and by the time you get started coding, you’ll have a clear vision of the blog.
Talk about it.
Telling supportive friends and family about your goals makes you accountable for turning them into reality. If you’re training for a half-marathon, let your Facebook friends know and recruit some running buddies. The more support you have, the easier it will be to stick to your resolutions, especially when you are hungover, it’s raining and the last thing you want to do is go for a run.
When you reach each mini-milestone, make sure to reward yourself. For example, if you’ve sworn off shopping for four months, treat yourself to a manicure after you make it through month one. Lifestyle changes are hard, and celebrating the baby-steps is just as important as the major missions.