Ohhhhhhh the New Year. The time of year we use as the push to get ourselves back on track, start eating healthy, exercising, become more organized, take up yoga, start to meditate, read more, drink less, save money, get out of debt…basically become a new person.
We all start with the very best of intentions.
We stand in front of the mirror, looking at our slightly plumper, post-holiday bodies and shout emphatically “This is my year! This year my resolutions are going to stick. NEW YEAR NEW ME”
And for a couple of weeks (or even a month if you’re really dedicated) it sticks. You start to feel great, pleased with your results, and figure, it’s ok to let your guard down a little bit. Why not, you’ve earned it.
And then life kicks in. Work becomes busy, activities start back up, you aren’t sleeping as much, so you’re tired. It becomes easier to order dinner, feed the kids, put them to bed and crash on the couch before 9pm.
Que the guilt.
“I was doing so well. I suck.” and we fall right back into our old habits.
Here’s the thing. We’re setting ourselves up for failure. We set a list of things we want to do and we’re going to do it, god dammit because NEW YEAR NEW ME. Who doesn’t want to improve? That’s an important part of life, constant self improvement.
As I see it, the trouble is two pronged. First, the trouble comes when we try and do it all at once. We try to do this complete life overhaul overnight because “NEW YEAR NEW ME” as if we can’t do this any other time of the year. It HAS to be done at the beginning of the year because conceivably, a new year is a fresh start. Right?
Secondly, we don’t take the time to acknowledge why we want to make these changes? I mean, who doesn’t want to eat better, look “better”, have more money, etc. Conceptually, these are all really good things. Important things.
And don’t get me wrong. It’s important to set goals. It’s a good thing to be constantly striving for self-improvement. It’s a good thing to want to be the best version of yourself that you can possibly be.
So, without further ado, here is my completely uneducated opinion about how to really set goals to change. This may not work for you, but this is what works for me and I want to share it with you.
New Year, Same You!
Stop thinking the “NEW YEAR NEW ME” crap. You are fabulous. There is nothing wrong with you. The fact that you even want to make changes for the better means you are self-aware. Think of it as small tweaks to become a happier, healthier version of you.
Make a list.
Get a new notebook dedicated to your changes (or start a new note on your phone). Make a list of all the things you want to accomplish. Write them ALLLLLLLL down. This may feel overwhelming because there are likely a lot of things you want to do. It’s ok though, it gets them out of your head and in a place where you can see them.
Then, pick 2-3 to start with. If you try and do everything all at once, you’re setting yourself up for failure. It’s like, going to a buffet and taking one of everything. You THINK you can eat it all, but by the time you get to the 7 or 8th item, you just feel like barfing.
Next, go through each item on your list and ask yourself WHY you want to make these changes. If you want to eat healthier, ask yourself why you want to eat healthier?
For me, I want to eat healthier because I want to model good eating habits for my kids. I also want to feel better and be able to keep up with them. It’s also for my mental health. If I’m eating crap all the time, I feel like crap all the time. I’m more moody and more sluggish. Eating better helps me to feel better.
When you can give a reason for why you want to make each change, it gives you more reason to want to make that change.
Make a plan.
It’s all well and good to say you want to make these changes and improvements to your life, but it’s another thing entirely to implement them. I can say I want to eat healthier, but at 8pm when I’m sitting in front of the TV after a long day and need some comfort, am I going to go to the kitchen, wash and cut up some veggies? AH HELL NO. I’m going to reach for that delicious bag of chips. I know it, you know it, let’s not pretend.
So I come up with a plan. How am I going to start eating more healthfully? I make sure I have one fruit or vegetable at every meal. I also created a meal plan so that I know what I’m eating every day and stick to it. I also plan in some “junk” meals, like Pizza Friday because that gives me something to look forward to.
Prepare for setbacks.
Life happens. If your goal is to loose weight, it’s not going to be smooth sailing. You’re going to have events and special occasions where you are going to indulge (as you should). There may be times you don’t loose weight or you gain a pound or two. Because life happens.
So plan for it. Instead of telling yourself you’re never going to eat junk food again and you’re only going to drink water, be realistic. Plan how you’re going to react to the tub of ice cream you ate after a long week. Better yet, build treats into your week (again, like Pizza Friday). Or, if you know you’re going to an event where you want to eat unabashedly, go for a long walk or workout beforehand.
Finally, figure out how you’re going to measure your success. Say you want to add more activity into your life. What exactly does “more” mean to you? Once a week? Once a day? Once you’ve set the parameters, you can check in every week to see how you did. Which leads me to my last point:
I think a lot of the time for me, I set all these amazing goals for the year, write them down, create a plan and implement. Then, I hit a wall, or something comes up (aka life) and I forget. So this year, I’m trying something new – I’ve set a reminder in my phone (and my fancy new planner) to check in with my goals and see where I am.
You can also use this time to add in other items from your list. If you feel like you’ve gotten into a good rhythm with your healthy eating, add in your goal of exercising more regularly and repeat the process above for that goal.
Let’s be clear. It’s all good and well to make these plans and set your goals and make your lists, but it’s hard to make a serious life change. Creating new habits takes a long time, especially when your old ones are so ingrained.
There is also no “one size fits all” method to making major changes. What works for one person, might not work for you. The key is finding what works so just keep trying until you figure out what is right for you.
Finally, be kind to yourself. Take things one step, one day at a time.
What would you add to my steps? What has worked for you?