It’s that time of year again! The season of fresh starts and new beginnings. And, as we bid farewell to the past year and find ourselves looking ahead, many of us make those infamous resolutions. It’s generally with the highest of hopes and best intentions that we make these promises to ourselves. We long to do better and we’re determined. We’re going to buckle down and do those things that somehow got put on the back burner the previous year. So, with the utmost enthusiasm and our best can-do spirits we set our goals . . . high. This year we’re going to do it!
Unfortunately, this is likely not the first year we’ve set our sights on a goal only to start kicking that can down the road a month or so later. Don’t feel bad. If this is you, you are most certainly not alone! In fact, depending on which statistician you follow, you’ll find actually keeping those resolutions only happens about four to eight percent of the time! So, what’s the solution? Do we simply not set resolutions? Do we set them knowing we won’t meet them — but maybe we’ll do better than last year? Many of us like to set resolutions and legitimately want to make improvements. But, failing at things we promised ourselves can be very discouraging.
Goal Setting Tips
So, rather than giving up on resolutions altogether, how about changing some components so that you have a better shot at success? We asked Licensed Professional Counselor Christine Rawlings for some tips and sage advice to help you be more successful than ever before on setting and meeting resolutions.
When setting goals, don’t be too broad. “The more specific you are, the easier it is to hold yourself accountable,” says Christine. She encourages resolution setters to make sure your goals are realistic, attainable, and measurable. So, take time to really analyze your resolution rather than making it strictly from an emotional standpoint. Remember, this is not a wish, it’s a goal and effective goal setting requires a solid plan.
Set time parameters. With the whole year ahead, it’s easy to begin thinking you have plenty of time. But be careful not to let that be a stumbling block. While time may have been on Mick Jagger’s side, come fall, you may have found it wasn’t really on yours! “Figure out how long it should take you to reach your goal and break it down into smaller parts,” advises Christine.
If your goal should be met in six months, create weekly or monthly checkpoints to evaluate your progress and make sure you’re on track with what you need to do to get there. Christine also encourages celebrating milestones. If you are on schedule at your checkpoint, recognize it! Rewarding yourself along the way helps you to enjoy the process rather than just waiting for that big payoff. It also serves to keep you motivated. If you know staying on track earns you something fun or special, you’re more likely to work toward that short-term goal than you are if your reward is several months away.
Accountability is important. Give someone the task of checking in with you to see how you’re progressing. This could mean a phone call, text, or even someone you take a weekly walk with to talk about your progress. Just remember not to make your goal reliant on someone else. “Your resolution should be about you and shouldn’t rely on someone else in order to achieve it,” says Christine. So, rather than, “I’m going to the gym three times a week with Sheila,” opt for “I’m going to the gym three times a week.” Hey, if Sheila can make it, so much the better. But Sheila or no Sheila, lace up those tennies and get out the door!
Monitor Your Progress
Finally, track, track, track. It’s easier than ever to monitor our progress these days and crucial to staying the course in meeting goals. There are tons of apps that will help you with virtually any kind of tracking you can imagine. But whether you use an app, a calendar, planner, journal, or even just a legal pad you happen to have lying around, tracking can make all the difference in your ultimate success. Because we’re generally working our resolutions into already busy schedules, it’s easy to forget things.
For example: if your goal is weight loss, tracking your food can be the difference between victory and defeat. It’s easy to graze, “taste,” or even have a little cheat item. And these may not necessarily be bad. But, doing a monthly check-in only to find you’ve not lost an ounce can be very defeating. As you stare incredulously at the scale, you may not be thinking of the cupcakes at the office party or the surprise doughnuts your boss brought in one morning. When we’re trying harder than we would normally, it’s easy to forget those little allowances we made for ourselves, promising to work out harder or skip something else to make up for it. Frustrated with your results, you may just think your plan is not working and give up rather than face the reality that you didn’t actually stick to it like you’d intended. Looking back at your food logs can help you realize what you should change or what you did well. So, though it may seem tedious, commit to this as part of your process. You won’t be sorry!
Count Your Blessings
Other things we tend to forget in the hectic pace of life, are blessings . . . especially the smaller ones. Remember that moment your child said something sweet or your pet did something funny that made you laugh when you were feeling a little down? What about the unexpected phone call you got from an old friend that made your day? There are so many things that we appreciate but can forget under the weight of a stressful time.
So, a good tradition to incorporate into our days is a blessings jar. It’s the simplest thing in the world to do. The idea is to write down your blessings throughout the year (big or small) and put them in your jar. You don’t have to make it complicated or tedious. Whether you use something store-bought or simply a Mason jar, it doesn’t matter. You can use fancy paper or just jot things on scraps. (Also, if you made the Thanksgiving tree we told you about in our last issue, but don’t want to keep it up all year, this is a good place to drop those blessings!) Then, on New Year’s Eve, you empty the jar and go through the papers one by one. As you do this, you’ll feel the wonderful way you felt when they each happened fill your heart again. In this, you’ll be twice blessed. And what better way to start a year than by remembering how truly blessed we are?
Written by Jillian A. Mills • Photos by Shutterstock
Originally published in Neighbors magazine | 2021