For many of us, making resolutions is a time-honored tradition when every New Year rolls around. We vow to lose 20 pounds, start exercising, eat healthier, or tackle that cleaning project that we never get around to. Whatever our intentions are, we often start the year off strong, but then our energy tends to dwindle and frequently fizzles out after a couple of months.
Our inability to follow through on our resolutions can lead to negative self-talk, stress, and feelings of inadequacy. We make excuses for ourselves—“I’ve been too busy,” or, “I’ll start next month”—but deep down we know that we won’t see our plans through, which ends up making us feel worse about ourselves.
So why do so many of us have problems following through with important goals that we’ve set for ourselves, and how can we remedy the problem? The following are some tips for finally making good on our resolutions:
- Set realistic goals. Often we want to reach for the stars, but we fail to consider all of the small steps that we need to take to get there. Setting short-term, attainable goals can be a lot more effective in helping us achieve our objectives than setting longer-term goals that may leave us feeling overwhelmed before we even get started. Having long-term goals to work toward is commendable, but try to stay focused on what you can accomplish on a day-to-day basis.
- Find an exercise partner. If one of your goals is to start a regular exercise routine, ask a friend to exercise with you. By becoming active together, you can hold one another accountable and are far more likely to follow through.
- Become more educated. If you want to start eating healthier, take a nutrition class or find resources online. Following a healthy lifestyle blog or researching simple menu ideas, for example, can keep you motivated to stay on track.
- Take baby steps. Rather than having a goal of losing 20 pounds or more, start small. Vow instead to lose two or three pounds each month, which is much less daunting. Rather than making drastic dietary changes, start with just a few small changes each week, such as eating out less often, packing a healthy lunch or snack to take to work, or cutting back on sweets. Most strict diets fail in the long run, as you tend to gain the weight back as soon as you go off them. A slow lifestyle change is a much more effective way to succeed in shedding those unwanted pounds and keeping them off.
- Break those addictions. If you would like to end a harmful addiction, such as smoking or drinking, get the help you need. There are numerous groups available nationwide that can provide support when quitting some type of addictive behavior, including Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, and smoking cessation groups. Having others to relate to who are experiencing similar challenges can provide the encouragement and assistance needed to kick the habit.
- Make time for your projects. Whether you want to start an exercise routine, clean out your closet, or finally start writing that novel you’ve been thinking about for the past few years, carve out time each week to actually do so and reserve that time in your schedule. This not only reminds you of your intention each week, but indicates your commitment to taking the time to follow through.
- Break big projects down. If you have been putting off cleaning out your closets or pantry because the job seems too daunting, break the work down into manageable bits. Tackle one shelf or section at a time and separate items into three piles: one that you discard, one to donate, and one to keep. Work for an hour at a time, then stop and come back to the project the following week or the next time you have designated some time in your schedule.
- Seek professional help when needed. If you’ve been struggling with negative self-talk that prevents you from accomplishing your goals, or you need additional help ending an addictive or harmful behavior, you may have underlying issues that need to be addressed first. Contacting a compassionate therapist to assist you with working through these concerns can be the first step on the path to healing.
By developing more realistic goals, dedicating time to them, and taking small steps to reach them, we can finally stop the stress and procrastination associated with our New Year’s resolutions. Let this be the year that you can finally say you’ve met your goals and have begun the journey toward a happier and healthier future!
© Copyright 2015 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Wendy Salazar, MFT, therapist in San Diego, California
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