You start the year out so excited and motivated, telling yourself that this year you’re finally going to do, you’re really going to keep your New Year’s Resolution this time. And then mid-February hits and you’ve got a million things on your plate, your life feels crazy, and you start saying things like, “One day off isn’t a big deal,” and, “I’ll catch up tomorrow”. And pretty soon those one-or-two day breaks turn into weeks and then months and then somehow Christmas is here and you’re no closer to meeting your goals then you were the year before.
If you’re like me, this is an endless cycle that repeats year after year. Maybe you’re thinking that there’s got to be a better way to do things, some way to actually reach your New Year’s resolution.
Well good news! There is! Last year, for the first time in my life, I actually achieved my New Year’s Resolution. In December of 2018, I was very underweight, and dealing with mildly-severe depression and anxiety, among other various physical problems. Today as I write this, I have gained 20 pounds, am happy and (for the most part) anxiety free.
I have learned a ton this year about how to reach my goals and keep going when the going gets tough. In this post I will share five things that helped me to achieve my New Year’s resolution, and how to apply them to your own life.
Let’s jump in!
1. Make Your New Year’s Resolution Specific
Something I’ve done in the past is make my resolutions far too generic. I’ve made goals to “be more productive” or “be more positive”. Don’t get me wrong, these are great goals, but there’s very little guiding me to the end result. This year, I made my goal very detailed–“Get my mental health to a place where I can function normally, and gain at least 15 pounds.”
When you set your New Year’s Resolution, make it as specific as possible. What is your exact goal at the end of the day? You want to lose/gain weight? How much weight? You want to exercise more? How many times a week, or hours a day? You want to use your time better? What exactly do you want to do with your time?
As I’ll talk about in point four, sometimes it is helpful to keep a goal journal or planner. Use the first page to write about what you really want to accomplish with your New Year’s resolution. Write as much or as little as you want, but really dig into what is motivating you. Do you want to look better for your spouse? Are you trying to achieve something for your own peace of mind or personal growth? Knowing what you really want to achieve is the first step to becoming dedicated to a goal!
2. Start Slow
We’ve all done it way too many times. You start the year out so motivated and so positive that you’re going to achieve your goals! So you jump in with everything you have, you work out two hours a day, you read three books a week, you cook a large delicious and nutritious family meal every single evening.
The problem with this, if you’re like me, is that within just a few weeks you end up burnt out. New Year’s Resolutions are like marathons–if you start out running as fast as you can, you don’t have energy to finish the race. You have to pace yourself.
The best way to achieve a long term goal is to form a habit. You do this by starting with something small and working your way up from there. In my own case, my small start was simply to talk to a doctor about my health problems for the first time. We didn’t try to implement any changes in my life at that point, just talked and set up an appointment to come in and run some tests. It was a small step, and seemed insignificant at the time compared to where I wanted to be, but it was the first step that I had to take.
What’s the first step for you? If you’re trying to read more, maybe it’s just fifteen minutes of reading before bed each night. If you’re trying to eliminate junk food from your diet, maybe it’s simply to switch your afternoon snacks from candy or chips to yogurt or cheese and crackers. Don’t expect yourself to be able to do everything at once. There’s a reason you have a whole year to work on this. Start small.
3. Create Small Steps to Follow
You’ve been specific with your goal, you’ve started out with a small goal. But now it seems like you’re stuck. How do you get from where you are now to where you want to be at the end of the year?
Something that I’ve learned in all of my years of writing is that the beginning and the end of story or post are always the easiest parts, and the middle is always the hardest. The same is true of long-term goals. It’s easy to get started, and it’s easy to know where you want to end up, but getting from the one to the other isn’t so easy. So I’m going to give you the best trick I’ve learned for writing middles: Outline.
Outlining works in both writing and New Year’s resolutions, guys! You can’t magically jump from point A to point F, there’s got to be stepping stones. Come up with small steps that get a little harder or push you a little farther every few weeks or once a month. You can write them all down at once, or you can do what I did.
I created the next step each time I moved on. After being medically diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, I created the step of going to see a therapist. At the end of every bi-weekly session with her, I would create a new step to move on to. This method is helpful if your end goal is something that you’re not sure how to get to at first. However, if your goal is a little more clear cut, like “I want to read one book a week”, it might be better to create all the steps ahead of time.
The main thing is finding what works for you! These tis aren’t hard and fast rules; they’re more like tools to help you get where you want to be. Tweak them to fit your lifestyle as much as possible!
4. Use a Planner or Goal Journal to Keep Track of Your New Year’s Resolution
Luke has been practically married to his planner from the day I met him over three years ago. Last year I figured out why. Planners and journals are a huge asset when you’re trying to accomplish a New Year’s resolution. You can use them to track your goals both weekly and monthly.
One great way to use journaling to help with your goals is to sit down about twice a week and write about the progress you’ve made, the failures you’ve dealt with, and things that make your goal hard to accomplish. Constantly journaling about things like this means you will be assessing yourself regularly and not getting to a point where you forget to pay attention to your goals.
Planners can (obviously) be used to plan your goals. Planners are super easy to find and even easier to use. They normally have a space where you can write down tasks for each day. I personally like to write small checklists in these spaces, detailing what I need to do that day to meet my ongoing goals. Luke and I buy personalized planners from Plum Paper. These are super awesome planners and you can add pages for extra notes, work out schedules, meal planning, and basically anything else you can ever imagine. I highly recommend these if you’re looking for a planner to help with goal keeping.
5. Be Accountable to Someone
One of the fastest ways to fail at your New Year’s resolutions is keeping them to yourself. By sharing your goals with other people, you make yourself accountable to them. Having someone to cheer you on is crucial. Last year I told my parents and Luke about my New Year’s resolution and they helped me reach it. When I felt lost or overwhelmed they were always there to listen to me. And when I had to stopped eating certain foods, Luke did it with me and we found substitutes for our meals.
It’s a good idea to find someone who is working on the same goal, or has struggled with the same thing you’re working on. My mom has dealt with her own health problems, and on the days when I felt like I couldn’t keep going, she was always there to comfort me, give me new ideas to try, and push me to keep going. If I hadn’t become accountable to Luke and my parents, I never would have reached my goal last year!
But Kori, It’s Not Sunday
I know, I know, this post is going out on a Wednesday instead of a Sunday. But I promise there is a reason! Since this is New Year’s Day, I wanted to put out the post today. I also will not be posting this coming Sunday, because I will be on my honeymoon. Luke and I are getting married this coming weekend! Wish us luck! I’ll talk to you guys in a couple weeks!
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