Each December, as the year comes to a close, most of us start to evaluate where we are in life. We think about how we live and what we would like to change in the upcoming year. Then, we make New Year’s resolutions, resolving to deliberately implement the changes we want to see. Unfortunately, that’s as close as most of us get to achieving these goals. After the champagne toasts and the midnight kisses, we go back to business as usual, and don’t even remember our resolutions until February or later, which is obviously the wrong time of year to start implementing change by society’s standards.
But there are ways to take initiative and achieve some of the goals you set for yourself any time of the year, not just the end or beginning. After all, you don’t need a new year to make a new you.
Set Long Term Goals
The biggest reason that people don’t act on their New Year’s resolutions or any resolutions for change is that they forget about them until they feel it is too late to start them, but it is never too late. One way around this is to set long-term goals, rather than daily habit changes. So instead of saying, “I’m going to run every morning” and then using the fact that you didn’t start January 1st as an excuse to not start January 23rd, set the goal of “becoming more fit”.
Of course, goals need parameters, and the more specific you are, the more likely you are to achieve them. But your real goal isn’t to run every day, it is to get in shape, or start living healthier. So when you wake up on January 23rd and remember “Oh, I’m supposed to be getting in shape” you can assess how to get there from where you are. Now morning runs are an option, because it doesn’t come with the caveat “I ran every day… well, I started late, and missed some weekends, but I ran a couple times!”
So if you have the overall goal of “Getting in Shape” you can then write out how you plan on getting there. Sub-goals might be “Exercise” and “Eat Better” Then you can list action items that will get you there. But if you slip a little you can always add new action items, or change your plan to be more realistic or effective. This way you can still achieve your overall goal, because you have the ability to adapt without feeling like a failure.
Another way to make sure you reach your resolutions is to make sure you remember them. This can be done in many ways. Post your goals on your mirror, your fridge, your tv- any surface you look at regularly. Tell your friends and family your resolutions and ask that they keep you accountable and check in about how you are doing. Put goal deadlines in your phone calendar, send yourself email reminders, or include it in an online invitation to yourself with the New Year’s party you went to (or any party for that matter). Do whatever it takes to keep your goals in the forefront of your mind.
Use multiple strategies. After a week or so, that paper on your fridge will become commonplace, and just blend in with everything else. We don’t always see the things that are part of our everyday lives. So challenge yourself to change things up, and keep your focus on the end goal.
Make Little Changes
Big changes only come about when little changes are made. Think about how we grow. Day-to-day is pretty much the same. But a year goes by, and we might notice some changes. 10 years go by and we could be a completely different person. Those years are made up of individual days, and though the days themselves don’t seem to bear any significant changes, they add up. Here are some little things you can do to get on the way to big changes.
If your goals involve becoming more social or healing/developing relationships, set aside a day each week to go to coffee or lunch with a friend. This little break will be great for both of you, and will get you in the habit of spending more time with people.
Keep in touch with faraway friends and family by making regular phone calls. Even if it’s once a month, they will love hearing from you. Set aside a little time to write letters or send emails. For a personal touch, send invitations or cards to let people know you’re thinking about them. It will bring a smile to their face and a touch of fun to correspondence.
Most New Year’s Goals involve physical appearance in some way. If you’re not someone who exercises regularly, it can be hard to start, but quickly becomes addicting. Even taking a walk a couple times a week can get your energy going, and soon you’ll be jogging, doing stretches and sit-ups, and maybe even going to the gym.
About the author:
Nancy Arnold is a graphic artist and writer, with a particular focus on producing fun and interactive designs for kids birthday invitations. She loves parties of all kinds, and when she happens to not be at a party she can probably be found shooting paintballs at her friends.