New Year’s resolutions. We make them with the best of intentions, wanting to be our best selves. Unfortunately, when the initial excitement wears off and the gloomy winter weather makes an appearance, it inevitably gets harder to stick to them. The stress and time crunch of everyday life likely leads to some setbacks.
Think of the resolution to exercise more. Who can always summon the energy to get up early and squeeze in a workout when their house seems chronically dirty, they have children to chauffeur to several activities, their job throws them crazy deadlines, and their youngest has recently discovered the joy of temper tantrums? It sometimes seems hard to fit in a shower, let alone a sweat session which will create the need for another shower. Don’t give up hope, below are some tools and strategies that can keep your motivation high and increase your chances of success.
Re-evaluate Your Resolution
Take a look back at what your resolution actually is. You may not realize it, but you may be making it more difficult than it needs to be. To make things easier and still get the same results, make sure your resolution is specific, realistic, and broken down into steps.
Let’s stick with our exercise example and say your resolution is ‘I will exercise more’. First, specify what more means. How many days a week? How long should each session be? What will you do? Next, do not start out with huge, unrealistic numbers of exercise sessions per week. Set a starting goal that is realistic, even somewhat easy. Finally, take that goal and break it into steps. Start small, and then as you meet a small goal, gradually aim higher.
You end up with something like “I will exercise for 30 minutes, two days per week, on my elliptical and I will gradually increase my exercise to 45 minutes, four days per week”. This tells you exactly what you need to do, so there are no questions or excuses. It sounds doable so you don’t get overwhelmed. Lastly, it breaks the goal down so you get little boosts of pride and confidence as you achieve little steps along the way, which will motivate you to keep going.
Create a Support System with Accountability
Everybody feels discouraged and overwhelmed sometimes. When this happens, it’s important to have people you can reach out to who lift you up and help you get back on track. Identify who these people are in your life. Remember not every friend and family member will be a good support. Also, consider joining groups, online or in person, where you can talk to others who are working on the same thing. Tell your supports about your resolution and commit to being completely honest with them. Having someone you must tell your mistakes to can be a great motivator not to make those mistakes.
Forgive Your Slip Ups
The best way to handle a slip up is to first think about it. Think about what led to the slip up. Think about what you could have done differently. If you learn from your mistake, you have managed to get something positive from it. Talk about it with your support people or a journal. Then it is important to forgive yourself and let it go. Hanging on to your slip and focusing on it is not helpful. It only gives the slip more power over you.
Track Your Progress and Reward Yourself
You may think that sticker charts are just for kids, but that is not the case. Putting that sticker on your chart every day is a tangible act you can do to acknowledge your daily achievements. Looking back at those stars will be a motivation boost on the tough days. Also, it will show you if you are falling into a pattern of slipping up so that you can take steps to turn it around before you start having more slip ups than good days.
It’s also a good idea to occasionally reward yourself in a more enjoyable, grown-up way. The reward can be anything you enjoy, so get creative. A night out, pampering, or simply time off to enjoy a hobby are some ideas. If time simply does not allow for these, buy yourself a little treat. You don’t need to break the bank, even something like your favorite candy bar will do. Set a certain amount of days you need to stick with your resolution to earn the reward and then enjoy.
In Conclusion . . .
Remember resolutions are hard, as is any change. We are wired to struggle with change, even if it is something positive; this is what makes it so easy to get stuck in the status quo. You are actively doing something to improve yourself and for that, you should be proud. So perhaps most importantly, be kind to yourself. Remember that you are amazing and strong, and are capable not only of this, but of many great things!