By now, we’ve made it safely through the first month of 2021. We still may not be totally sure what our new normal will look like moving forward, but we’re all trying our hardest to be our best selves.
For many, that effort to do better and be better often comes in the form of New Year’s resolutions. Unfortunately, it can be incredibly difficult to stick with your resolutions, no matter how much you want to. This means that, if you’ve already broken one (or maybe all!) of your resolutions, you’re far from alone. In fact, researchers have noted that at least 85 percent of people who made New Year’s resolutions have broken them by now.
Personally, I’ve never been a fan of making specific resolutions for New Year’s. This isn’t because I think I’m perfect (I’m nowhere close!), but it’s because I understand the psychology behind why they so rarely work.
If you’re already feeling like an overwhelmed, burnt-out failure, today’s post is for you. You haven’t failed. You just haven’t been taught how to make lasting changes, and that’s not your fault!
Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Last
There are many reasons why most New Year’s resolutions aren’t sustainable:
- They’re too grandiose.
We feel like a new year is a fresh start, so we overload ourselves with big, sweeping changes we want to make.
- They’re too numerous.
Most of us are far too confident in our ability to get stuff done (I’m very guilty of this), so we think we can handle more tasks than we actually can.
- They’re too vague.
Resolutions like, “exercise more” and “get more sleep” sound great on paper, but they give us zero direction in terms of how to actually do those things.
Plus, right now we have the monumental burden of dealing with a global pandemic on top of everything else in our lives. Even if you’re handling pandemic life with above-average grace, it’s important to still factor in any mental and emotional strain you might be feeling.
The Motivation Mistake
One thing I despise is seeing anyone (especially so-called experts and professionals) tell you that all you need to succeed is willpower and motivation.
“Just dig deep!” they say.
“If you really want it; it will happen!”
Those sentiments are totally wrong, so please don’t take them to heart. You are not a lazy, garbage, failure of a person if you simply can’t “dig deep enough” to find the willpower to maintain all of your resolutions.
Willpower and motivation shouldn’t be talked about like they’re eternal wellsprings. Instead, think of them more like muscles. If you work them regularly, they get stronger. If you strain them, then you don’t make positive gains, and you also can’t use them again until they recover.
Let’s Revise Those Resolutions
It’s not too late to revamp your resolutions and get back on track! Let me show you how.
- Be honest.
If anything, you should underestimate yourself slightly when you’re creating resolutions. Take time to honestly evaluate your mental, physical and emotional health right now. Look at your daily life, and be realistic about your schedule.
It’s okay if you’re nowhere near where you want to be, but it’s critical for you to acknowledge exactly where you are. This kind of uncomfortable honesty is necessary for making reasonable resolutions, and you’ll feel better for doing it.
- Be intentional.
It’s easy to scribble down a dozen things we would love to accomplish, no matter how complicated or far-fetched they may seem. Should you have big dreams for yourself? Absolutely! (But only if you want them.) However, resolutions and big dreams are not the same.
Instead of jotting down everything you wish you could do and calling it a resolution, try this: Make that list. Write down every big and small thing that you want to do. When you’re done, pick two small things and one big thing that really resonate with you for this year. Those will be your goals. Keep the list! You’ll be able to revisit it and grab more items from it later on.
- Be specific.
Now, take your much-shortened list of goals, and spend some time with each one. Craft a single, actionable resolution from each.
For example, instead of saying, “do more yoga,” you could say, “spend 10 minutes on my yoga mat at least twice a week.” This is doable for most people, and it leaves you room to do more if you can! Being able to overachieve on a goal feels fantastic and gives you a hit of dopamine, which is why I said earlier that it’s best to slightly underestimate yourself when creating your resolutions.
The more specific you can be with your goals, the higher your chances are of sticking with them. Giving yourself a small, highly specific task to do takes a lot of stress off of your mind, and it makes the task feel easier. This is how you create good habits that last!
Resolve to Be Kind to Yourself This Year
If you’ve fallen off the resolution bandwagon, you’re in good company. Remember that you haven’t failed; you’ve just been misled! Much of what we’re taught about achieving our goals is misguided and overwhelming. Instead of simply writing off your goals as unattainable, try my tips for creating kinder, gentler resolutions that will make you feel great.