As 2021 draws to a close, we can’t help but reflect on all that has been achieved in the past year. Resilience was tested, new routines were established, and we persevered through more uncharted territory. Looking to the new year, thoughts of a fresh start tend to enter our headspace.
This process is exhilarating, filled with hope and promise that this year will be better than the last. Taking action feels good. More often than not, however, the goals being set are lofty and tend to be a bit vague. In a survey of 1,500 adults published by Statista, 50% of respondents resolved to exercise more or improve their fitness, 48% to lose weight, 44% to save money and 39% to improve their diet.
While the intention is admirable, the majority of resolutions are abandoned before the month of January is over. After reviewing more than 31.5 million online global activities in January, Strava, the social networking app for athletes, pinpointed the second Friday in January as the day motivation begins to wane and resolutions are abandoned.
Rather than repeating the cycle of good intentions, here are some tips to make commitments you can keep.
• Choose wisely. This year, I challenge you to approach your choice differently. Knowing that small changes applied over a long time (365 days) lead to big results, think about one thing you could do each day that would make you feel better. One thing that would make you a tiny bit happier on a daily basis or that would make your days just a little bit more enjoyable.
Then, before resolving, really consider the choice: “How would my life be different if I followed through on my New Year’s resolutions? How would I feel different? What would look different? How would my relationships be different?” In each of these cases, the next question would be, on the most fundamental level, would making these changes make your life, and/or the lives of those you are closest to, better? Imagining yourself and your life once you have successfully followed through on your resolution is one of the keys to not only choosing the “right” resolution, but also sticking to it once you have resolved to do so.
• Plan to act. We are all familiar with the saying “failing to plan is planning to fail,” yet when it comes to shifting a habit in the new year, over and over, we fail to plan. The list of most common resolutions sounds more like proclamations than plans. There’s no real action or responsibility tied to them.
Defining what it would mean to be successful enables us to work backward to determine the small steps we are able to take consistently. Making even one shift in behavior consistently will make this year different from the last, which is the goal of resolving in the first place.
• Celebrate success. Habit change is not an all-or-nothing equation, it is a process, and often an imperfect one. A key to maintaining motivation is the sense of progress or feeling of success. Change, no matter what the change, is hard. Celebrate all the steps, big or small, taken in a positive direction in place of beating yourself up about the missteps or harshly judging the size of the step as not enough. Half-steps in the right direction are still progress. Acknowledge that tomorrow presents a fresh opportunity to maintain your resolve.
• Reflect on change. Learning is the opposite of stagnation. Every change we try to make is an opportunity to learn something, whether it is about ourselves or about the move itself. If we look at resolutions like an experiment or an opportunity to learn something about ourselves, we can tap into our inner curiosities: “Is it true what they say? Does regular exercise really make you more energetic? Does daily gratitude really lead to feeling more fulfilled?”
Making a single resolution isn’t going to teach you anything, but carving out a few minutes a week to reflect and consider what is happening as a result of the small changes you are making daily will pay dividends in maintaining your motivation.
Tracey Downing is owner and co-founder of FiT (Focused Individual Trainers), located in Rancho Shopping Center in Los Altos. For more information, call (650) 947-9831, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit focusedtrainers.com.