Many people like to write New Year’s Resolutions this time of year. There is something exciting about the prospect of a fresh, New Year. However, I believe that many more people would have more success in keeping their New Year’s Resolutions if they took some time to write better resolutions in the first place.
Over the years, I’ve had mixed success with my own resolutions. Some I’ve been very successful with (running a marathon, starting a blog, finally losing the baby weight!) while others I’ve been less successful with (floss every day comes prominently to mind!). Today I’d like to share some of my thoughts about how you can set yourself to win the New Year!
#1: Seek Improvement, Not Perfection
Often, we set unrealistic resolutions that require a Herculean will power to see out. I know I’ve created these kind of resolutions – maybe you have too? For instance: “I will do 100 push-ups every day!” “I won’t eat out or have sugar all year!” “I will run 6 miles every day!” While these big goals may be written enthusiastically and with motivation in December, they are going to be difficult to keep up past mid-January.
Good resolutions recognize where you are right now. If you’re not in shape or deep in debt, chances are years of bad choices got you there. And that’s going to be a process to work through. Several years ago, when I decided to finally lose the weight I’d been hanging onto I decided to make small decisions every day to better myself. I wasn’t worried about “overhauling” my diet. I accepted it would be a process of learning. In the end, I lost the weight over a period of 7 months and I’ve now kept it off 3 years later.
When making your resolutions this year, think about the ways you hope to improve and be careful to demand perfection out of yourself. So instead of “I will do 100 push-ups every day!” maybe make a goal to work out more days than you don’t each week. Instead of “I won’t eat out all year!” Maybe determine about how many times you ate out this year, and set a goal to reduce that by half. Get where I’m headed with this? Move yourself closer to where you want to be, but recognizing you don’t have to be perfect to be successful.
#2: Avoid Throwing Down a Lot of Money
Here’s another thing I’ve noticed, and maybe it’s an American cultural thing. When we set a goal, many times our first approach is to throw a lot of money at it.
For instance, if you have a goal to lose weight, you might feel the need to make a huge grocery store trip, buy a fancy gym membership, or worse, throw down hundreds of dollars on unnecessary weight loss supplements or programs. When the truth is, to lose weight, you can do so simply by eating less and moving more. (I lost weight at no cost thanks to tracking my calories for free at MyFitnessPal.)
There are other examples of this tendency. In order to organize my home, the first thing I need to do is run to Target or IKEA and buy a bunch of organizers. In order to be a better cook, I better stock up on cookbooks and fancy new kitchen appliances. You feel me.
It’s easy to feel that spending money validates our resolutions and goals, or makes them more likely to happen since we’ve invested in them. And while there’s certainly nothing wrong about spending money if it’s part of the plan, I’d encourage you to check your motives in doing so. As this is a frugal living blog, I feel it’s worthy to ask “is there a way I can accomplish my goal with less money or no money?” Start there first. You can always spend money later.
#3: Be Kind to Yourself.
In the past several years, I’ve worked really hard to be kinder to myself. I know this might sound like a lot of hooey, but hear me out.
I suspect that often our resolutions can be rooted in self-loathing and not a desire to be our best selves. How many times have you had unkind thoughts about yourself? Perhaps about your body, or the way your home looks, or the way you’ve failed YET AGAIN at doing the thing you want to do? If you harbor unkind thoughts towards yourself, your goals become more like punishments for past failures instead of empowerments for future successes.
I truly think this is worthy of your time to unpack. We all have flaws and things we need to change, but learn to make peace with yourself! You are a human, capable of amazing things, but also imperfect. You are worth being kind to. Treat yourself the way you would a friend. Appreciate that change of any kind will be a process, not an overnight transformation. Set reasonable expectations of yourself and resolve to not give up on yourself the moment you make that mistake in January. Because you will. Allow the year ahead to be a journey towards improvement and not an unrealistic challenge to be perfect.
Before you move on to the New Year, I want you to stop and reflect on this past year. Many times the thought is met with a cringe, because you think of the things you did not achieve.
But WAIT. I want you to think of at least three things you did you are proud of or ways you improved yourself in the past year. I know you can do it! Nothing is too small. Maybe you finally got the dentist appointment in you’d been dreading, or maybe you made improvements to your home. Maybe you didn’t reach your resolution from last year, but you made progress on it. That matters. And, if you’re willing, I’d love to hear about it. Consider leaving a comment below!
When you take the time to reflect on where you are growing and build yourself up, you’ll be in a better frame of mind to approach the New Year with optimism and hope.
May it be a blessed New Year’s, friends.