I love the end of the year because it provides a benchmark for the progress we’ve made during the past 12 months and reignites our motivation to set new goals for the upcoming year. One of the things that have always frustrated me once I’ve created new intentions has been the lack of discussion around how resolutions are going once January passes. Nobody talks about how they are doing with their intended goals in April or what changes they needed to make, if any, in the middle of the summer. This idea of self-improvement and the spirit of personal growth that comes with the beginning of a new year stays stuck there, at the start of the year.
My best guess as to why this occurs has to do with people either setting unrealistic expectations of themselves or not properly mapping out how they will reach their goal(s), both which lead to messy approaches and disappointing outcomes.
After accomplishing my one New Year’s Resolution that I had set out for myself in 2015-to meditate every day, I can say that it’s a lot of hard work, which requires persistence, patience, faith, and motivation. But I have been able to maintain that one goal for 2.5 years now, so it’s absolutely possible!
Below are 5 steps I believe will help anyone stick to their New Year’s Resolutions.
1.Be realistic. If you’ve eaten meat your whole life and have expectations to become a vegan in 3 months, you may end up being severely disappointed. This is not to say that you shouldn’t think big, but take mini-steps to reach that overall goal. Maybe this year you try dedicating one day a week to eating vegetarian. By the end of the year, you become so used to it, that a non-meat diet seems totally do-able. Then making that transition from vegetarian to vegan doesn’t seem as daunting. Meeting your ultimate goal make take longer, but working on something over a longer period of time helps to sustain it.
2.Start with something you like or comes easy for you. Let’s say your New Year’s Resolution is to exercise more. Most of the time this means joining a gym or taking a class, which is a great way to stay motivated because you surround yourself with people who are engaging in the same activities. However, if you take a kickboxing class and you love running, you are just setting yourself up to do more work. Begin with something that you already enjoy doing. The majority of the time people go for those big, sweeping changes right away, but it’s those small shifts that make the most difference in the long run.
3.Choose 1-2 goals to work on throughout the year. We love making lists, don’t we? For some reason the more items on the list, the more reflective and productive we seem to feel we are being. However, realize that all those goals have sub-goals. For instance, one of my long-time intentions has been to wake up early, like with the sun-early. What that means for me is that I have to wind my day down earlier, eat dinner with enough time for it to digest, take care of any chores before going to sleep, etc. There are at least 3 things I have to work on before I can meet my overall goal of waking up early the next day. Trust me, you will have a lot to do with just one intention, so do not feel like you are being lazy by setting one resolution for the entire year.
4.Continuous reflection on how far you’ve come and/or what needs to change. I think this is the part where it typically all comes crumbling down. After a few weeks, we get frustrated, we may go into self-loathing or worse yet, repeat negative internal messages to ourselves- What was I thinking? I thought I could do this! I knew this wouldn’t work. STOP. Instead go back and look at the progress you’ve made, be proud of how far you’ve come, even if it’s a little. If there hasn’t been any improvement, that’s okay too. This just means you have to think about why things are not moving forward. Do you need to change your mindset or approach? What factors are holding you back? Have you set the right goal(s) for yourself?
5.Experiment. This is so important; I can’t even emphasize it enough. I say this to my students and private clients all the time when we are working towards creating a daily meditation practice for them- find what works for you! What works for one person may or may not work for another. In order to figure out what resonates with you, what keeps you inspired, and what helps you to keep going, you may have to try different things. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Get ideas from friends, books, blogs, spiritual/religious literature, and try it out for yourself. You will find something that clicks, I promise.
The idea of creating a habit within 21 days is a myth. I have read and experienced that it actually takes much longer, anywhere from 3 months to 1 year. So, do not become discouraged if you haven’t been able to completely manifest your intention within a year. It takes time. Be patient. Slowly and consistently work on your set goal. Enjoy the journey and have fun at each step along the way.