By Marilu Morgan
Around January 1, many people feel motivated to get their lives together—to finally get in shape or get organized or save money. Then, a couple weeks into the New Year, those well-meaning goals are forgotten and people continue living the same way they always have.
Back in 2013, I set a New Year’s resolution to give up coffee for a year. After 365 days without coffee, but with a newfound sense of self-discipline, that hot cup of Joe on New Year’s Day 2014 was a real treat.
Here are a few tips and tricks to get a little more leverage out of your New Year’s Resolutions for 2018.
1. Keep it simple and intentional. So many people plan to start exercising, eat healthier, quit smoking, get organized, read more, and save more money all at the same time. My advice is to pick just one resolution that means the most to you and focus all your energies on that.
I chose to give up coffee, because if I had to go without it for one reason or another, I was grumpy and miserable. I didn’t like being dependent on a hot cup of caffeine to get me through the morning. I made no other resolutions that year—going without coffee was enough of a change.
According to the American Psychological Association, willpower depletion can cause the brain to function differently, leading to a loss of self-control. In other words, the best way to set yourself up for failure is to have a list of resolutions a page long. Keep it simple and intentional—pick one resolution, and make it one you care about.
2. Be specific. Your goal should have some kind of measurable quality to it. It should be clear how and when this goal will be achieved. My coffee resolution was simple and specific—don’t drink coffee. If I made it through each day without a cup, I achieved my goal. Other examples for common resolutions:
- Rather than resolving to “eat healthier,” resolve to “eat vegetables with every meal.”
- Rather than resolving to “save more money,” resolve to “put $200 in savings every month in 2018.”
- Rather than resolving to “read more,” resolve to “read 20 books in 2018.”
- Rather than resolving to “start exercising,” resolve to “go on a 30-minute run three days a week every week in 2018.”
The key to setting yourself up for success is to be as specific as possible and to create clear points of achievement so you know when to pat yourself on the back.
3. Make a plan. I would guess that this is the area where most well intended goals fall by the wayside. Think about your resolution, and put together a plan of action for accomplishing it. This step will look different depending on your goal, but here are a few examples:
- If your goal is to improve your diet by eating vegetables with every meal, set aside some time in your schedule each week to meal plan and prep. Download a meal-tracking app like MyFitnessPal, and keep up with your daily intake of vegetables.
- If your goal is to save $200 each month, set up auto transfers from your checking account to your savings account on the day you get your paycheck each month. Or mark your calendar for the same day each month to make that transfer yourself. Think about ways to cut costs in your daily life to make this transfer possible.
- If your goal is to read 20 books in 2018, set up a shelf in your home of books you’d like to read or make a list of books you’d like to check out from the library. Think about all of the time you spend scrolling through Facebook or playing games on your phone. Where are you typically sitting when you are zoning out on the social media feeds? Put a book nearby so that you’ll remember your goal and read instead.
- If your goal is to exercise three days a week, pencil that time into your schedule. Even better, pick a fitness class or a workout buddy to schedule in each week, so you have help holding yourself accountable.
4. Reward yourself. You may remember “chore charts” from raising your children or maybe from your childhood. It’s time to bring back the concept for yourself. Don’t underestimate the power of a gold star.
Draw up a Goal Chart to keep on your refrigerator or in your planner, and give yourself a gold star every time you make a step toward achieving your goal (every book read, workout done, savings transfer, etc.). The feeling of accomplishment you get from adding another sticker to your chart will remind you of your progress and keep you motivated to continue working toward your goal.
5. Extra credit. Check out and read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg from our local library. Duhigg shares the science behind how much of our daily behavior is attributed to habits. He shares science-based strategies for changing your habits and improving your life.