by Nancy Travers,LCSW
At the beginning of every year, many of us begin making promises to ourselves. These resolutions may seem like a fairly simple, logical idea. â€œThis year, I\’m going to be healthier!â€ or â€œThis year, I\’m going to put myself first!â€ These simple declarations can be harder to manage throughout the next 364 days than we imagine, but each of these promises are important to us. So instead of letting your New Year\’s resolutions (or any other goals you may encounter throughout the year) fall to the wayside, take a few small steps to ensure that you stay motivated and accomplish your goals!
- Don\’t â€œGo Big, or Go Home!â€Â It\’s pretty easy to wake up on January 1st and say to yourself, â€œThis year, I\’m going to be in the best shape of my life!â€ On Day One, it can even be pretty easy to go through your kitchen and toss away all of your bad-habit foods, stop by a sporting goods store to by a yoga mat, or even order that intense workout system you see every morning on the infomercials. But what happens on Day Two? Or Week Two? Staying motivated is much easier when you set yourself small, attainable goals. These can certainly build up to a grander vision, but small achievements will help you keep rolling. â€œGo to the gym on Mondaysâ€ is much less stressful than â€œLose 50 pounds as fast as possible.â€
- Frame Your Goals in Positivity.Â Motivation, and accomplishment, is all in how you frame a situation. You have to be very careful what you tell yourself when you\’re trying to change your lifestyle. People attempting to quit smoking have trouble putting down the cigarette when they think, â€œIf I quit, I won\’t get lung cancer.â€ Smokers have trouble associating with this negative aspect of the habit; it\’s hard to imagine because it\’s unpleasant to think about and seemingly far into the future. If instead, they were to say to themselves, â€œIf I quit, I\’ll save about $30 dollars a week!â€ This statement adds a new positive aspect to the lifestyle change, and offers a reward quickly.
- Be specific about what you want.Â Our first instinct when setting goals is making a broad statement to cover an entire aspect of our lives. â€œI\’m going to improve my relationship,â€ is a great idea—but what do you really have in mind? Because you haven\’t defined what you want in this change, you have plenty of ways to excuse yourself from accomplishing the goal. â€œImproving your relationshipâ€ might mean that you decide to ignore a hurtful comment here or there, but if these comments weren\’t a major problem in the first place, then you haven\’t accomplished anything yet! Instead of the sweeping generalization, try a statement like, â€œI want to improve my relationship by spending more time with my partner.â€
- Be flexible with your idea of success.Â This may seem the antithesis of â€œBe specific,â€ but being flexible with your vision of accomplishment will help you to feel better about your journey to a lifestyle change. We may start towards a goal with the best intentions, but it may not be able to completely follow through the way we originally imagined. If your New Year\’s resolution included â€œBuild a healthy relationship,â€ but you find yourself single when you begin evaluating your accomplishments, recount what you did accomplish instead. You might not have found the perfect relationship with a partner, but did you build a better relationship with yourself? With your family and friends? Are you in a better place to enter a healthy relationship? Answering yes to these questions should still count as some success in your goal!
- Get support for your resolutions.Â Going through a lifestyle change alone is nearly impossible, especially if you are in a relationship. Instead of working on your resolution by yourself, find support in the way that will help you most. This may include finding a â€œResolution Buddy,â€ who is working on making similar changes. You may decide to ask your partner for encouragement to help you stay motivated. Some of us even benefit from joining large support groups, in person or online, to help us with lifestyle changes.
- Enjoy the journey.Â You lose motivation when you aren\’t enjoying yourself. If the efforts towards your lifestyle change are making your resolution a chore, you won\’t want to succeed. Instead of begrudgingly going through the motions, find a way to enjoy each step in your journey towards success. It may help to remind yourself what you\’re working for, or to make your goal into a game. Finding ways to appreciate your work, your success, and the benefits to your life will keep your motivated through the year.