There’s something so utterly enticing about a New Year that automatically makes you want to write down some resolutions that, realistically, you might not ever accomplish. Most of the goals are of the garden variety sort (i.e. lose weight, get more organized), but no matter how well-intentioned we might be on January 1, come a few months, weeks, or (gasp), days later, and we’re back to our same habits that we swore we’d ditch come the New Year. And here’s how to set realistic resolutions will ensure that you accomplish all your goals.
In their defense, it’s probably not the resolutions themselves that are the problem, but rather, how you’re approaching them. Peter Shankman, the founder of Help a Reporter Out and author of the book, Faster Than Normal: Turbocharge Your Focus, Productivity, And Success With The Secrets of the ADHD Brain, explains that resolutions don’t work because they aren’t a natural part of our lives. “Resolutions fail. RITUALS succeed,” says Shankman. “Want to make it work? Don’t resolve to lose 20 pounds. Make getting up a half hour early, or only eating at mealtimes, etc., a RITUAL.” He advises doing it for 30 days consistently, and you will see the results.
Set Smart Goals
Even though they might seem easy enough on the surface, the real reason resolutions fail is because they are often too abstract to accomplish. “Many New Years’ resolutions are vague, unrealistic, or too difficult to achieve and that’s why so many people fail or abandon their resolutions within a few weeks,” says Melissa Morris, an ISSN certified sports nutritionist and ACSM certified exercise physiologist. “Setting a smart goal is a way to create manageable goals that help set you up for success. A smart goal is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic/relevant, and timely.”
So, if being a better parent is your top goal for 2021, you’ll need to break that idea down into more manageable pieces. It might start by doing something as simple as putting your phone down when your child is speaking to you, or just taking 15 minutes a day to connect with your kiddos one on one. Slowly, your small, smart goals will work towards a much bigger resolution that is now more realistic.
Focus On Feeling
Sure, you’d like to be beach body ready by the summer, but starving yourself definitely isn’t the answer. Instead of thinking restrictively (i.e. “I can’t eat that piece of cake because I’m dieting”), focus instead on how you want to feel, Emily Capuria, a psychotherapist, author of the book Happiness Happens, tells Celebrity Parents. “This helps you to have a moment to moment focus that’s consistent for all areas of your life, and it’s a way to align your choices in the moment.” If, for example, you want to feel peaceful (but your kids are fighting in the next room), think about ways in which you can feel peaceful in that moment — even if it seems like an impossibility. By grounding yourself and honing in on how you want to feel, you’ll subconsciously work towards attaining your goals. Make sure to keep the word you want to work on in a visible place so that you’re always working towards allowing that feeling to flow.
Have A Plan Of Action
Pre-pandemic, you worked outside of the home in your 9-5. But now, Covid has caused you to shift the way you view your job — and your life, really. But if you want to find a remote job so that you can be closer to home, you’ll need to put in a whole lot of effort in order to make it happen. And that’s when you need to put a plan into play, Dr. Michelle Rozen, a change expert, tells Celebrity Parents. “Having a specific goal is not enough — you need a specific action plan of how exactly you are going to make it happen,” says Dr. Rozen. “The more specific your plan is, the more you are curbing your brain from coming up with any excuses that would work against you.” Why does this happen? Well, according to Dr. Rozen, the brain likes the known and familiar, and starting something new is often met with resistance. Having a very specific set of plans can help overcome any hurdles you might unintentionally self-impose.
Have Support In Place
It’s hard to reach your resolutions alone. That’s why having a support system in place can help buoy you on those days when you’re struggling. “The more support you have to follow up on your goals and action plan, the more likely you are to succeed,” says Dr. Rozen. “Change is hard and it’s hard to do it alone. Involve as many people as you can from your circle or family and friends and join a community of like-minded people.” Having friends and family to check in on you (or commiserate with their own resolution challenges) can help you set realistic resolutions that will allow you to smash your goals.
Believe In Yourself
Look, it can be challenging to conquer a goal when you’ve attempted it in the past — and failed. Believing in yourself can help you set more realistic resolutions, and allow you to accomplish them. “Goals play a big role in how we perceive ourselves,” says Dr. Rozen. “If you picked goals that are not challenging enough for you, you will not feel stimulated and challenged to achieve them.” And the same goes for goals that are so lofty and ambitious that it might take much longer than you planned to reach them. Opt for goals that stimulate you, according to Dr. Rozen, but that are also within your reach—with a certain amount of stretch.
Schedule Time For Your Goals
You can have the best plans (and intentions) in the world, but if you don’t make time for your goals, they’re just not going to happen. “The best resolution for 2021 is scheduling,” says Kimberly Friedmutter, a psychotherapist and author of Subconscious Power: Use Your Inner Mind to Create the Life You’ve Always Wanted. “The single most disabling event of 2020 was being thrown off our schedules. However, if you approach 2021 from a calendar aspect, you can literally schedule yourself like you would a child…and no I’m not kidding!” If you think that you’ll skip out on your exercise class, put it on your calendar and block off the time. Having a routine can help make resolutions a reality.
Stop Trying To Do So Much
It might seem counterintuitive to try to do less. After all, isn’t that the point of resolutions—to accomplish more? But if you really want to have a balance (and a chance that you’ll check your resolutions off your list), you might need to reassess how much you’re doing on a daily basis, Monica Friel, an expert organizer and owner of Chaos To Order, a professional organizing company in Chicago, IL. “Don’t over-schedule your day,” advises Friel. “Plan for distractions, and if things go smooth, you can make use of the extra time.” Most importantly, you can use those precious moments to give yourself a pat on the back for what you have accomplished, which can ultimately motivate you to keep going.
Making resolutions is a great way to design how you want your New Year (and your life, really) to be. Learning how to set realistic resolutions will ensure that your dreams become a reality, and that you put yourself on the path towards your truest (and happiest) self.