The beginning of a new year is compelling when you’re looking to make some healthy changes. That January changeover feels like a fresh start, and that’s why it’s so common for promises to get declared — only to be abandoned by the majority of resolution-setters by the time February hits.
If you’ve been in that camp before, consider a strategy to revamp for the next go-round. Rather than thinking you need more willpower, discipline or motivation try these easier tactics:
Although the calendar provides that spring-loaded date as a jumping-off point, setting New Year’s Day as your starting line can be problematic, too. It tends to create more pressure, especially if you’ve had a busy holiday season and need some restorative time instead says Aaron Leventhal, NSCA certified personal trainer and owner of Fit Studios in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Picking a more random, uncommon start day can be easier because it gives you more breathing room between the holiday frenzy and your resolutions. For example, choose January 7, the first Monday of the new year. Or, if you want to get a jump on next year’s changes, put them in place before the year kicks off, on a day like December 27th. Finally, birthday resolutions are gaining momentum.
Some resolutions are biggies, and that’s OK. Maybe this is the year you quit smoking, change your job, track all your food in MyFitnessPal, go to the gym three times a week or whatever major shift you have in mind. But even with those large-scale resolutions, success comes down to what you do today. That means breaking down your goal into an “end of day” win, suggests Dave Asprey, author of “The Bulletproof Diet.”
“You want a resolution that’s achievable and doesn’t require perfection and that requires you do something every single day to advance toward that goal,” he says. “Focusing on today is very helpful for avoiding procrastination, and more importantly, for dealing with what happens if you fail a little bit. It’s OK if that happens, because you start fresh tomorrow.”
Two of the most common pieces of advice with goal setting are to make your mission doable and specific. For example, instead of saying, “I’m going to eat healthier,” it’s more helpful to first commit to adding one extra serving of vegetables per meal. Less common, though, is the directive to put a timeframe, like a month, or potential endpoint to the effort.
For instance, add that extra serving for one month. Then, when the next month rolls around, add two servings. Setting a certain timeframe for each effort gives you more of a sense of progress than having an open-ended goal, according to James Tyler Dodge, certified strength and conditioning specialist and performance coach at Professional Physical Therapy in New York.
“To achieve an understanding of progress, you have to be able to measure how you’re doing, and time is a factor for that,” he says. “Without knowing how you’re changing week to week or over a month, it’s harder to set your next set of goals.”
Navy SEAL Admiral William McRaven has gained some measure of fame for his simple-but-powerful advice on how to change your life: Make your bed every morning.
Although this was paired with numerous other lessons about how to cultivate determination, compassion and discipline, the admiral’s main tactic emphasizes the importance of setting yourself up for the day by doing one quick, easy task that makes you feel a sense of accomplishment before you grab your first cup of coffee.
Never underestimate the strength of a win and how that feeling can set you up for larger changes over time. Each success emphasizes your progress — and those micro-benchmarks should be celebrated.
In the midst of change, it’s easy to think mainly about the process as you continue toward your goals. But there’s also considerable power in imagining you’re already past those initial goals, suggests Jen Sincero, author of “You Are a Badass.”
“Give your brain something to aim for,” she advises. “Visualization trains your mind in the same way that working out trains your body. You begin to crave those images of succeeding.”
Be as specific as possible when you imagine hitting your goals Sincero adds. For instance, if you have weight loss as a resolution, don’t just think about seeing a certain number on the scale. Instead, picture yourself in a fitting room, putting on a pair of pants a few sizes smaller than you currently wear and zipping them up comfortably — maybe even with a little room to spare.