Every year, after the holidays are over and January first is right around the corner, people across the world set out to change their lives overnight with a new year’s resolution. Why then, after just a couple of weeks, have most of us have completely given up on what we resolved to do? The answer is that most new year’s resolutions are neither healthy nor sustainable. It turns out, if you want to make healthy, long-lasting changes in your life you shouldn’t set a new year’s resolution. And here’s why.
#1. New year’s resolutions set you up for failure.
Most people set the same resolutions each year. Get in better shape, find a better job, save more money, and spend more quality time with our loved ones. But year after year, these well-intentioned resolutions don’t stick. We spend the first week of January trying to force ourselves to do things that are difficult or unnatural. We spend the second week feeling bad that we’re failing. And by the end of the month, we’ve completely forgotten that we had any new year’s resolutions at all.
#2. New year’s resolutions damage your self-esteem.
It’s no surprise that this cycle damages our self-esteem. When we make promises to ourselves and then continuously break them, we’re damaging our relationship with ourselves. We lose confidence and trust that we will actually follow through on what we say we are going to do and we end up feeling worse than we did before.
Eight Ways to Transform The Damaging Effects of New Years Resolutions
- Set goals that are attainable. Don’t think about what you want to accomplish in an entire year. Instead, start small and focus on one thing at a time. When that one small change becomes a habit, set another, slightly higher goal. The small, micro-habits over time will create sustainable lifestyle changes and boost our self-esteem.
- Don’t wait until the beginning of the new year. There is so much pressure around the new year to make big changes that often we make resolutions based on society’s (or our friends’ or family’s) expectations of who we should be and what we should do rather than our own. There is never a better time than right now to begin working towards our goals.
- Use milestones to track progress. A milestone tracks our progress and shows us how far we have come. Instead of having one huge milestone that shows up just once a year, set up weekly or bi-weekly check-ins as a way to track your progress and remind yourself what it was you wanted to achieve.
- Check-in with yourself on a regular basis. It’s important to give yourself regular progress reports. If your goal for the week was to exercise twice, how did that go? Did you achieve what you set out to accomplish? If so, great, maybe you go for three times next week or increase each workout by fifteen minutes. If not, no problem, failure is feedback. If you didn’t achieve your weekly goal, be honest with yourself about why not. Was the goal too difficult? Or, was there no meaning or purpose behind the goal? Failure can be an opportunity to redefine your why.
- Expect setbacks. When we set out to do anything new or challenging, we will experience setbacks. But stumbling forward is better than not moving at all. Remind yourself that nothing in life is linear and setbacks are part of the natural process. In fact, if we don’t experience any failures along our journey, it could be our goal isn’t challenging enough.
- Celebrate the small victories. It’s unrealistic to set a goal that takes an entire year to accomplish. And when we accomplish a goal of any size, we should celebrate ourselves. A ritual of celebrating small victories feels good, builds confidence, and is an opportunity to set the next, slightly higher goal.
- Be patient with yourself. Discovering the balance between goals that are achievable and goals that push us out of our current comfort zone takes time, practice, experimentation. There’s a learning curve and it’s natural to stumble along the way. None of us are perfect, nor were we ever meant to be. Be patient with yourself at whatever stage you are at.
- Get Support. Setting out to do anything on our own can be daunting. Check with your friends and family to see if anybody else is working towards something you are working towards. It’s helpful to have someone to talk to about both our challenges and our victories. A friend can also be an accountability buddy who is there to boost you up or support you when you’ve lost sight of your goal.
Setting out to accomplish a goal, no matter the time of year, can be a challenging task. Our therapists at The Relationship Place, in San Diego, CA have extensive training in mental and emotional health and are here to support you in developing healthy habits and behaviors. Contact us today to learn more.