The turn of the year brings hope that you will finally have the motivation to make that crucial step in your life. It’s supposed to be a time for self-realization, self-actualization and the fulfilled promise to yourself (and others) that you’ll be a newer, better you.
But let’s face it: New Year’s resolutions are not fun. The pressure of making “perfect” resolutions and actually sticking to them can be pretty crippling. Traditionally, we’ve placed so much emphasis on the idea of starting over that failure often leads to guilt, shame and just wanting to throw the towel in altogether.
Plus, resolutions might not be all that beneficial to our emotional health.
According to Psychology Today, out of the 45% of Americans who make resolutions, more than half fail at the 1 week mark, with another 40% failing at the 1 month mark. Even worse, those who fail reported lower self-esteem, sadness and even depression.
Negative Reinforcement Produces Bad Results.
As expected, the top resolutions involve correcting “bad” behavior: lose weight, stop smoking or drinking, stop spending so much money, stop procrastinating, etc. Most of the time, it seems like our resolutions are framed as punishments rather than steps towards positive life changes.
But this doesn’t mean that the intent behind behind those resolutions are bad. However, if you are having trouble keeping to your resolutions, it might be time to start rethinking how you frame them.
Rather than focusing on correcting bad behavior, try reinforcing or emphasizing good behavior. It’s a much more positive and motivational way to remind yourself that you are working towards betterment, rather than being disappointed every time you fall short or make a mistake.
Here are some ideas for positive, reaffirming New Year resolutions. And remember: You don’t ever have to wait until New Year’s Day to make a change in your life. That step can happen at any moment – it’s just up to you when to begin.
Keep Investing in the Relationships That Matter.
We live in a time when it is so easy to communicate, regardless of physical distance.
The old excuse of “I just don’t have time” doesn’t really hold up anymore. So, call your parents. Make an effort to stay in touch with the friends who you see yourself growing old with. Plan deeply memorable bonding experiences with the people close to you, whether it’s a camping trip, road trip, dinner date, or even a weekly workout session and snack afterwards. You will find that, in the process of investing in the relationships that matter, the toxic or meaningless ones naturally fall away. And that’s for the best.
Give Yourself Some Space.
Space can come in many ways, whether physical, emotional or mental.
Maybe you’re someone who is always saying “yes,” who helps others so much that you lose time for yourself. When you overreach and give too much of yourself away, you can start building resentment for others and feel depleted, stressed and helpless. Instead, teach yourself to say “no” when it counts. That’s not you being selfish, it’s just you giving yourself some much-needed space.
Or maybe space comes physically. Maybe your home is so cluttered and disorganized that it’s affecting your personal life. (Clutter increases stress, decreases productivity, drains your wallet, can be harmful to your health, and jeopardizes relationships with loved ones.) Make a dedicated effort to treat your home and health with respect, whether it’s getting storage, reorganizing, or selling/donating what you no longer need.
Whatever “space” means to you, don’t feel guilty for giving it to yourself.
Take Care of Yourself.
Losing weight, stopping vices, getting more sleep – these all fall under the umbrella of simply taking better care of yourself. But rather than seeing these resolutions as things you’re forbidding yourself to do (or taking away from yourself), try thinking about them from a perspective of love and self-care.
Treat Your Time and Energy With Respect.
Procrastination, excessive social media usage, laziness – all of these things affect your time and energy. To combat procrastination, I personally like to think of “present me” doing a favor for “future me.”
Another highly effective method is the Five Minute Miracle: perform a task that moves a project or action item forward, that takes less than five minutes to complete. Research shows that once you start something, you’re much more likely to finish it.
One of the biggest things getting in the way of accomplishing goals is the “all or nothing” mentality.
Basically, you have to do everything perfectly, or it’s not even worth trying or finishing. This approach often surfaces in health and fitness; for example, if you slip up and eat a cupcake one day during your diet, the entire day is a wash. The all-or-nothing mentality tells you to give up and continue eating haphazardly for the rest of the day, and instead start over again – perfectly – tomorrow.
For the majority of people, the all-or-nothing approach does not work. Instead, remember that your journey is a long one, and that conditions do not have to be perfect in order for you to make small progress. Focus instead on doing the right things more often, and forgive yourself when you fall short or slip up. Don’t give up if it’s not perfect – just recognize your mistakes and move past them. That’s where true progress comes from.