For many of us, each new year represents a clean slate to revive goals and become a better version of ourselves. But new year’s resolutions only last as long as our resolve to lead a healthier life, whether we’re kicking a bad habit or kick-starting a good one.
The key is to avoid giving up too much, or before long, you will give up on your resolutions.
“Never make a goal that’s so big that it becomes something you can’t sustain in the long run,” says Carey Shore, MS, RD, LD, registered and licensed dietitian at Methodist Dallas and Methodist Richardson Medical Centers. “Many people fail to keep the resolutions they made at the start of the year because they underestimate what it takes to get there.”
In other words, make sacrifices and commitments you can live with in order to reach your goals. Here are a few tips to help you stay the course.
1. BE REALISTIC
Make sure that our goal is something you can envision yourself accomplishing. This will help you decide whether it’s realistic or not.
“Visualization is a powerful way to help you assess where you need to make the changes in your life to achieve your goals,” Shore says. “For example, if your goal is to lose weight, you would need to imagine yourself eating healthier and exercising.”
A lack of motivation is among the biggest contributing factors to falling short of the target. If you don’t feel motivated to lose weight or eat healthier, maybe you need to reframe your goal.
Try this simple “future you” exercise: Imagine each step of your goal as a favor you’re doing for someone else. If you don’t have the energy to do something healthy for your own sake, think about how much “future you” will appreciate it. Or how disappointed they’ll be if you don’t.
This may also help you recognize the bad habits you need to cut out of your lifestyle.
2. MAKE A PLAN YOU CAN KEEP
If you just commit your goals to memory, they may become a moving target and probably won’t move in the right direction.
If you haven’t done so already, write out the details of your plan and post your goals somewhere you can see them daily. That will help you hold yourself accountable.
“Write the quantifiable details to help you stay on track,” Shore says. “Break down your goals by the day or week, so at the end of the term, you can check in to see your progress.”
Write inspirational notes to yourself on sticky notes and place them on your bathroom mirror or the refrigerator. Use a calendar or a planner to set a daily agenda and prioritize your tasks. That will remind you to not let a day go by without making positive strides.
“It takes 21 days to form a habit,” Shore says. “Give yourself the road map to start and track your progress on the way towards completing your goal.”
3. SEEK OUT ACCOUNTABILITY
Holding yourself accountable is important, but having someone you trust to lean on can make a big difference.
Tell friends or family members about your resolutions. There will be days when you want to throw in the towel, so it’s good for the people closest to you to know what you’re working toward. Who knows? You just might inspire them to join you on your journey.
Social media can also be a great resource to gain accountability, so long as you can tune out the trolls. Find a like-minded group on your favorite platform to see how others stay motivated. Share how you’re doing, too, and you will gain cyber cheerleaders to encourage you.
4. TRACK YOUR PROGRESS
Incremental goals can help you stay on track. Set a 90-day milestone so you can monitor what worked, what didn’t, and how to change your approach for the next 90 days.
“It’s important to take inventory of your efforts,” Shore says. “When you are honest with yourself, it can help you avoid repeated failures. Get to know your triggers and create a new action plan around them.”
Try keeping a journal to log your progress. Seeing yourself achieve small goals can help you maintain the drive to keep going. Take “before and after” photos to help you see how far you’ve come.
5. BE KIND TO YOURSELF
Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t see immediate progress. We’re often our own worst critics. Just get back up and try again.
“Desirable change is a process and can take time to develop,” Shore says. “Keep in mind that you made a commitment to yourself. Just cut off any distractions and get back out there until you reach your finish line.”