How to make realistic New Year’s resolutions

I love making New Year’s resolutions. I’m weird like that. And, because I somehow possess willpower, I’m pretty successful at achieving them. Of course, it helps to make foolproof ones like: 1) Get up every morning 2) Go to work 3) Eat regularly. No, those would be lame resolutions. Stuff you already do doesn’t count, though it is nice to include one or two easy ones to give you that satisfying feeling of saying, Check! It’s like putting stuff on your To Do list that’s already done. Cheating? Maybe.

Then there are the more general resolutions like 1) Go on a diet 2) Quit smoking 3) Exercise more. While well-intentioned, these won’t do at all. Resolutions like this are too broad and impersonal; goals need to be measurable and achievable and personalized for you. You need to be able to visualize yourself doing these things, and the best way to do that is to break them down into steps. Big, amorphous steps are intimidating and confusing. Baby steps are doable. 

Let’s take exercising more as an example and break it down. I would ask myself the following questions:

  • Where will I exercise? At the gym? At home? Consider your comfort level and budget.
  • How often? Every day is probably unrealistic. Every other day? Twice a week?
  • What days will I be most likely to go? Plan ahead for pitfalls: What’s Plan B on days I have a conflict?
  • What time of day is realistic? Before work? Not so much, if you’re not a morning person. After dinner? Picking a time and putting it in a planner helps to concretize your commitment.
  • What obstacles might I encounter? Eliminate any impediments before they become excuses. If you need sneakers, go get them. Now. Also, buy a cute workout outfit, just because.
  • What type of exercise will I do? Specify as much as possible: 20 minutes of free weights, a half hour of cardio on the elliptical, one spinning class on the weekend…
  • What will I do if my commitment wanes? Prepare for setbacks but plan on success.

I find it helps to write the resolutions down in a journal, jotting down answers to questions like these to establish a step-by-step plan of attack, which, of course, requires a resolution to buy a sweet little journal. You could also start a blog to keep yourself honest. Nothing like the world watching you to make you want to succeed. Good luck, people.


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