It’s the first Friday of 2017…time to check in and see how many of you have already given up on your New Year’s Resolutions. Let’s be honest: Too many of us make a list of resolutions that involve getting our lives together, but we don’t follow through with those plans. Or we start the year off strong — like going to the gym or not cussing — then by the end of week 1 we’re already back to our old habits.
The reason for this lack of commitment isn’t because we’re weak-minded or because resolutions aren’t worth it, it’s because we make unrealistic goals and we don’t hold ourselves accountable for not remaining committed. There aren’t any real consequences for failing to keep your resolutions.
For this new year, let’s make the change. Let’s be responsible adults, and follow through with the goals we set for ourselves. First things first, you have to make realistic goals for yourself. It’s perfectly fine to say you want to work out, but figure out exactly how much time you are willing to devote to that workout. Whether you want to start off slow and workout twice a week, or if you want to strengthen your core by holding a plank position for at least 2 minutes a day, your goal has to fit in with your current lifestyle. Can you make it to the gym in between work, school, kids, etc? Is there a way you can shuffle your schedule to allow for early morning, mid-afternoon or late night planks? Figure out what it is you would like to change, and how you can change it without upsetting your entire schedule. Our new goals are supposed to make us better people, not keep us from handling other responsibilities.
Now that you’ve made a list of at least 1 realistic goal, let’s move on to accountability. In order to keep ourselves on track with our new goals, there have to be consequences if we fall off the path. These consequences don’t have to be extremely harsh, but they have to be strict enough to keep us in check. You can also have a different consequence that relates to each goal you’ve set. My number one goal is to save at least $50 per paycheck. This goal is realistic, and works with my current lifestyle. My responsibilities will still be handled first, I will just have less spending cash for non-necessities. The consequence for not completing this goal: no leisure spending from the next paycheck. Whatever is left over after bills are paid and groceries & other necessities are purchased goes straight into savings. To better my chances of keeping up with my goal, I have limited access to my savings account. The money cannot be touched unless I call my bank to authorize the transfer of funds. This holds me accountable for my goal and keeps me in check when I feel like spending money recklessly.
My third suggestion for keeping your new year goals, is to reward yourself after a few months of staying on track. This trick is called positive reinforcement. It doesn’t have to be anything extreme, just a little something to thank yourself for being good to you. After 3 months of saving at least $50 from every paycheck, I should have saved about $300. If I meet this goal, I get to make one reckless purchase. This purchase could be anything from a new purse that doesn’t match anything in my closet to a new pair of shoes I only plan to wear on super special occassions. The positive reinforcement makes you want to meet your goal every time to allow yourself that reward; and the lengthy amount of time in between rewards will keep you from becoming dependent on receiving the reward.
At the end of every year, we fool ourselves into believing that the transition into a new year will somehow erase resolutions we’ve forgotten to keep over the last 12 months; that regardless of what we promised — and failed — to change last year, we can make new promises and keep them this time around. We don’t look into why we continually fail to stick with our resolutions, we just quit them and wait until January 1st to start fresh with more resolutions. We have to break the cycle of failed attempts to change ourselves by trying new tactics that will actually work.
Making realistic goals, holding yourself accountable for staying on track with those goals and rewarding yourself every so often for following through with them is the simplest way to keep your new year resolutions and become a better person. Although we have almost completed the first week of 2017, it’s never too late to start fresh. Make a list of at least 2 or 3 goals and start walking your new path. Remain committed to your goals and hold yourself accountable for any lapses on your journey to a new you. Be proud of your accomplishments and applaud yourself for not straying from the path. When December rolls around again, you’ll be able to look back and see the progress you’ve made.