I recently saw an old friend who was still talking about New Year’s resolutions…in December. I was like, “honey, 92% of us gave that up months ago.” But then she told me about her novel approach to resolutions, which is that she chooses a new resolution each month. She said it’s easier to stick to them, knowing she only has to last 30 days. The 12 Months of New Year’s resolutions? Novel!
Every year, I make a laundry list of promises I’ll never keep. Many of them are vague like, “be a better mom” or “eat healthy.” Evidence shows that a lack of specificity torpedoes resolutions. So, get specific. Promise instead to play a game, one on one, with your child for thirty minutes after school. Or say that you’ll get at least three servings of veggies in every day. Make goals clear. Then make them short term. If you like one, keep it going into the next month. Otherwise, move on to the next one.
Kick-Start a Habit
Experts say it takes at least three weeks for a new activity to become a habit (well, usually). Therefore, a month stab at all of the resolutions is a good chance to see what fits into your lifestyle. Maybe it even sets you on a better course. The fact is, some resolutions might not be ones you want to keep up on a strict basis all year long. For instance, my friend gave up booze entirely for the month of January. She intended to imbibe again, but first she reset her body and taste buds by staying totally dry for 30 days. When February came, she’d broken the bad habit of daily drinking that the holidays tend to bring.
Build on Resolutions Month-by-Month
A problem I have is making too many resolutions. I’ll have a list of ten or more (good for the 12 month approach!). Don’t try tackling them all at once. How can you structure them so that they build on one another? For example, if your overall plan is to lose weight, you might need to cut back on alcohol, eat healthier, and start exercising. Start with one specific goal: drink only two nights a week. Once February rolls around, try to incorporate eating three servings of veggies per day. Then in March, add exercising four times a week. Heck, by April, you’ll be looking good! Resist the urge to do it all at once. Studies show that people can easily get decision fatigue, which leads to quitting everything.
Don’t be afraid to adjust as needed. My friend declared July “yoga month” but by day three, she slipped a disk in her back, and yoga was out. In this case, July became “physical therapy month.” There are two lessons to learn from my friend’s bad luck. The first: go slow. If you never do yoga, start by promising to do it twice a week, not daily. Chances are much higher that you’ll stick to a more conservative plan that accounts for the difficulty of adding in a new habit to your already busy week. The other lesson is to not get dissuaded just because things don’t go perfectly. If you start out promising to run, but you find out you hate running but love Zumba, turn running month into Zumba month. The spirit, not the letter of, the resolution is what counts.
Share with us! How do you approach New Year’s resolutions?