New year, new same (but better) you. That’s what New Year’s resolutions are made for, right? But there’s more to it than that. Setting New Year’s resolutions is only half the battle. The rest? Sticking to them. Creating new routines and breaking old habits is a game of psychological warfare. Only this time, it’s you vs. you. Here are some tips and tricks to making those New Year’s resolutions actually stick this time around.
Step 1: Make Realistic New Year’s Resolutions
Sticking to your New Year’s resolutions is tough enough, which is why starting out on the right foot is key. That means setting S.M.A.R.T. goals. When you’re plotting out your year-long goals, remember they need to stick to these general guidelines:
- Specific – When you’re deciding on those New Year’s resolutions, they gotta be specific. Wishy-washy goals aren’t welcome here. Be specific about what you want to accomplish this year.
- Measurable – Ok, now that you’ve set your resolutions, how are you going to measure your success? It’s like if you decided that you wanted to decrease your body fat, but didn’t have a scale or method to measure it. What’s the point of that? Making resolutions measurable makes your success feel more tangible.
- Attainable – This one is paramount. Even if you want to become a better swimmer, you won’t become an Olympic swimmer overnight. Your New Year’s resolutions must be attainable.
- Relevant – Sure, you can definitely set a resolution to eat two cupcakes a week. But is it relevant and applicable to your overall fitness goals? Probably not. You should use your resolutions as stepping stones to your larger life goals. Make ‘em relevant, eh, and you’ll get more from your hard work.
- Timely – When do you envision hitting this goal? After a few months? Maybe after a year? Don’t set wishy-washy goals without a timeframe.Keep in mind that you can also use milestones to break up your much larger resolutions into smaller, more manageable (and measurable) chunks.
Let’s be real. There’s no healthy way to achieve your year-long goals within the first few weeks of the new year. If you’re hitting goals that soon, then you probably didn’t make your goals tough enough. You gotta find that magic balance between going for those stretch goals and setting stupidly easy goals. And although it might seem like being able to quickly achieve easy goals is the better option, it’s not. Has any life-changing growth ever happened from measly, wimpy goals? No! Set yourself up for success (and growth) by setting S.M.A.R.T New Year’s resolutions.
Tricks for Making Your Resolutions Stick
Ok, now that you’ve identified your resolutions, it’s time for a good, ol’ fashioned game of psychological warfare – against yourself. You see, we humans are remarkably disposed to sticking to our old habits. Back in the caveperson days, sticking to routines helped us find those reliable stockpiles of food and watering holes. But then came fire, and we used our novel discoveries to grow, evolve, and form new habits.
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So how do you break old habits and replace them with routines that will help you achieve those New Year’s resolutions? One key to success is nailing the cue-habit-reward sequence rooted deep within your brain. This psychological sequence can basically sum up the motivations and reasons why you do the things that you do. Oh, and when you do them, and what you do that cues the not-so-good habits.
For many people, resolutions focus on replacing old habits for new ones. Let’s look at dietary changes as an example. Think about that one guilty pleasure that you’d like to change just a little (or a lot, that’s up to you). If you find yourself craving an unhealthy, salted snack in the middle of the afternoon, it’s easy to cave into temptation and go for that oh-so-convenient junk food. Mmmm salty chips. Or maybe it’s your afternoon handful of cookies. The reward? A temporary sense of escape from the daily grind.
Whatever it is, there’s a cue that starts the craving process. And if you really examine the root of the craving, there’s a good chance that it doesn’t have much to do with actual hunger. In this case, the craving might actually be your body telling you that it needs a break from the computer screen.The cue is your need for a mental break. Instead of heading for a snack, take a 10-minute scroll break or go for a quick walk. Heck, even 10 minutes of impromptu meditation or yoga might do the trick. The key is to find a habit that provides you with the same degree of reward.
Raise your hand if you’re your own worst critic. Give yourself grace and remember that you’re only human. And keep in mind that you should review and revise your New Year’s resolutions throughout the year, because life happens. When all else fails, remember that you’re not perfect – and that’s okay. Everyone gets knocked down and derailed. Such is life. But the important part is that you get back up, brush off the dirt, and reset. And it all comes back to being realistic. Show yourself the same grace and forgiveness that others would show to you. It’s too easy to be hard on yourself. In the end, the secret to setting and achieving realistic goals is unlocking the cue-habit-reward psychological sequence. After all, you deserve a reward for achieving your goals and creating new habits. Cheers to 2021, you Inspirationalist, you!