How many years has it been since you’ve stopped bothering to set a New Year’s resolution? It’s okay to admit if it’s not exactly you’re thing – at least not since that one year you stuck it out with a low-carb diet until April. That might have been your best year yet in terms of resolution setting, and there’s nothing wrong with that, either.
If you made it that far, you should pat yourself on the back right now. No, sincerely, do it because there is something so insurmountable about the concept of New Year’s resolutions. Is it our grandiose goals? Our lack of potential?
The drawback of New Year’s resolutions is not that any of us are incapable of sticking to something good until April. The issue is that the term compels us to examine our lives and devise goals through a short-term lens. When in truth, we could all benefit far more by keeping our focus on lasting change.
This year, consider the following five keys for setting realistic goals:
1. Look at Your Life as It Is
For most of us, trying to change too much too soon can quickly become demotivating.
If you intend on setting yourself up for success with daily goals in mind, think about your schedule realistically. If you know you have time to work out only three days per week, make your goal to be healthier on those three days. If you currently don’t exercise at all, start with one or two days, even if you have time for three.
If you work a 60-hour workweek, consider the time you spend doing less important things – can you realistically trim anything down?
When we are realistic about our lives and what they entail, it becomes easier to set ourselves up for success.
2. Set One Goal at a Time
It’s okay to take it slow, baby steps – or even long strides if that’s what feels most comfortable for you.
The key is to focus on one goal at a time. Trying to tackle too many things at once is not only unrealistic, but it can also lead to feelings of inadequacy or guilt when we’re unable to complete everything we set out to do.
So, this year, pick one area of your life that you would like to see improve and focus your energy on that.
3. Celebrate Your Victories
When we celebrate our victories, no matter how small they may seem, we are more likely to maintain our motivation and continue working towards our goals.
Just be mindful to avoid saying things like, “I’ll eat a piece of cake this weekend if I work out every day this week.” There’s nothing wrong with you eating cake, ever. We might not mean to, but making these connections train our minds to think things like, well, if I don’t do enough of Y, I don’t deserve X.
Find a way to reward your victories along the way without falling into a punishment trap instead. Acknowledging your efforts will help you feel good about yourself and keep your motivation high.
4. Revisit Your Goals & Approach
Don’t be afraid to change your approach if you aren’t getting anywhere.
If your attempts to get more exercise have failed thus far, perhaps it is time to change your workout routine. Explore options until you find something you enjoy doing.
Think of exercise as movement because movement is more inclusive than formal exercise. Movement could be anything from dancing to cleaning or gardening! Rather than dieting, practice intuitive eating and eat what feels right for you and good for your body, rather than avoiding what you label as “bad”.
Each time you find yourself thinking of your goal in terms of a chore, burden, or even a punishment, challenge yourself to reframe your mindset. Listen to your body more than you analyze the food tracker on your app or the number of checkmarks next to the completed gym days on your calendar.
5. Practice Self-Compassion
While it is important to remain realistic in your approach and expectations, it is equally important to remember that you are more than your mistakes.
Setbacks are inevitable; what matters is how you handle them. So, if something doesn’t work out the way you intended today, don’t beat yourself up over it.
Instead, practice self-compassion. Tell yourself that you are only human and that making mistakes is a part of the learning process. This way, you can approach your goals with kindness and understanding, which will take you farther in the long run than harshness or judgment