Okay, here’s a quick history lesson: did you know that making – and breaking – New Year’s resolutions is an ancient tradition from the Babylonians? (That’s a lot of cancelled gym memberships.) Promises to pay debts and affirm loyalty to the king would be met with favor and good fortune, but breaking those promises were said to bring misfortune like drought or disease. Even the Romans adopted the tradition when January 1st was declared the beginning of a new year. Named after the two-faced god, Janus, who was able to look at the previous year and the future at the same time, January was a time of reflection and new promises.
Fast forward a few thousand years and we’re still carrying on the tradition (even if we don’t have to worry about being punished with famine when we have a moment of weakness and indulge in a pumpkin spice latte). But, like most of us, if you’ve ever made those resolutions, you’ve also probably broken one or two (or three, or four, or… you get the picture).
Instead of feeling guilty for that unused gym membership or because your coworker brought in doughnuts this morning (Thanks a lot, Kathy), we’ve got some tips to help you stay on track:
Be specific – Instead of saying “I’m going to lose weight” or “I need to save more money,” use a specific number or amount. If you know exactly how far you need to go, you have a finish line you can see. If it’s something harder to quantify, like “be a more positive person,” try to turn those goals into specific actions that can be tracked.
Track and record – WRITE. IT. DOWN. The simple act of putting your goals on paper will encourage you to see them through. And make sure you’re logging your progress every day. You’ll develop a routine and it will be easier to stick with your resolutions since you’re holding yourself accountable.
Be realistic – Sure, it would be awesome to have enough money to own a private, tropical island, but it’s probably not going to happen (yet). Baby steps, people. If you want to buy that island, you have to save some cash – so let’s start with $250 instead of millions. Putting $25 aside every paycheck is easier, and hitting your goal over and over will be way more motivating than rarely hitting a goal that’s out of reach.
Set a timeline – No one said you had to pick a goal that stretched the entire year. It might be easier to set weekly or monthly targets. For example, if you want to lose 20 pounds, every week you’ll get on the scale and look for a 20 pound loss… but realistically, you might only see a 1-2 pound difference. That can stress you out and make you feel like you aren’t making any progress. Instead, let’s add an end date: “I want to lose 20 pounds in 4 months.” Now you have a weekly goal of 1 pound and you’ll achieve that goal more often. The positive association with the success will fuel your momentum.
Make sure it motivates you – Make sure the goal you’ve set will be something you want to do. Hate going to the gym but want to lose weight? Trying running outside, joining a team sport or just cooking healthier recipes. There are plenty of other ways to hit your target. You don’t have to love everything about it, but misery won’t make it any easier to reach tough goals.
Good luck, and cheers to a new and improved us in 2019! After all, we’re all in this together.