New Year, So What?

We’re a month into the new year. How ‘bout them resolutions?

Posted Jan 31, 2020

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The end of 2019 wasn’t just the end of another year; it was the end of a decade. How many times did you hear that? And while that line may have been clever and gotten a few chuckles at the start of December, you’re probably tired of hearing that by now.

This glum outlook was probably intensified by those reflective social media posts from both friends and celebrities documenting major changes they’ve gone through in the last ten years, television and radio presenting big moments and hits... you get the picture.

Now that it’s a new year, and a new decade, another dilemma: deciding how this next phase is going to be different. But do we have to? Why is it that just because we’re now writing 2020 instead of 2019, we have to all of a sudden take a stance on what we’re keeping and what we’re letting go of? Why do we have to take this moment to reflect on what we’ve gone through, where we’ve been, and where we’re going?

I’m not saying that a new year isn’t a time to reflect—but rather that it’s far from the only time to. The way in which we think about ourselves, our goals, and our self-imposed obstacles to those goals in January shouldn’t be different than how we do so in July. We might think that a new year gives us some kind of blank slate, but we both know that isn’t true. We still bring our fears, our anxieties, our hopes, our habits into January. And time imposed on us rather than the time we take for ourselves usually doesn’t lead to lasting change.

So what does? Thinking about the good, the bad, and the in-between. You are more than a top nine set of photos that show you smiling at the camera. You are also more than those low moments that might have come before or after. You’re all that and those moments in between when you were simply surviving or striving. Look at yourself as a whole album that shows a range of experience and emotion.

I get it—reflecting all the time isn’t easy or comfortable. But it’s in the discomfort that we actually find the motivation to change and do something differently. Think about it like this: it’s cold outside and your apartment is nice and toasty. Why would you ever leave or even get off the couch unless for a really good reason? Maybe if your radiator broke and that window is still cracked, letting cold air in, you’d have to actually get up and notify the super. And even if you call him, you’re still going to get off the couch to unlock the door chain. When the status quo no longer works for us, we act.

Those actions, those changes I’m talking about—many people call them resolutions. Resolutions. It’s become a word associated with changes we hope to make but probably won’t. Resolutions are intimidating and vague and have probably become the subject of a joke during casual conversation by now. For some people, setting a new goal at the start of the year works but probably because it’s a goal they’d been thinking about for a while, had tried before, or found the right motivation besides a moment in time. For others, it just doesn’t.

You don’t have to have resolutions just because it’s a new year but if you decide to, or even if you’re inspired a few months down the line, here are some helpful tips in setting them:

Be Specific, But Realistic

You want to “get in shape” but what does that actually mean? Physically, that could mean weight loss, getting toned, sleeping better, eating healthier. Identifying something specific gives you something concrete to hold onto. You’ll be able to tell yourself when you’ve gotten there or when you’re close. Getting too specific but not realistic, though, makes it easy to feel like you’re not succeeding. You are not going to hit the gym every day. You’re just not. Five times a week? Maybe? Start small and lower the bar. You can always raise it.

Build on What You Already Do

Yes, you can decide with zero experience in budgeting that you’re going to save $50k this year. You might actually do it and if so, congrats! But a smarter approach is to set yourself up for success and set goals that you’re actually likely to achieve based on what you've been already been doing. Instead of saving $50k, set your sights on $20k. You’ve already toyed with cooking dinner at home most nights and setting a cap on how much you spend on coffee per week. Can you expand on the skills you’ve already started to hone?

Identify Sub-Goals

You set your goal. Now what? Break your goal down into smaller goals that give you that feel-good feeling along the way. That feeling serves as a reinforcer. keeps you going, and makes you stronger. Do you think Mario would ever be able to save Princess Peach if he didn’t fight all those bosses throughout the game and level up? It isn’t cheating to set smaller goals and go after them. You would have to do them anyway and they all lend to that bigger goal. 

Find the Right Motivation and Support

Lastly, a ball dropping in Times Square didn’t magically grant you a year’s worth of motivation to get you to the end of that goal. The “it’s now or never” attitude usually means both now and then never again. What are your reasons for doing what you’ve set out to accomplish? They can be for yourself, but they can also be for others. When we have a number of motivators, we can toggle among them when we’re feeling low. The same goes for support. What sources of support do you already have in place to get you going? What support do you still need? What support do you have that’s actually debilitating and keeps you too comfortable to change?

Taking on extreme resolutions before we’re actually ready sends ourselves the message that the past year was full of mistakes while that’s not usually accurate. We learn from our experiences every day and a little reflection helps those lessons naturally give way to change.