It’s that time of year again. Amidst the shopping lists, holiday parties, and all those cookies, you might be thinking that 2016 will finally be the year you stick to your New Year’s resolutions.
But, like so many of us, you also might find yourself trudging through February or March with distant memories of motivation.
Being realistic about resolutions can be harder than it seems, especially when the start date is still a few weeks (and a few celebrations) away.
Resolutions aren’t for everyone, but if they’re on your mind this month, here are a few dos and don’ts of setting realistic goals.
- Do focus on the relevant and attainable. Remember that resolutions are about reflecting on the previous year and identifying how change can positively impact your life. Be realistic about what changes mean the most to you and focus on the significant few.
- Do stay positive. We all experience difficulties when it comes to doing certain tasks or activities. Instead of dwelling on those, shift your focus to improving your existing strengths. Doing so can improve your self-esteem and confidence in your ability to meet your goals. For example, if you’re already good at writing or knitting, help a friend sharpen his or her skills. Not only will teaching help you improve, but giving feels great.
- Do make a plan and start small. You probably didn’t learn to ride a bike overnight. Enabling change is a little like using muscle memory. It takes time to change patterns of behavior or habits, so start small. Whether that’s 10 minutes of meditation or running a day, small steps lead to big change.
- Do take it easy on yourself. Staying on track is important, but hitting a few bumps and missteps along the way is perfectly normal. Life is hectic and things happen. Don’t give up because you splurged on a dessert one day or skipped a workout.
- Do share your goals–and celebrate your mini-victories. Whether you choose to share your goals with family or friends, a local club or organization, or even on social media, sharing challenges and successes and gaining support may help keep you headed in the right direction.
- Don’t expect perfection. Don’t let perfect get in the way of good. Remember that most resolutions are about improving, about being better than you were the day or month before.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for or accept help. Some days are stressful. That’s why the people in your world are there to help. Don’t be afraid to ask for some extra motivation or have someone help keep you on track by regularly checking in on your progress.
- Don’t lose sight of what’s important. Don’t let a focus on self-improvement become an unhealthy obsession. Remember the people and things in your life that bring you joy, regardless of change.
As the end of the year nears, remember that January 1 isn’t the start date of grand change. It’s an opportunity to look back and move forward to a healthier, better you. So join us in shifting our focus to the smaller things (let’s call them micro-resolutions) that create positive change one tiny step at a time.
Teni Davoudian, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and the newest member of the Mental Health and Wellness team at the Center for Women’s Health.