Well, January is over. How are those New Year’s resolutions going?
I always have loved the forward momentum of January. The entire world seems to be resetting, and everyone is moving forward with visions of their best self at the forefront. It’s an invigorating time of year, but we also know how short-lived it is and can’t help but laugh at ourselves collectively falling on our faces year after year with these resolutions. Which sucks because if we’re not growing, we’re not thriving, and every year we set the best of intentions that, honestly, would make such an impact if we could just keep to them.
So, here we are in February, having either abandoned our New Year’s resolutions completely or are floundering to keep them alive. As a person who has tried and failed (mostly failed) to keep resolutions many times, here are my tried and tested and totally awesome tips for keeping that January momentum going throughout the whole year!
1. Observe the One-Minute Rule
Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project and Happier podcast is the source of this so simple, so elegant, so effective rule. If it can be done in one minute, do it immediately. It’s beautiful because it’s small. So small that it’s easy to scoff at. When I first encountered the concept, I was a nonbeliever. My goals were too lofty and time too precious to think that dedicating one minute, and only one minute, of time to anything could yield a meaningful result.
But minutes, like dollars, can add up to a significant amount. Doing a short plank when you get out of bed takes one minute. Folding up that blanket and placing it nicely on your couch takes one minute. Hanging up your coat, instead of flinging it somewhere, takes one minute. Enough minutes go by, and suddenly you have abs of steel and a clean house. Small actions make a big impact. Apply the One Minute Rule to aspects of your resolutions and be amazed by the change you see in yourself.
2. Be specific!
What are the most common New Year’s resolutions? Lose weight. Eat healthy. Have a better year at work. Be happier. Okay, all good things — but notice how many of us never get farther than just “be better.” When we think of improving our lives, it’s very easy to want to think in terms of the broad: we just want to be healthier, happier, and more successful. But each of those wants comes with the methods of how, and it’s when you address those goals that the rest of those broad ambitions fall into place.
Instead of saying you “want to lose weight,” tell yourself you want to lose at least five lbs. monthly. Go one step farther and say, “I resolve to exercise at least three times a week” or “I will give up processed foods for a month” or “I promise to drink two liters of water a day.” Break that weight loss goal into the nuts and bolts, and hold yourself accountable to those instead.
This idea also works for those less concrete concepts like “Be happier.” There are two ways to pare that idea down: what do I know makes me unhappy, and what are things that bring me joy? Maybe you are happiest when you travel, and therefore resolve to work more day trips into your year. Maybe an old college frenemy is bringing you down, and it’s time to cut that social media chord. Getting specific with your goals is an easy adjustment that takes those lofty goals and puts them in plain, attainable terms.
3. “Follow the leader”
If you’re anything like me, you sometimes find yourself staring adoringly at various social media influencers or even peers that have just “got it.” While it’s good to be realistic and know that social media is 99% smoke and mirrors, there is some value in being inspired.
Have a friend that just started meal prepping via cute little mason jar salads? Maybe you try your hand at meal-prepping. Got a friend that is a deadlift beast at the gym? Start playing with weights. Want a Kardashian ass? Pinterest and Youtube have tons of free booty workouts. There’s nothing wrong with finding small role models in others and finding ways to incorporate those traits into your life, your way and on your terms.
4. Challenge Yourself 30 Days at a Time
We’ve all heard the adage that it takes 21 days to cement a new habit into your life. While recent studies show that it actually can take anywhere from 18 days to over 200, I still like to think that there’s something magical about 30 days (basically a month). Within the scope of a year, 30 days just isn’t that long of a time, but it is a decent chunk to commit yourself to.
One of my personal goals this year was to “be healthier.” One of the breakdowns of how to achieve this goal was, of course, regular and varied exercise. I didn’t just want to exercise more — I wanted to get strong. I had to walk before I could run (quite literally on some days) and started my year with a small set of rules. Planks. Squats. Water intake goals. The promise to avoid certain problem foods. I just had to make it through 30 days.
Like with so many things, I started out with great resolve and enthusiasm. Then halfway through, I hated it. But on those days, it was easy to look at the calendar and say, “Anybody can do anything for 12 more days.” By the end of my 30 days, it felt weird to think that I was just gonna stop, and so the best of those rules (practically against my will) have now become part of the daily routine.
This concept of the “30-day challenge” extends well beyond things like exercise. I have used this method to establish mental health and happiness habits, to manage my artistic pursuits, and to accomplish professional goals.
5. Refresh Your Goals Regularly
In a previous piece, I spoke to the huge importance of intention and injecting meaning and momentum into even the smallest aspects of your life. For me, this means setting several small monthly goals (usually based on seasonal living). While I don’t necessarily believe that creating a new list of goals for each month works for everybody, I do recommend a monthly check-in.
Start the new month with an honest assessment of how things are going for you. Are you well on your way to accomplishing your goals? Do those goals still matter to you? Is there something else you’d like to work on? Do you have a small “side quest” that you’d like to focus your attention on at this time?
As humans, we’re very driven by “fresh starts.” There’s a reason that September still has a “back-to-school” feeling, even though many of us are no longer on a school-based life clock. Research shows us that we are at our most motivated and most productive at the beginning of a new era; be it a new year, a Monday, the beginning of the month, a change of season, or maybe fresh off a move/graduation/breakup. Taking advantage of these natural patterns for drive is a great way to keep your yearlong goals fresh and on track.
There is a difference between surviving and thriving. Thriving requires consistent growth in all aspects of our lives. Go thrive in 2018!
Caitlin is a freelance marketing proofreader (read: Professional Grammar Nazi) by day and hustling to accomplish her other aspirations, also by day. When she’s not writing, Caitlin obsessively listens to podcasts, gushes about movies, and annoys everyone around her by being a coffee snob.
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