With the start of the New Year, it’s easy to get caught up in the expectation to create a New Year’s resolution. Whether it’s to improve your health, or adding in a new habit to your routine, the new year can be a good time to reflect and look ahead to determine what you’d like to change.
Oftentimes these resolutions have large and even unrealistic expectations, making them difficult to maintain throughout the year. It’s easy to have an “all-or-nothing” mindset, seeing a pause in progress or inability to complete your goal for a day, as a failure. This can lead to dropping the new habit, and sometimes feeling too discouraged to try again. To avoid this cycle, we need to start by creating realistic goals that can be measured.
Creating a goal based on outcome can easily leave us disappointed and frustrated with ourselves. Instead, try committing to a behavior change that you can complete once a day, such as “go outside for 10 minutes every day”, or “eat one nutritious meal a day”. Making a daily commitment can create a sense of accomplishment while also keeping our goals realistic. Eventually, you may notice a change resulting from all these small steps. Another thing to practice is logging each day whether or not you’ve completed the goal, to find patterns in why you may have off-days or pauses in your progress.
Another way to create realistic goals is to make them S.M.A.R.T., which stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.
- Let’s start with “specific”. Creating a general goal can make it easier to drop the habit. The goal “go for a walk once a day” is easier to follow than “live a healthier lifestyle”.
- Having a goal that is easy to track makes it measurable. Setting a number or some sort of deadline can help you know when you’ve achieved it. For example, “drink eight glasses of water a day” makes it easy to track whether or not you’ve reached your goal.
- Achievable is checking to see if your goal is achievable, ensuring your goals aren’t too difficult. If your goal is too hard, this can lead to dropping the habit and feeling discouraged. If you want to learn a new language, and have no experience with it, it would be out of your scope to set a goal to become fluent within the next 30 days.
- Realistic goals ensure your target is feasible with the current lifestyle you have. If you’re constantly feeling overworked or overwhelmed practicing the goal, it might be a cue to scale down to a more manageable behavior.
- Finally, we have timely. Making a resolution that has no timeline can make it unclear whether or not you can accomplish it. So, like stated earlier, you can set a goal to practice one behavior a day. Eventually, you may see progress from all of these behaviors adding up!
Ultimately, it’s important to be kind to ourselves whenever working towards a goal. Progress will never be linear – so don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself not meeting these behaviors each day. And, if maintaining what you’re managing right now is all you can do, that is enough. Be kind to yourself, and happy New Year!