By Katie Moritz
This year is going to be the year. The year you exercise more. The year you spend more time with family and friends. The year you learn that new skill or take up that new hobby.
2018 is going to be your year.
Tell this to friends and family, and it’s likely someone will inform you that over 50% of New Year’s Resolutions fail. This is no surprise when, according to a ComRes poll, some of the most common resolutions are exercise more, eat healthy, learn something new, stop smoking, and spend more time with people we care about.
These sound like goals, but they’re in the abstract. What does exercising more mean? What defines eating healthy? How can one spend more time with friends and family if their life is already packed with daily obligations and commitments?
When New Year’s resolutions are vague, they leave no room for celebrating the successes along the way. Which, let’s be honest, is half the fun. For example, imagine someone wants to exercise more. But they live a busy life and, although they pledged they would go to the gym this year, they simply do not have time. A week or two or three in, and they may feel like they have failed, and so, give up the notion of exercising altogether.
But what if, instead, one planned out how to tackle their resolutions? Instead of planning to go to the gym, they started small: taking the stairs at work, or parking the car farthest away in the lot? Even a fifteen-minute walk at the end of the day, to clear the head, can make one feel more accomplished.
Therefore, to get results, it is important to come up with New Year’s resolutions that will be realistically attainable. Some important questions to ask yourself when starting your resolutions are whether they are specific enough, are they measurable, and will they be exciting?
Say you want to keep in touch with friends. To make it specific, you may want to choose which relationship you actually want to be continue. Is it really worth your energy to invest in relationships and people out of guilt? Or simply a sense that you share a history?
Now, define what keeping in touch means for you. Does it mean offering more of your daily energies? Helping people with their kids, listening to their marital problems, buying them birthday gifts? Does it mean writing emails or letters every few months? How much time and focus do you want and/or want to give?
Once you have a more specific resolution, how to make it stick?
Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, writes in his blogs “The key is to take advantage of the 3-step neurological process that creates a habit. First, choose a cue, like leaving your running shoes by the door, then pick a reward — say, a piece of chocolate when you get home from the gym. Eventually, when you see the shoes, your brain will start craving the reward, which will make it easier to work out day after day.”
Duhigg suggests trying this out for one week to see how it goes. There may be some trial and error. Be forgiving of yourself when you mess up. If something didn’t work the way you wanted it to, go back to the drawing board and come up with a new approach. Maybe instead of taking an hour walk, you take the dog around the block. Maybe instead of calling all your college friends every week, you call two of your best friends, or you send an email once a month. If the reward is not good enough, try a different one.
To start though, sometimes finding the right community and the right resources make all the difference. Local libraries, senior centers, and rec departments offer information, classes, and even spaces at little or no cost. With their help, you may be surprised that you keep to your resolutions and that you find new interests, relationships, and hobbies along the way.