I wonder if the ancient Babylonians kept their promises at the start of every year and returned their borrowed goods and paid their debts back. Because if the modern equivalent of their New Year’s resolutions is such a staggeringly unsuccessful habit that less than half will make it past the six-month mark, why do we persist with such a poor practice for literally thousands of years?
Maybe it’s merely another example of the Nietzschean eternal recurrence, and in order to break its spell, perhaps it’s time to do something drastic as we approach the dawn of 2018 – not make them at all to be able to succeed.
Unrealistic versus actionable
We use this transition in order to improve, to become a better version of ourselves. But the ideas that we put forth are so out of alignment with our current self-image, and so vague, that it’s no wonder we cannot follow through. Statements such as “I will start eating healthy” for a person who binges on sweets are highly unlikely to lead to any meaningful change.
However, introducing fresh fruits and veggies to your next grocery list while crossing off the gummy bears, and buying a cool recipe book with healthy options (my personal favorite: The Food Medic by Hazel Wallace) can help you start towards your goal and provide useful tools. Even if it begins with a single steamed broccoli and one less mindless much per day, count yourself lucky – you’ve made it further than so many others who make any resolutions on any day of the year.
Thinking big or thinking small?
Focusing on the entire year ahead tends to draw your attention away from the present moment when success should happen. In reality, even the most complex of goals are attained only through a series of small, measurable steps that we take every day. It may not feel as if your fear of public speaking has vanished after a single power pose you dare make in the bathroom, but it’s the first step towards making that massive leap in your life.
On the other hand, if you think of your goals as 2018-limited, you might end up making the same resolutions year after year. In fact, stop thinking of them as goals entirely, and start perceiving them as habits. And building habits takes everyday commitment, not just in the next 365 days, but for as long as you live.
If you’ve collected things and preserved every gift for years on end, do you think it’s possible for you to get rid of all that clutter in a single day and live to tell the tale? If it’s in your personality to keep everything, then it could possibly be a process that lasts well beyond your next-year mark.
Instead of saying the painful cliché “I will lead a more minimalistic life”, why not divide this idea into many manageable goals, such as “I will clear out one drawer every day”, “I will give away one clothing item every day until I have only what I really wear and like”, and “I will comb through one photo folder on my computer every day.” And the list goes on, giving you measurable goals you can monitor, and slowly re-structure your behavior.
Specific and simple
Habits are sneaky little devils. They are deep-rooted in our subconscious mind and we cannot rely solely on our decision-making to stick to a new habit, especially one that creates restrictions or requires another bad habit to completely disappear. So, link your habit-building steps with a positive, enjoyable activity that already exists in your life.
I love shopping. So, in order to kickstart my fitness goals, I did what I do best: researched for gear I needed to tackle my new routine, got a pair of RyderWear trainers, a whey protein stash to last a month, and the Jaybird X3 earphones to be able to tune gym noises out, hence killing any excuse I could have for skipping my gym sessions. What followed was a series of equally supportive actions, such as “get a fitness app to monitor my calories”, “start a journal with my starting point and weekly milestones” and I kept things as simple as possible.
One of the biggest gaps in the resolution idea is that we often insist on doing everything alone. Of course, your final results and your success will depend only on the level of your commitment and consistency, but to maintain those, we could use a helping hand.
And this doesn’t only refer to your gym buddy, but whatever your goal may be, you can either join or form a group of people that share your desires, that will provide you with support, guidance, and motivation when all else fails. And maybe most importantly, they will help you find the strength not to give up when your goals become too much to handle.
Samantha has a B.Sc. in Nutrition and has spent two years working as a personal trainer. Since then, she has embarked on a mission to conquer the blogosphere. When not in the gym or on the track, you can find her on at Ripped.me, or in a tea shop.