You wake up, it’s a new year, and you have a list longer than a CVS receipt on how you plan to make your New Year’s resolutions stick. After about a week, you notice your list and how you’ve already dropped some of your goals. The month continues, and your list dwindles until you settle for “maybe next year”…
I get it.
New Year’s Resolutions can sometimes perpetuate the same system of burnout we often experience throughout the year. We reflect, identify a change we need, and blast off into a frenzy of becoming. If we burn out throughout the year, why would the start of a new one be any different?
“But Alison, I want these resolutions to stick.”
Don’t give up! They can. It’s valid AND possible to make our resolutions into lifestyle changes – but first, we need to rethink our approach.
When we look at studies of habit development, many will show the changes we want to implement seldom happen overnight. Don’t get me wrong, humans are awesome, and sometimes spontaneous sheer will can shatter our expectations. Instead, I’ll ask, is it realistic in your day-to-day life to rely on some sort of superhuman might every time you want to develop or maintain a change? Probably not. That sounds exhausting.
Here’s a guide to rethink your resolutions and implement real, sustainable change to support yourself all year long:
- Recognize where you are
- Use your awareness to cultivate authentic goals
- Implement small incremental changes into your daily life
- Don’t wait for inspiration, lean into your perseverance
RECOGNIZE WHERE YOU ARE
To make a change, as resolutions intend, you have to first understand and honor where you are. Instead of getting lost in the shame or feeling of what is, allow yourself to look objectively into your life and see what is and isn’t working. Also, know that your current habits, lifestyle, time, and schedules are all very important to consider and get real about because they create parameters around what’s actually doable. If you don’t have 60 minutes to yourself most days, getting to a gym and getting a workout in are going to be very tough unless you overhaul your lifestyle and are able to take things off your plate so you can carve out that time for yourself. Recognize your potential but also your current limitations in terms of time, energy, and bandwidth.
USE YOUR AWARENESS TO CULTIVATE AUTHENTIC GOALS
When you get honest about what’s most important to you, your goals can get real. Why does this matter? Well, when your goals don’t align with your desired lifestyle and core values, there’s a lot of friction created and it’s much harder to stay committed. Always ask yourself “why” you’re setting these goals – what is it you hope to gain from working toward them and achieving them? And be specific. Anything that’s designed to change how others see you (which you don’t really control) or tied to some cultural messaging (which might not even be true) could be inauthentic and out of alignment with your core values and intrinsic desires – making them that much more difficult to sustain since you’ll be working against yourself at every decision point.
IMPLEMENT SMALL INCREMENTAL CHANGES INTO YOUR DAILY LIFE
Give yourself 1% each day to dedicate towards some small, achievable steps that align with your goals — honestly, the simpler the better. This step requires patience and restraint but repetition builds momentum and creates long-term habits, which can ultimately lead to more sustainable change than just a wave of motivation. If you’re hoping to make healthier choices when eating then going on a dramatic and restricted diet with lots of rules that prohibit foods you actual enjoy might lead to you feeling frustrated, defeated, and more likely to quit. Start small with incremental increases each day to support you. For example, if you want to build healthier habits when eating, you might begin by committing to including colorful, nutrient-rich vegetables at every meal or getting at least 25-35 grams of protein at every meal or perhaps it’s just reading my upcoming Fuel Your Awesome Nutrition Guide (details on that coming soon) and committing first to learning ways to make smarter choices for your body before jumping right into the action.
DON’T WAIT FOR INSPIRATION, LEAN INTO YOUR PERSEVERANCE
While small incremental steps towards our goals make burnout less likely, lack of motivation is inevitable in any long-term pursuit. You might think “what do I do if I lose motivation?”. Moments of motivation and inspiration are great catalysts for change, but real change occurs when we lean into our grit and perseverance to keep going even if we don’t feel like it. Perseverance and punishment are different. Perseverance is from a place of self-love and self-respect to keep moving in the direction that supports your long-term goals because you believe yourself worthy of having a better life while being mindful of your current reality (feelings, changing circumstances, etc). Punishment is from a place of self-deprecation or feeling “not enough”. This is another reason why having goals that are deeply meaningful and authentic to you is so important — when you’re struggling to carry on, it feels a whole lot nicer to lean into “I’m doing this because I deserve better” instead of “I have to do this because there’s something wrong with me.”
As we move past the New Year, change is inevitable. Our goals evolve and shift over time; this is why it’s important to check in with your goals, your progress, and what matters to you along the journey. Checking in gives space for resolutions to adapt to meet you where you are, instead of feeling like you need to keep working toward goals that no longer fit. Be honest and courageous enough to acknowledge what your pursuit of your awesome should look like and what you need along the way.