How I Actually Kept My New Year’s Resolutions

by Isabel Thottam

It’s January – which means each of us gets a blank slate to start over with our goals, dreams and of course, our resolutions. But why does it sometimes feel that New Year’s resolutions create more stress than being helpful guides for changing our lives? The answer is simple: most people set unrealistic goals.

Most people go into a resolutuion-writing process with a list of things they dislike about themselves or a series of regrets from the year. As a result, they end up “resolving” not to make those same “mistakes” or to change all the things they don’t like about their body, personality, lifestyle, or relationships. 

For example, if you make a resolution that says “lose thirty pounds,” you’re putting so much pressure on yourself to hit that number that you’ll beat yourself up about it throughout the year–only to end with more weight on than you started, causing you to feel like you failed yourself.

This is not a healthy way to set New Year’s resolutions. Trust me, I learned the hard way too. In fact, last year was the first year that I actually kept the majoirty of my New Year’s resolutions.

Here’s how I did it:

Set Achievable Goals.

This might sound obvious, but if you look back on your New Year’s resolutions from last year, you’ll probably notice how far-fetched some of those goals were. The problem with most people’s resolutions is that they set goals that are too high or not possible to accomplish within the year. They might also be goals that don’t make sense for your current situation.

In example, don’t say one of your goals is to “buy a car” or “buy a house” unless you’re actually in a financial state to do so. While that’s a great goal to work toward, unless you have actually been planning to do so, don’t force yourself to try and do that within the year if you know you don’t have enough money right now. 

From a health standpoint, try not to be so hard on yourself for weight loss and fitness goals. Don’t set an unrealistic goal like “run a marathon or half marathon” if you’re incapable of even running a mile. Moreover, don’t even set an amount of weight you want to lose. Rather, just write “be happy and comfortable in my body,” because it takes the pressure off and allows you to decide what that means as you start exercising more and losing weight.

Also on Z Living: I Met My New Year’s Resolutions When I Threw Out My Resolutions

Give Yourself Multiple Small Challenges...

I was able to keep my New Year’s resolutions last year because I gave myself multiple small challenges to do throughout the year. They were small challenges that I knew I could do– just needed to make the time for them. Some of those challenges were things like, “finishing reading the book I started,” “enter a writing competition,” or “read my work at an event” and “finish an art piece.” 

These were goals for things that were unfinished, like an art piece that has been sitting in my closet for who knows how long. I always knew I could do it, I just needed to make that extra time to finish it–and I did that last year. Moreover, instead of setting a big, stressful resolution like “finish a book” for a project I’ve never started, I set a resolution to enter one of my creative works in a writing competition. The latter require me to do the work to find a competition and gain the confidence to submit, a small challenge that I was able to accomplish, whereas the goal of writing a book would have haunted me the entire year and I likely wouldn’t have accomplished it.

Also on Z Living: 10 Mantras To Help You Keep On Keepin’ On This Year

...And One Big Challenge

I do think you need to set at least one big challenge for yourself that you’re going to focus on for the next year. This should be something that you know is achievable but would just require you to focus. By setting just one big goal as opposed to ten big ones, you already know you can do this.

For example, my big goal for last year was to get published in a new magazine. It wasn’t easy for the few few months of the new year, as I sent out dozens of cold pitches to magazines I wanted to write for, only to get zero responses. As the year continued, I kept the goal in the back of my head until I finally heard from a magazine interested in a story idea. I was given an assignment, wrote the piece and by the end of the year I had my name in print!

New Year’s resolutions don’t need to be tough. They don’t need to be big tasks that we resolve to give up or do for the next year. I really enjoy writing resolutions now, because they’re no longer scary stressors that set me up for failure. Now, they’re just fun little challenges that help me feel a little happier.

Also on Z Living: 7 Big Reasons To Do A Gratitude Challenge This Year

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