How to Construct the Perfect New Year’s Resolution

It’s not too late for a New Year’s Resolution! If you don’t have one yet, or if you have one but haven’t quite followed through with it yet, this post is for you! Every New Year people all around the world embrace the whole #NewYearNewMe, taking advantage of the new beginning to change themselves for the better. But every year they make the same mistakes and as a result, the resolution gets left behind in hopes that maybe next year will be their year. I think starting fresh in the New Year is a wonderful thing because we cannot carry around every mistake we have ever made or regret we have ever had around with us forever – having a new start allows us to shed this burden and start all over, mistake and regret free. This is a wonderful concept! But for many of us, failure to fulfill our resolution by mid-January brings the first regret of the year and it’s all downhill from here. Here is my guide to help you plan a resolution that you can actually stick to:

One of the BIGGEST problems we all have when we make a New Year’s Resolution is that we are not specific enough. Simply stating that you are going to “eat healthy this year” is not enough. What do you consider healthy? How often are you allowed to treat yourself? How is this new diet different than your last? Personally, I find the resolution to “eat healthy” to be an awful resolution. You’re just setting yourself up for failure. The minute you find yourself eating something that you consider to be unhealthy, you’ll begin to feel bad because broke your resolution. Now that you feel bad, you’re probably more likely to break it again, and again, entering a vicious cycle until you eventually give up. If you want to eat healthier, or be healthier in the New Year, I suggest you find a way to measure your goal. For example, maybe you have been eating 1-2 fruits or vegetables per day for the last few years and this year, your goal is to start eating 3-5 servings per day. Or maybe you have a gym membership but never go, so this year your goal is to go to the gym at least 2 times per week. Even if you mess up one day and eat a chocolate bar, you technically haven’t messed up as long as you met you goal for the day. Meeting your daily goals will make you more likely to meet future goals and less likely fall off the wagon.

Don’t just create a resolution aimlessly – why do you want to make this change? Why is this change important to you? What is going to drive you to meet your goals? You need motivation to stick to your goals and having a reason for setting them in the first place is a great place to start. Perhaps you’re at risk for a heart-attack so you quit smoking, or maybe you have small children around who have started to pick up what you say around the house so you have quit swearing, or maybe you realized you need a higher GPA to be accepted to grad school so you have to study more. Find a reason that is important to you and this reason will keep you going.

If you’re really serious about your resolution, I suggest finding a way to track yourself. Use a calendar on your fridge to cross off each day that you meet your goal. If your resolution is to say please and thank you more often (remember, still, to be specific), maybe you’ll create a note file on your phone and keep count of how many times you say it in a day. Maybe calculate your statistics, if it helps. What percent of the time do you thank people? It’s a crazy example, I know, but being able to actually see your progress will make it a lot easier to believe that you’re doing a good job.

If you are meeting your goals, you deserve a reward for being so awesome! Perhaps if you meet your daily fruit and vegetable goals for 2 consecutive weeks you treat yourself to your favourite restaurant. If you are keeping a swear jar (a jar that you place some amount of money, such as a quarter, into each time you use a swear word), perhaps after a week with no swearing you allow yourself to spend the money in the jar. Keep in mind that your reward doesn’t have to be related to your goal. If your goal is to bring your lunch to work every day, your reward can either be to buy your lunch from your favourite sandwich shop after 4 consecutive weeks of bringing your lunch or your reward could be inviting your friends over for wine and pizza on a Friday night, if that’s something that makes you happy. Anything that you only allow yourself to have provided that you meet your goal is your reward. When organizing your reward system, timing is key. For example, putting aside the $5 you would have spent on your lunch every day that you bring your lunch from home in attempt to save enough money to travel to Europe may be too difficult because it will take you a very long time to save enough money to go to Europe, giving you plenty of opportunities to fall off the wagon. Your reward needs to be far enough away that you have time to miss it, yet not so far that it feels impossible to obtain. You know yourself best. When you mess up, don’t punish yourself. I mean, you can if you really want to, but in my experience it never works. First of all, I don’t think I’ve ever actually punished myself for failing to meet my expectations and goals because I just don’t have enough will power over myself to either make me do something unfavourable or to remove something pleasant from my life. It seems extremely silly and even if I did try, it wouldn’t work. My suggestion instead is to immediately get back on your feet and forget the incident ever happened. Don’t let it get in the way of you achieving your next goal and obtaining your reward. Don’t regret it, just forget it happened, because as long as you get back up, it doesn’t matter. If you mess up often and find that you can never reach your reward, you need to re-evaluate your goal and your reward. Is your goal achievable? Is your reward too far away, or not appealing enough? Play around with it until you get yourself on the right track.

My last tip is to get support! Tell your friends or your family about what you’re doing. They’ll inevitably be happy for you and will likely want to help! They can help you keep track of your daily goals and you can even put them in charge of your reward. Perhaps they will like your idea so much that they’ll want to join you and now you’ll be partners. If you’re too shy to tell your friends and family, go online! Find people with similar goals and reach out to them.