Maybe you haven’t made a New Year’s Resolution in years. Maybe you thought about one but never followed through. Or maybe you started strong but gave up after a couple weeks. (Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Less than 10% of people keep their resolutions.)
Fortunately, making changes doesn’t have to be impossible. And the key to doing things differently this year just takes some simple planning.
First things first: Pick the right resolution for you
1 – Make a list of possible resolutions
Get a pen and paper and find a quiet place to sit. Close your eyes and relax. Take a few breaths and think about what it is you want to achieve in the coming year. Write down five possible resolutions.
2 – Refine your list
Over the course of 24 hours come back to this list a few times, adding and removing possible resolutions until you have just one.
3 – Quantify your list by including measurable goals
Spend the next week refining your resolution by breaking it into small milestones. Research shows that setting small achievable goals is the surest way to reach larger, lifetime goals so don’t skip this step. Just start with ONE goal you would like to achieve in the coming year, and then break it down into monthly/quarterly milestones that you can achieve.
For example, if you want to lose some weight, think about how much you want to lose, and try to set small obtainable goals. (Contrary to popular belief, research shows that being too ambitious makes failure more likely than success so be realistic and set lots of small obtainable goals rather than one large unobtainable one.)
Do you want to lose 15 pounds? Set a monthly goal of 1-2 pounds. I know 15 pounds in a year doesn’t sound all that exciting and glamorous, but if weight loss is a goal and you woke up tomorrow morning 15 pounds lighter, I bet you’d be pretty excited.
Choosing my New Year’s Resolution (last year)
My list of possible resolutions for 2017 included things like getting healthier, reading more, learning more about natural health, and spending more time doing meaningful activities with my family.
Though I worked on all of these goals throughout the year, my one main resolution was to get healthier. I quantified that goal by making a resolution to lose weight and keep my weight under a certain number for the entire year.
Now that you have decided on your resolution, it’s time to create an actionable plan.
An actionable plan can be tailored to fit any resolution, but since the most common New Year’s Resolution year after year is to get (or stay) healthy, I’m going to use exercise as an example.
1 – Pull out that paper and pen again. Find a quiet spot and think about what types of activities you enjoy doing. Contrary to what the sales gurus say, there isn’t any one size fits all exercise plan. If a particular facility has 50 treadmills, but running on them makes you feel like a hamster, no matter how much you pay for your membership, you won’t get the results you are hoping for.
So sit quietly for a bit and think about activities that are both active and make you happy. Write down at least 3-6 different activities that you enjoy.
2 – Come back to your list a few times in the coming week, adding and removing activities until you have a group of solid activities that you are really excited about doing. (If you are the type of person that excels at routine aim for 3 activities, but if you’re more like me, and are easily bored, shoot for 6 activities.) Remember, this is not about which activities you think will get you fastest results, but the ones you enjoy doing the most. So be sure to only include activities that fit your preferences and lifestyle.
Questions to think about when refining your list.
- Do you prefer to exercise indoors or outdoors?
- Do you prefer working with a group or alone?
- Are you the type of person who needs to work out first thing in the morning because if you wait for later in the day it seems impossible to find the time, or do you feel strongest at night?
3 – When you have your final list in hand, begin researching local places where you can and will want to be active. Write down an actionable plan of activities, and be sure to include how often you will work out, when and where.
My action plan (last year)
For me, dancing makes my worries melt away. And I’m most likely to exercise if I do it first thing in the morning. My plan began with joining a gym that had Zumba three mornings a week. I kept at it for months, and developed a habit of going to the gym at least three times a week. Every so often, when I couldn’t make it to a scheduled class, my back-up plan was to do cardio for at least 20 minutes (I find I work harder, if I keep it short) and if all of the cardio machines were full I did 40 minutes of free weights.
When I started getting bored, instead of feeling bad about it and forcing myself to continue, I switched things up by swimming laps at the local community center. I made swimming part of my yearly exercises plan because it makes me feel like I’m a kid again. A nearby community rec center had loads of open lap hours, so it was the perfect way for me to keep active.
Later, in the year, when I was feeling particularly stressed out, I added Restorative Yoga into the mix. (This was also part of my initial plan of actionable steps.) And when the weather turned nice I dropped the gym all together and started bike riding, swimming in our pool at home, and a Bootcamp style group class that took place outdoors.
Since I wanted to be able to change my activities to fit my preferences, I skipped the annual memberships. Instead, I purchased various classes as needed. Now as the year is coming to close, I’ve gone back to the Zumba classes. And I’m happy to say I’ve completed a full year of regular workouts, lost more weight than I ever dreamed of, and feel better than ever.
So what’s stopping you from setting your new resolution into motion?
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