The Untraditional Resolution – How to Meet January Head On

Having trouble sticking to your New Year's Resolutions? Take heart -- here are some ideas for staying true to your goals.

Everyone knows that New Year’s resolutions almost never survive the month of January. We’ve also heard the most common methods of making them last a little longer: tell people about your plans, establish habits, track your progress, reward small achievements, etc.

But somehow, it’s still so easy to lose momentum and revert to our pre-New Year’s lazy exercise regime, unhealthy eating habits, too much screen time, and overspending.

But all is not lost. There is still time to rework your resolutions into a format that will actually work. The problem isn’t what you decide to change, after all – it’s how you go about it. Losing weight, smoking less, eating healthier, and being more involved in your community are all appropriate resolutions to make at the beginning of the year, but you have to insert your vision into the right mold. Otherwise your resolutions, just like the majority of everyone else’s, will fade back into the woodwork by the time February rolls around.

A Rose by Any Other Name…

William Shakespeare had it wrong in this case. Calling your beginning-of-the-year plan for a successful future a “resolution” is not the way to go. New Year’s resolutions have a sour reputation—everyone knows how hard they are to keep, and many give up before they really start or don’t make resolutions at all, knowing that they won’t be able to fulfil them.

So label your plans something more appropriate. Even something as simple as “New Year’s Goals” can make all the difference in your mentality. Goals are achievable; if you slip up, it’s easy to hop back on the bandwagon and try again. Slipping up on a resolution indicates your lost resolve, and consequently (albeit illogically), it means failure for the entire year. And since no one can establish habits in just a few days, forgetting to exercise on January 6th can be your golden ticket to calling off your whole program…you’ve already failed, so what’s the point?

Goals, though, take time and effort to accomplish, and slipping up on a goal one day isn’t nearly as mentally damaging as failing a resolution.

Short-Term Planning

Don’t make New Year’s goals. Trying to comprehend exercising five days a week for 52 weeks can be overwhelming, and it’s easy to throw in the towel after you’ve been faithful for 3 weeks and then realize you still have an exhausting 49 to go.

Make monthly goals instead. Plan to exercise 5 days a week for the month of January. That’s only 20 trips to the gym instead of 260 for the whole year. When January 31st rolls around, make a new budgeting goal for February, but don’t stop exercising! When March comes, add more vegetables to your diet…but keep attending the gym and avoiding those impulse buys. Follow the pattern until you’ve added all of your goals for the year, but keep making monthly goals—don’t look at the big picture until you’ve reached the end.

Trick your mind into thinking it only has to keep a goal for four weeks at a time. Before too long, habits will be established and become second nature.

Don’t Save the Date

Becoming a better you on January 1st is only traditional…it’s not law. Don’t get caught up in the brand-new-year, brand-new-me fallacy. A “brand new you” can happen anytime. Yes, the beginning of a new year is the most traditional time, but if you get a late start, it’s ok. If you want to start losing weight in the middle of April, that’s fine. If you decide to get your finances under control at the end of August, that’s ok too. And if you really want to start an exercise program two weeks into December, don’t wait until January 1st! Waiting around for New Year’s will only drain your enthusiasm for your project and make it harder to establish a habit.

Specificity Is Your Best Friend

If you make goals like “lose weight”, the only thing you’ll lose is willpower. Instead, say “lose 2 lbs a week for the entire month of January”, and then make it happen. Instead of “reduce spending,” say “only buy (insert shopping weakness here) once a month, call for insurance quotes from new Calgary insurance agencies, carpool three times a week, eat leftovers twice a week, etc.”

The more specific you are, the better chance you’ll have of reaching your goals. Don’t let your goals be swallowed up in generalities.

The beginning of a new year is always an exciting time! It’s easy to start fresh when you have a brand new year ahead of you. Don’t get discouraged, and don’t let the traditional format for resolutions get in the way of improving your quality of life.

Melanie Hargrave is a wife and homemaker whose family is her pride and joy. In addition to spending time with her husband and daughters, she loves being outdoors, making New Year’s resolutions all year round.