Hello Friends! I hope that you all had an amazing Christmas! I hope that you helped someone out along the way and that you spread some love, even if it was something little like donating a dollar to toys for tots, or throwing some change in the Salvation Army bucket while you were out. Those little things add up to a whole lot and they matter! Most of all, I hope that you all enjoyed the time with your family and friends and celebrated the birth of our Lord. Christmas is not about gifts, but about thinking of others, spreading some love, enjoying the things that you have and being thankful.
Now that Christmas is over, many are looking to the New Year and reflecting on the past one. I hope that this one has been a good year for you. I hope that even if it has not been perfect, you remember the good things, you keep the good memories, you learn from the bad and move on, and you keep the joy in your heart. This new year is full of many possibilities for me and I hope that it is for you too. We have a blank slate to start once again. Perhaps you have something that you want to accomplish in this coming year? A resolution, perhaps? Maybe several of them? I have compiled a list of 6 tips both for making and keeping your New Year’s resolutions this year. This is going to be one of your best years yet!
1. Identify specifically what you want to change.
As with anything, the first step is identifying what needs to be changed. It is hard to fix something if you don’t know that it is need of repair. If you have already made a New Year’s Resolution, good for you! It is good to reflect on what we have learned and to try to better ourselves. We become better stronger, better and more patient versions of ourselves through experiences. There is only one way to get experience. That is to go out and do something! You will not get experience sitting at home and not trying. It is always better to try something new than to not try.
I heard Steve Harvey once say that if there is something that you really love or that you want to do, if it is worth doing it involves some risk, rather like jumping out of an airplane. It is scary at first! When you first make that plunge, there is some time that you are free falling. Your parachute does not open right away. You have taken the plunge, and you wonder “oh my gosh, WHAT have I done?? What in the WORLD was I thinking???”
But then, your parachute opens and you are glad that you have made the jump because it is life-changing. You are looking at a view that you might have thought you would never see and it is beautiful. If you never jump, you will be safe. You will have never left the safety of the airplane, BUT you will always wonder “what if”? And if you stay on the plane, your parachute will never open.
That was a pretty powerful story to me. It is one that has stuck with me. My husband and I have had to step out on faith a time or two and let me tell you, it’s HARD. There is always some risk involved. Every time, it has changed our lives, and we have been glad that we have jumped. For us, jumping involves a lot of praying and listening for answers. God’s way is always the best way, and he will always catch you when you fall.
2. Set realistic goals and write them down
New Year’s resolutions are goals. As with any goal, they become more powerful when you write them down. I don’t exactly know why that is, but if I see something in writing I am more likely to do it. For example, I have resolved to publish new posts to this blog on Tuesday and Thursday. So far, I have done pretty well. This week, though, I was VERY tempted to take some time off and not publish something. My husband is home on his last week of vacation, the kids are home, it is SO tempting to go play!
This blog is important to me, though. You all, my friends and readers are important to me. I posted that as a goal in my last blog post and I intend to see it through. That writing down my goal and sharing it, makes me want to follow it through. It helps to hold me accountable. They are also best if you make them attainable and measurable. We get a huge boost every time we complete a goal. Don’t make them impossible to reach! Another tip for the goal setting is to break them down into smaller segments.
For me and the blog posts, it sounds daunting to say “I want to have 108 new posts on my blog by this time next year.” That is so far out, I will procrastinate and not get it done, and then I will feel bad for missing my goal. It is much easier to say “I want to post 2 blog posts a week.” That seems much more attainable and I will be able to see results much sooner! That also means that I am receiving positive feedback every week when I hit my goal. Set yourself up for success!
3. Positive self-talk to make them stick
How you talk to yourself about your New Year’s resolution is very important. I could make this one “Believe in yourself.” But positive self-talk sounds much more specific to me. When you tell yourself, “I can do this.” And “You did great on this step towards your goal today! You are going to make it!” our brains start to believe that! Positive self-talk gives us the motivation that we need to accomplish our goals in our New Year’s resolutions. The best part about that is that when you use positive self-talk, the motivation sticks because it’s internal. We are not dependent on someone else encouraging us because we are encouraging ourselves.
How Negative Self-Talk Sabotages your goals
On the flip side of the coin, I once had a New Year’s resolution to drop a few pounds and watch what I ate and exercise more. That is a pretty common goal, I think, but I did it all wrong. For one thing on the goal setting, I was vague. There was no way to measure it. What I really did to sabotage myself was my self-talk. I would look at myself in the mirror and think “I am so fat and ugly. I can’t believe I have let myself go this much. I need to shed some weight.” After I had beaten myself up for 5-10 mins, then I would get in the shower. I did work out some, but workouts are not terribly effective if you half kill yourself only a few times out of guilt.
Every time I ate, I would tell myself “You are such a pig. Don’t eat so much and you would not be in this place to start with.” Ouch. No one else would DARE talk to me like that! But I did to myself all the time. Every. Single. Day. You know what happened? I would get to feeling so bad about myself that I would raid the fridge and pig out and eat all this high-calorie food in an emotional eating fest.Needless to say, I gave up after less than a month.
How Positive Self-Talk reinforces your goals
Several years later, I made the same resolution again, but my approach was totally different. This time my resolution was “I’m going to start walking twice a week for at least 20 minutes.” For starters, that is a measurable goal. I know if I have walked twice a week for at least 20 minutes. It is also very attainable. Did I intend to walk more? You bet! By making my goal attainable, I got positive reinforcement from myself every week.
I started noticing how good I felt after I walked. It gave me time to just think. My walks started getting longer and longer because I was enjoying them. It was my time to pray, and think, and talk to God. That was the time that I used to think through everything that was bothering me and to get everything that was going on in my life straight in my head. Instead of “How long until it’s over?” my thoughts became, “Just one more round. I’m not done with my thinking time yet.”
My walks went from 20 minutes to 30 minutes, to sometimes 40 minutes. I loved seeing the heart rate counter and my steps go up too. There is something very satisfying about meeting measurable goals. There were some days that it was raining or cold, though, so I substituted a walk with a workout. I started thinking about that as “my time” or “time for me.” I dropped 10 lbs and kept it off for over a year and a half.
(And of course, in the way of life, something happened and I gained it all back, but I do intend to start going and walking again. If your goal is to get more fit this year, then I am right in there with you!) The key to my success was how I thought about it. I have another whole post on positive self-talk here if you would like to read more about it. It is one of the most amazing happiness hacks that I have discovered and that I use in my own life.
4. Think of it as something for yourself
As I mentioned above, I started thinking of my walks as a time for myself. As a mother, and as a person, I am constantly trying to “give back.” I am trying to pour something of myself into serving someone else in some way. I think that most mothers, especially do this, or anyone trying to take care of someone else. The problem is that we can’t pour out of an empty pitcher. We all need recharge time. We all need time to unwind and to do something for ourselves. Think of the time that you spend chasing after that resolution as a time for yourself or something for yourself.
Sometimes, those walks that I took were early in the morning when my toddler was bouncing off the WALLS at 7 in the morning. He had a little balance bike that he would ride while I walked. He enjoyed it, and so did I. I got to think my own thoughts while he was happily running off steam. (It also helped him nap really nicely in the afternoons. Bonus!!) If you think of it as something for yourself it will become something that you look forward to doing instead of something that you have to do.
With the blog posts, I enjoy writing them a great deal. The time that I spend at the computer working on the blog posts and on the blog itself is very satisfying to me. If I thought of them as something that I had to do, I would procrastinate to the point they would not get done and I would eventually throw in the towel on it all together. By thinking of them as something fun and time for myself it helps to recharge my batteries and it helps me to be motivated to do it. You are worth something. Your happiness is worth something. It is ok and even vital that you do something that recharges your batteries.
5. Realize that you can only change yourself
Your New Year’s Resolution should be personal. It should be something about you. If you have made a resolution to “Make So-And-So do THIS”, then please, ABORT MISSION! It is doomed to fail. Regroup and make a different resolution. You do not have the power to change other people. Only God can do that. You only have the power to change yourself. A New Year’s resolution should be something personal. It should be something about YOU. It should be a change that you want to make to better YOURSELF.
You cannot control the actions of other people. You cannot control the feelings of other people. The choices that other people make are their choices, just as your choices are your own. Work on changing yourself and making better choices. Find something personal to you that makes you happier.
6. Time Management
Now that you have made your New Year’s resolution, you have specifically identified what you want to change, you have written down a realistic personal goal, and you are using positive self-talk to make it stick and thinking of it as something for yourself, there is only one question that remains. How do you find time to fit it into your already packed schedule?
If your schedule is that packed and you are that busy, you may already have an idea of how you are going to fit this in because odds are, you are probably pretty good at the time management thing already. If you have made the commitment to do this, then you will find time to fit it in if you have decided to make it a priority and you are enjoying making progress towards your goal.
Best Illustration of Effective time management
The best thing that I have ever seen on time management was actually when I was in college. My professor came in with an empty jar and several other same sized jars that had different things in them. First, she took a jar of large rocks and put them in the empty jar. And asked us if it was full? To which we replied “yes.” Then she took the same sized jar full of smaller rocks and poured them into the jar with the big rocks. Much to our surprise, they all fit. She again asked us if the jar was full, to which we replied “yes.” Then, she took a jar full of sand and again poured it into the jar with the large and small rocks. Much to our surprise, all the sand fit too.
She then explained to us that the once empty jar symbolized our time. The big rocks were the most important things in our lives, like our families and our college classes. The smaller rocks were all the other tasks that we had to get done, such as the laundry, our homework, and various other tasks. The sand was all the other little things. She said that if the sand was put in first, the big rocks would not all fit, however, like our time, if we put the big rocks in first, all the other things would fall into place. It was about prioritizing. Your New Year’s resolution is the same; it is about prioritizing the important things in your life into the proper places.
Most people give up on their resolutions and on themselves too quickly. I find that very sad. I know that you can do it this year, even if you have not in years past. The only way we get experience is by going out and doing! Do not be afraid to try over and over. If you do not reach your goal on the first try, that is ok! We make mistakes in order to learn from them. Life is a learning process! Give yourself permission to make mistakes. If your New Year’s resolution is something that you really feel is worth pursuing, don’t give up on it! I know that you can do it. Go make this year, one of your best ones yet!
Edited Jan 18, 2018, for better readability and search engine optimization.