New Year’s resolutions and I have had a turbulent relationship.
We first met in elementary school, when they were simply another chore to check off in order to earn my full weekly allowance. Of course, when you do something because you have to — not because you want to — you’ll never be fully committed.
It was around high school when I started to revere resolutions and went through the highly ambitious phase, where I would make sweeping statements such as, “I’m going to wake up at 3:45 a.m.” (a tactic that works for Jim Cramer) or “I’m going to completely eliminate carbs.”
After years of eating pasta and consistently waking up after sunrise, I broke things off completely with resolutions.
I justified the break by preaching, If you want to make a change in your life, why wait for January 1 to roll around, rather than starting that very second? Truthfully, I was tired of failing to follow through on my ambitious resolutions year after year.
It’s been a rocky journey, but resolutions and I are finally back on good terms. We have a healthy relationship, coming face-to-face at the end of December and staying in touch throughout the rest of the year.
Here’s why I truly look forward to, and embrace, New Year’s resolutions now — and my tricks for making them stick over the course of a year:
1. They force you to evaluate what you truly want. It’s easy to go through the motions of life and reach a standstill with your career, relationships, and finances. Resolutions combat any temptation to reach complacency. They force you to take a step back and ask yourself what it is that you truly want to achieve.
I’ve learned that this is far from a simple answer — it takes time to figure out what you want to do with your life or specific goals you want to check off. The very action of making resolutions forces you to take the time necessary to evaluate what you want.
2. They don’t have to be complex. Particularly during my highly ambitious phase, I learned that resolutions don’t have to be earth-shattering — or voluminous — to be worthy. Resolutions are for you, and only you. Don’t feel the need to making sweeping claims to impress friends or coworkers, or fall into the trap of equating more with better.
Oftentimes, the simpler, highly focused resolutions are the ones that stick. In the past, I’ve made it a point to make my bed daily and write down one memorable moment or thing that I’m grateful for at the end of each day. Both take no more than two minutes of my time.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t be ambitious at all. I like to develop two or three goals that are slightly out of reach — things that make me feel a bit self conscious when saying them out loud — but not impractical. Finding the “sweet spot,” a healthy balance of aspiration and feasibility, takes time, but becomes more natural every year.
3. They give you something to wake up to every day. Resolutions give you a focus — something to strive and work towards — every morning. The trick to retaining that focus and drive is immersing yourself in them, and surrounding yourself with constant reminders of your resolutions until you almost feel suffocated by their presence.
I hang up Post-it notes in my room, on my bathroom mirror, and on my computer screen — everywhere I turn I see a key word that not only reminds me of my goals, but holds me accountable for working towards them each day.
One sticky note simply reads, “Jeep Patriot,” my dream car and one of the savings goals I made for myself this year. Buying a car is incredibly long term for me — perhaps five years — which makes it tempting to put off savings for another day, but every glance at that yellow Post-it is motivation to pack my lunch instead of buy, make my coffee rather than stop at Dunkin’, or turn down that new pair of boots I really don’t need.
If you’ve had an equally rocky relationship with New Year’s resolutions, I’d advise giving them a second chance — you could be missing out on something great.