It’s that time of year again. If the media portrays November and December as season of retail, January is the season of introspection. Or Slim-Fast, Weight Watchers, Nicorette, and gym memberships.
Today is a particularly important day, as for many it marks the end of the holidays and a return to work or school. Back to the grind, but with all of the resolutions of the new year in tow. It’s the day that a lot of new year’s resolutions get put to the test, as normal meets new.
With that in mind, after seeing lots of social media posts on the new year, here are a few thoughts about how to make your “new you” stick.
1. Only try to control what you can.
Lots of people are participating in a new fad known as a “One Word.” In case you’re not familiar with the concept, people choose one word that they declare as their tone and focus of the upcoming year. The hashtags #OneWord365 and #OneWord2015 serve as catalogs for the posts, and the website OneWord365.com coordinates the efforts and provides inspiration.
There’s nothing wrong with this concept, but I’ve noticed a major problem with the words some are choosing to use. For someone who has a short temper, perhaps choosing the word “patience” is a good idea. For someone who has been burned by indecision, “Plan” could help. Or for someone who has come to the realization that much of 2014 was squandered to distraction, “focus” is a good choice.
However, many of the words I’ve seen take a different tone. “Victory,” “overcome,” “health,” “conquer,” “thrive,” “wellness,” and many others have a common flaw: they attempt to control what they cannot. A year earmarked for “victory” could end up as one in which you lost your job because of an inept boss, or a year of “wellness” could be one in which you catch the flu even though you got the flu shot.
New year’s resolutions can have the same problem. “I will get my dream job this year!” is impossible to fulfill on one’s own volition. While it’s possible to apply for your dream job or brush up your résumé to appear better suited for it, there’s nothing you can do to guarantee getting a certain job. It relies on many outside factors. Similarly, one can go on a diet or work out more in an effort to be healthy, but some aspects of health are uncontrollable.
When setting goals for the new year, be sure they’re goals that you have the power to achieve.
2. Start small.
It’s the time of year when many people set goals. Perhaps seeing your Facebook news feed filled with big dreams inspires you to go big as well. Unfortunately, though, most new year’s resolutions don’t last past mid-January.
Oftentimes, the excitement of the new year leads people to dream big, but setting overly lofty goals can lead to frustration when things are harder than possible. If you tend to chow down on fast food every day, don’t set a goal of losing 50 pounds right off the bat. If you lose your temper easily, don’t resolve to never do it again. You’ll get frustrated when you fail, and it will be easy to give up.
As a personal example, 2014 was a bad year for me relating to blogging. I was incredibly busy at times and had a lot of transition last year. As a result, I only blogged once. I will do better this year, but it wouldn’t be best for me to decide to write twice a week. It’s too drastic of a change.
Instead, start small. If you want to lose weight, set a goal to lose a pound a week this month. If you want to exercise more, resolve to do so 2-3 times a week. If you need to get out of debt, don’t choose to eat only Ramen noodles for all of 2015 to pay down your bills; make a payment for 10% or your next check when it comes in. These might sound like insignificant goals, but they’re not; they’re achievable goals. Then, when you succeed, you can use the momentum you’ve gained from your success to forge ahead with more difficult challenges.
3. Get help.
This year, I was a part of a community of several thousand people known as the Dreamers and Builders. The group, founded by author Jon Acuff, serves as a community for people who support each other in pursuit of their dreams. It’s an amazing place to find encouragement and advice, seek help and support with frustrations along the way, and celebrate victories.
Isolation breeds fear and community breeds courage. If you seek to accomplish something on your own, you’re more likely to fail than if you have others supporting you along the way.
The new year is a great time to try something new or get a fresh start. Happy new year and best of luck in your new pursuits!