Once you have decided to change something about yourself or your life, it makes sense to pick the start of the week, the month, or the year to implement your plan. The beginning of the year is a typical time for people to make declarations like “New Year, New Me!” The independent comparison platform, Finder.com, reported that in 2021, 189 million Americans (74% of the population) set a personal goal for a lifestyle change in the year to come. However, according to a recent CBS News report, the percentage of Americans who said they would make a New Year’s resolution for 2022 was down by 44% from last year. When asked, only 29% of the adults polled said they planned to make a New Year’s resolution.
According to goskills.com, the most common New Year’s resolutions for 2022 are the following:
Learn a new skill or hobby.
Live life to the fullest.
Save more money/spend less money.
Spend more time with family and friends.
Most people in your inner circle have resolved to do at least one of the above this year. You may even have made one or more similar New Year’s resolutions yourself. However, if you are like most people, you have already broken at least one of them by the second week in January. The problem is that many of us tend to set gigantic, unrealistic goals for ourselves that inevitably fail. We have good intentions, and we are enthusiastic and even successful initially. But somewhere in the process, we lose that big head of steam. As a result, our progress stalls, and we are disappointed. At that point, it isn’t easy to get motivated to continue what we started. And if we have become discouraged enough to stop working toward the goal altogether, it becomes almost impossible to restart.
So, what should we non-starters and never-finishers do? Part of the answer lies in the goal’s size, and the other part lies in the timing of our objectives. When making a lifestyle change, the best place to start is to sit down and consider exactly where you want to go. Once you have established your goal, the next step is to do research to determine a realistic period for when you can expect to get there. The result is a more modest goal with a much better chance of fulfillment.
Set a specific, realistic goal for whatever you would like to accomplish in the coming year, be it losing weight, eating healthier, quitting smoking, reading more, or simply being more productive at work. You will be more successful if you zero in on what you want to accomplish than if you frame your intent as a broad generality. For example, instead of saying you want to lose weight, determine that you would like to lose fifteen pounds over the next six months.
After you have established your goal and your timeframe to reach it, write it down in your journal or someplace else where you will see it often. Writing your plan will help your brain to conceptualize your good intentions and take them from “wishful thinking” to a concrete outcome to pursue.
Next, find someone you trust and tell them about your goal. Telling someone about your project will give you an accountability partner. Select someone interested enough in your success to actively encourage and support you along the way, but also someone who will be committed enough to notice if you fall off the wagon and firm enough to call you out if you begin to lose your way.
Finally, revisit your goal often. Again, a journal may be helpful, or you might put reminders on your refrigerator, on your bulletin board or whiteboard at work, or even set reminders on your phone. The idea is to keep your target in front of you. That way, you are less likely to let it slip your mind, and you are also less likely to sabotage your success by “blowing off” the commitment you have made to yourself.
When drawing up your game plan, be sure to put your goal down into smaller steps or objectives. These objectives should be measurable, and they should also be adjustable to fit the ebbs and flows of your life. Life has a way of throwing you curveballs, so your plan should be flexible enough to accommodate those turns without abandoning your endeavor altogether.
How you track your progress will depend on your desired outcome, but you might set objectives that you can measure in predetermined time intervals:
Daily. For example, you might track your daily step count, the servings of fruits and vegetables you eat, or the number of glasses of water you drink each day. You can keep a daily count of the number of times you pick up your cell phone to check your email or social media, or the number of cigarettes (or packs of cigarettes) you smoke each day.
Weekly. Experts advise differently, but keeping a weekly log of pounds and inches lost is much more manageable than checking and recording them daily. Similarly, if you are limiting your impulse spending, it would be more productive to track the number of trips to your favorite store weekly rather than daily.
Monthly. Recording and tracking activities monthly works for watching your expenses or your savings. In addition, you might set monthly targets for reading, giving, volunteering, or working on hobbies.
Quarterly. Once you have established the pattern for your new behavior, you can track your progress quarterly. That will give you a bird’s eye view of whether your plan is shaping up as you intended. When you revisit your program this way, you will see where adjustments here or there might increase your success. Make those adjustments, then see how things work out over the next quarter.
Finally, you will be more successful in reaching your goals for the new year if you approach them holistically. Do your best to incorporate all three spheres of your being into your plan for the new year: physical, mental, and spiritual. Embrace your whole self. Your body does not operate apart from your mind, and your mind is not independent of your spirit. You are much more likely to stick with your plan if you see the “big picture” of your life. Whenever you decide to make behavioral changes, think about how those changes will affect your body, mind, and spirit.
If you have resolved to make a lifestyle change in 2022, be sure to set a specific goal. Write it down, tell someone about it, and revisit your plan often. Then, you will be well on your way to accomplishing what you set out to do to improve yourself and your life.