There it is — the bright promise of a new year. You get a clean slate, a fresh start, and in just one day, you can magically change everything about yourself you don’t like, commit to every goal you’ve meant to achieve, and let go of all of your bad habits at once. Poof!
When we make New Year’s Resolutions, there is an illusion that we are waving a magic wand and everything will change from that moment forward. Stating intentions, commitment, and goal-setting can all be effective ways to form new habits or to move forward, don’t get me wrong. We tend to do too much at once though, and our perfectionism kicks in. If we get off track from our new diet or exercise routine for just one day, we might give up entirely. What’s the point anyway?
How about starting out with going easier on yourself, to begin with? If Resolutions don’t work, then what does?
Habit maker and blogger, Leo Baubata, suggests creating rules instead. These limits can help us to build a structure, to stay focused and minimize distraction. For example, he suggests defining action steps to go along with your bigger goals. If you want to write a book, for example, it is the daily habits and actions that make that happen. If you find yourself going down a social media and Googling rabbit hole each time you open your computer, then set a rule to write for 20 minutes and don’t browse the Internet until that 20 minutes is up. Set a timer or reminders to help you stay on track.
Also, we tend to try to “get in shape” or “declutter our house” all at once, rather than in stages. If you approach these goals in manageable chunks, day by day, you will get there. If you write for 20 minutes each morning when you wake up, in a year, you’d have a book! Remember the analogy about how to eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
Go easy on yourself. If you want to create change in your health, your wellbeing, or your career, pat yourself on the back when you take action and refuse to beat yourself up when you have “failed.” Failure means you are trying, and if you let perfectionism get the best of you, it will prevent you from ever moving forward at all. Practice the same kindness and compassion toward yourself that you would practice with a loved one if they are struggling.
Just because it’s a New Year, doesn’t mean you can’t make a new choice every day. Take time the night before to set yourself up right for the following day. Get out a journal and write down your important tasks for tomorrow. Lay out the workout clothes in advance to set yourself up with no excuses the next morning.
Start each day out by taking a deep breath, and asking yourself the question, “what can I do today to renew my life?” Let that guide you.