A Different Approach to New Year’s Resolutions

Slow and steady for the win.

By Katherine Fluor
Camille Styles Social Media Makeover challenge

Four out of five people who make New Year’s resolutions tonight will eventually break them. In fact, a third won’t even make it to the end of January. And, by mid-February, 80 percent of us will have broken our New Year’s resolutions. When I read this research by US News & World Report, I have to admit I wasn’t surprised, as I too am guilty of being overly ambitious when it comes to resolutions. The beginning of a new year offers a fresh start that often leads to overly lofty goals. Time to change my life! Right?

jessi afshin's darling diary morning journalingimage by divina stennfeld

A few weeks ago, I found my list of the resolutions I made at the beginning of 2019. Here’s what I vowed to do last year:

  • A dry January
  • 30-day cleanse
  • Work out 5 times a week
  • Cook dinner at home 4 nights a week
  • Teach yoga
  • Journal every morning
  • Be more present
  • Be comfortable with the uncomfortable
  • Drink a gallon of water a day
  • Pay off my credit card bill every month
  • Have a date night with my husband once a week
  • Call my mom for daily check ins
  • Get a promotion at work
  • Plan and take a girls trip

… the list went on and on. I felt exhausted just reading it.

Why is it that I feel the need to change everything about myself and drastically improve my life come January 1? Why do I set myself up for disappointment when I can’t stick to my unrealistic list?

When I was making that list last year, I was unknowingly 6 weeks pregnant. Safe to say, only about 2 of those resolutions made it past March. So here I am a year later: a new mom with a changed perspective on life as I know it.

This year, instead of trying to speed through a hefty laundry list of resolutions I realistically would never be able to keep, I’m starting small and focusing on a shift in direction. Instead of looking at changes for this year alone, I’m prioritizing those things that will help me get to where I want to be in three, five, and ten years down the road. Here’s how I plan on shifting the way I go about my New Year’s resolutions this year, so I can make the most of them and feel inspired to keep going.

nitsa citrine, lamp, couch, california bungalowimage by claire huntsberger

Know my why.

For a resolution to stick, it has to be aligned with your core values. We all want to get in shape and advance our career or skill sets, but in order for resolutions to last, they have to go beyond superficial desires and connect to what truly matters to you. Behind each one of the goals I’m setting this year is a why that I feel truly passionate about. Knowing why you want to achieve a goal or make a lifestyle change will connect your resolutions to a deeper sense of purpose, compel you not to think small or play it safe, but to dig deep and stay the course when the going gets tough — no matter how many hurdles (or 530am alarms) it takes to get there.

camille styles' guest bedroomimage by kate zimmerman turpin

Be specific.

Personally, I’ve found that resolutions to ‘eat better, get fitter, be happier, relax more, or have better work/life balance’ are doomed for failure because they lack specificity. The more specific I get, the more likely I am to succeed. And, trying to do too many things at once can make me so unfocused that I just bounce around like Tigger on Red Bull, not quite sure which direction I am going. This year, instead of trying to achieve 10+ resolutions, I’m setting myself up for success by setting just one personal, one career, and one relationship goal come January 1. Then, I’m breaking down each of those 3 large goals into small, bite size steps that I can knowingly manage (even with a newbown) every week. Remember: small steps, strong start!

stretching, new year resolutionsimage by dagny piasecki

Focus on the process.

On this Goop podcast episode, Michael Gervais, a high-performing psychologist, talks about small mental shifts and lifestyle changes we can make in order to reach our full potential. In the episode, he says, “courageous participation attracts positive things.” This quote really hit a cord with me and got me thinking about the small, daily changes that I want to make in order to achieve my larger resolutions. If I focus on showing up every day and making a conscious effort to stick to the weekly goals I’ve set for myself, I will ultimately succeed. To keep me accountable and motivated, I’m describing my goals and resolutions in ways that will allow me to track progress and measure success.

It’s easy to get caught up in an initial wave of enthusiasm come January, only to come crashing down when my efforts don’t produce immediate and amazing results. So, this year I’m vowing to focus on the process itself, and develop a greater sense of competence of the actual activity, habit or skill I want to acquire.  I’m going to trust the process, celebrate the small wins, and remember that persistence always pays off. After all, the unhealthy habits that I’m trying to change took years to develop, so how can I expect to change them in just a matter of days, weeks, or months?

This year, even though it may take longer than I would like to achieve the goals I’ve set out to accomplish, I’m trying to remember that it’s not a race to the finish. Now that I have made the commitment to changing a behavior, it is something that I will continue to work on for the rest of my life.