It happens to the best of us. As much as we try, as much as we promise and swear to ourselves each time the new year comes around, that our stick-notes and neatly written down Resolutions will work this time, that we will definitely stick to them and lose those five kgs, or quit smoking, or stop drinking aerated drinks, January creeps us by, and come summer, we find ourselves facing pizza late nights and guiltily acknowledging that our New Year Resolutions have – yet again – failed.
It’s around this time of the year, as the weather takes a turn for the better, that sticking to all your self-improvement plans becomes harder. It might seem weird to think that beautiful summer days are actually a better time to cut down on junk food, sleep on time, and whatever your resolution might be, but the darkness and laziness of winter has been taken away – summer is actually more bright and more energetic to allow you to dedicate yourself to your promises to yourself. Now that enough time has passed, you also have had time to figure out the weaknesses in your resolution: did you aim for too much, could you tweak it to suit your lifestyle and routine better. Voila, you can now come up with new ideas and a fresh plan for making sure you actually make the resolutions work. You need to reaffirm to yourself why it is important for you to make that particular change in your life – maybe think of all the good things that it would lead to – and then make a game-plan for going down the right track until you make it happen.
Exercising and losing weight are staple resolutions for most people, and from a health perspective, they totally should be. Strategize your plan through clear lists of portion control, making sure you tick mark a certain number of fruits/vegetables intake everyday. You could try experimenting with different kinds of health cereal or muesli for breakfast, and work your way from there, trying to make it a habit. The important thing is to not exhaust your enthusiasm in the beginning, but to consciously remind yourself that you need to space out your dedication in instalments to last you long enough for them to come naturally to you.
My experience with New Years – and very, very ambitious and dreamy resolutions – have helped in figure out a rough idea about how to make my resolutions come alive after their slow death a few months or weeks into the year. One way to start is to cut the plural out of resolutions – have one, solo, single, objective. Don’t let this be a vague blanket aim of ‘becoming healthy’ – let it be a seemingly insignificant thing, even if it’s something as simple as ‘only dark chocolate, only once a week’ or regulating your coffee intake by ‘only one cup of black coffee a day’. Keep it small, but specific, and stick to it. Have reality check points planned – see how you’re doing a week into your resolution, whether you slipped, whether sticking to your strategy was particularly hard on some day, what do you do if there’s a coffee get-together after you’ve already had your daily share? Come up with ideas to deal with these situations, and reorient yourself from week to week.
While the whole point of the New Year resolution is sort of to start with something which you stick to for the whole year – and then forever – it actually makes more sense to break down your vast resolution into do-able goals through stages in the year, whether it’s weekly, monthly, or every three months. This will definitely help in making your resolution a success by the end of the year, because if you are trying to do too many things at the same time, your enthusiasm will wane out and you will give up on your resolution.
One thing to keep in mind as you plan your resolution strategy is to know your own strength and weaknesses, and play to them. If you are aware of certain ways which work for you, or act as good incentives to stick to something, use them to condition yourself to behave in a certain way. Promise yourself a movie, or buy something you’ve been wanting for a long time, if you manage to stick to one of your stage goals of the resolution. Another thing to remember is to stick to focusing only on the smaller things, and not be stressed out by the larger resolution at hand in your everyday life. Don’t freak out over the details, make sure you’re following your little, specific goal for the time period you’ve chosen for yourself, and stop trying to control all the other aspects.
While it obviously is tempting to throw yourself headlong and passionately into huge New Year goals – after all, who isn’t swept away by the excitement and change a fresh year in the calendar brings with it – it is also important to remember that your resolutions are an agent for happy change in your life, and are not meant to be a source of stress and disappointment. Sometimes, we cannot control all other factors and attain the hundred percent perfection that allows us to cross our resolution off as ‘successful’. Draw a line between ‘progress’ and ‘success’, as the saying goes: make sure you’re working towards your goal, and not away from it, and as long as you are on that track towards positivity, don’t beat yourself up over complete perfection. After all, another year will soon be here!