It's officially a new year, and along with its arrival, millions of Americans have made heartfelt plans to lose that weight, put away the smartphone at dinner, or quit smoking once and for all. But come February, most of us will have mostly abandoned those well-intended goals, and by March, we will have all but forgotten we made them. But it doesn't have to be that way.
Try these tips to (maybe, actually) reach your goals in the new year:
- Forget feelings: The feelings that caused you to want to make a change in your life will likely be gone well before the end of January, so don't depend on maintaining that strong emotion to fuel a long-term goal. Instead, consider how you will keep going when you're really not feeling it anymore.
- Make it difficult to practice unhealthy habits: Willpower is a nice idea and all, but there is strong evidence that it only goes so far. You're much more likely to be able to resist having ice cream after dinner if you don't buy ice cream in the first place. Get creative, and find ways to make it more inconvenient to do the old habit and easier to pick up the new one.
- Replace, don't resist: Practicing a different coping skill or strategy in place of the habit you are attempting to break works better than just trying to resist unwanted behavior. Keep hard candy in your pocket and use it every time you want a cigarette. Instead of resolving to not eat unhealthy foods, focus on increasing the amount of healthy foods in your diet.
- Stay present: Today is the only day you have to make a change it's impossible to lose weight or quit biting your nails in the future, or change what happened yesterday. Reaching a goal involves thousands of tiny accomplishments that build up over time. So think about what can you do to reach your goal or get back on track, just in this moment.
- Practice acceptance: What would your life look like if things didn't change? Fully accepting the way things are is helpful because it gives you the freedom to fail, to change your mind, to not do the thing you said you were going to do. When the inevitable setback comes, you won't have to wade through the sea of guilt and shame that often prevents people from trying one more time.
- Be persistent: The difference between people who are successful at reaching their goals and those who aren't is persistence, plain and simple. If you forget about your goal for the entire month of February, just get back on the horse in March. No matter what, don't give up.
- But be realistic: When it comes to New Year's resolutions, most people expect too much, too quickly, and try to do too many things at once. If you have more than two or three serious goals, or if you're hoping to look like Kate Moss by Thursday, you might want to revise your expectations.
- Create an action plan: Making a goal is easy, but having a plan of action is what will really get you there. Identify small, concrete steps that you can take on a daily or weekly basis to get closer to your destination.
- Enlist friends and family: Having somebody to cheer you on and be accountable to is a great way to boost your chances of success. Find somebody to exercise with, take a class with, or just check in with to help you stay on track.
- Don't make resolutions: The best way to guarantee that you will keep your New Year's resolutions is not to make any at all. Try this tip to be 100 percent successful in the new year! Or, better yet, resolve to just incorporate healthy living into the new year.
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