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Setting (Realistic) New Year’s Resolutions

odds & ends

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5 min read

Setting (Realistic) New Year’s Resolutions Photo

by Toni Brannagan | January 13, 2021

Yup, it’s that time of year again. Time for me to decide this is the year I’m going to start journaling daily, only to abandon my new, pretty notebook in the box of sad, half-used notebooks in my closet three weeks later. (Fine, two.) 

Oddly specific? Maybe, but I am *not* alone. Seriously — studies show that about half of us set New Year’s resolutions, but fewer than 10% keep up with them after February. Not exactly a great track record, guys!

Why do people set resolutions year after year when we don’t keep them? Who knows! But the history behind them traces all the way back to the Ancient Babylonians 4,000 years ago, so it’s a practice that’s likely not going anywhere. I’m not too sure what their success rates were, but what we can change is ours — one of the biggest reasons people abandon their resolutions is because they are unattainable or unrealistic, and I bet I’m also not the only one who was exceptionally blindsided by unexpected roadblocks in the past year. (Let’s be real, in 2020, just getting by was an achievement.)

So, in the spirit of taking on 2021 with the lessons learned from 2020 in mind, here are some quick and easy tips for kicking off this year with doable, realistic resolutions:

set your intentions

It might seem obvious, but figuring out what you want from the upcoming year is the first step to set up for success. Before you decide what your resolutions are, think about the underlying goal. Do you want to improve your relationships with family or friends? Live a healthier lifestyle? Make strides in your career?

Take those goals and think about actionable steps to help you get there. In some instances, it will make more sense to be more specific, whereas for others, that can be limiting. Take this into consideration, as well! For example, if you want to be closer to your mom, resolving to call her once a week is probably a simple, doable intention (and likely, more productive than simply resolving to improve the relationship). But if, let’s say, you want to eat more vegetarian meals, setting out to try new recipes might keep you on track longer than an incremental goal like going meat-free X times a week.

bigger isn’t always better

Similarly, consider *quality* over quantity. Continuing good habits you’ve established for yourself, or even repeating an incremental objective from the year are worthy resolutions, especially after a tough year like 2020. For example: Let’s say last year you challenged yourself to read 50 books, and you completed that goal. Instinct (and some competitive folks on Goodreads) might pressure you to raise that number, but resolving to read another 50 books this year is an achievement on its own. 

If you’d like to challenge yourself further, and you do decide to aim high, consider marking milestones as you progress. This will boost your morale and confidence throughout the year!

be kind to yourself

There’s a reason we tend to hear about yearly resolutions exclusively in January — as mentioned earlier, the vast majority of people who set lofty New Year’s resolutions abandon them by the next month after the initial enthusiasm wears off. This can feel demoralizing, but it’s important to remember that even the most disciplined people struggle to break and form new habits, and that doesn’t happen overnight or within a month. Motivating yourself with a resolution should be an inspiring challenge, not a reason to make you feel bad about yourself.

Also, consider this: Allow yourself to lapse… without abandoning the goal entirely. Wild, I know. If you mess up a couple times but still aspire to your original intention, there’s really no reason that you can treat each new day like it’s January 1 all over again. No one will come check your work, promise!

resolutions don’t have rules

Remember: There are no qualifications your resolutions have to meet to be considered legitimate. Your resolutions can be as small and simple as you desire, and do *not* need to be tied explicitly to self-improvement. Maybe you want to listen to more new music this year. Or watch more old movies. Setting out and completing any goal you’ve set for yourself is worthy of celebration!

And all that being said, if you decide that the kindest thing you can do for yourself is keep on carrying on as best you can, without taking on the pressure of additional, self-imposed responsibilities, there’s no shame in that, either! Do you!

What were your New Year’s resolutions this year, if you set them? How did you keep your goals grounded? Share with us in the comments.

by Toni Brannagan

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