The hustle and bustle of the holiday season will soon give way to thoughts and plans for the new year. Many of these discussions will invariably touch upon the changes that people plan to make when January arrives. This might include lifestyle changes, like eating better and exercising more, learning how to better manage one’s money, or a desire to pick up a new hobby. Regardless of how we choose to do so, a new year often presents us with an opportunity to reinvent ourselves.
While any day of the year that we choose to make changes to help us live a happier and healthier life is a good day to start, the dawn of a new year is particularly promising. While many a joke has been made about the success (or lack thereof) of new year’s resolutions, many people do find success with making and sustaining changes at this time of year. What sets these people apart from those of us who may be less successful with our new year/new us plans? Much of it comes down to having a plan.
Step 1: Make a resolution
If you are considering overhauling an area of your life in the new year, I would encourage you to start by picking one area. We often overwhelm ourselves by picking too many things to do at one time and it becomes hard to sustain all changes simultaneously. Instead, start with one change. As you start to see success and have been able to maintain this, you can add on another change. The confidence and adrenaline that you experience as a result of succeeding with your first change will build momentum for the next one. Success builds success!
Step 2: Make a plan
Success in any area of life is rarely due to luck, and more due to planning and ongoing hard work. This holds true for whether you are learning to dance, losing weight or building an empire. The reason many of us are unsuccessful with our new year’s resolutions is because we often come up with well intentioned ideas but do not give much thought as to how we will implement them. When we then encounter a challenge with our idea, we do not know how to overcome it, and we often give up.
As an example, let’s look at a frequently cited new year’s resolution: losing weight. Despite how many people cite this as a resolution and the amount of services catered to helping people with this, many (not all) still struggle with accomplishing this goal. The difference between those who succeed and those who struggle is not simply a matter of will power. Having a plan for how to modify your life so it becomes more conducive to losing the weight is an important step towards achieving a positive outcome. Furthermore, the more detailed the plan, the greater the likelihood of success
Plan A: Lose weight. Eat heathier. Exercise more.
Plan B: Lose weight. Eat healthier. In lieu of buying lunch from a fast food place during the work week, pack a home-made lunch which includes fruit as snacks. Meal prep with a friend every Sunday evening to avoid it feeling like a chore. Exercise 3x during the work week. Join the gym at work so that exercising can be done before or after the workday to reduce the likelihood of a missed workout.
While the intended end result is the same, the person who made the second plan is more likely to be successful because they have given thought to how they will implement this plan in their life, including considering potential obstacles and coming up with ways to counter them. It is important to note that plans don’t need to be extravagant, they just need to be specific to how you live your life.
Additionally, when making your plan don’t overlook all the things that you might already be doing that can help you meet your goal. By doing more of these things (or doing them more frequently) change is less overwhelming. For example, perhaps you already bring a homemade lunch to work every day but buy snacks which is where you succumb to the unhealthy options. By packing additional items to your lunch which you already spend time making, it is easier to make a healthy choice when the 3pm craving hits. Your plan should make you feel empowered and should build upon good things you are already doing.
Step 3: Pace yourself
You have 365 days (and not just until January 31st) to make it your new reality. Be kind to yourself when you stray from the plan. Be patient with yourself when you experience a setback. Celebrate when you achieve smaller milestones as you get closer to the goal.
Happy New year! Happy New(er) You!
Coretta Rego, MA, RP, CCC
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA