One of the things that I love about New Year’s is that it feels like a fresh start—a chance for new beginnings. We have the perfect opportunity to set new goals and begin the year with feelings of hope and joy.
A great deal of joy can come out of feeling optimistic about the upcoming year. One of the best ways to spark feelings of hope and happiness are by creating resolutions for the New Year.
Now the fact is, many of us make our resolutions on January 1st that we have already rationalized dumping by February 1st! That’s because it takes approximately four to six weeks to change a habit or start a new one, so it's important to have a good plan in place to keep up that initial momentum.
(Or as Jerry Seinfeld might have said, it is one thing to make a New Year’s resolution, and another thing entirely to keep the resolution. Big difference.)
Here are my tips to help you set and keep your resolutions:
1. Be realistic
Don’t set yourself up for failure by trying for the impossible. Think about what you can realistically accommodate in your schedule and work from there.
2. Be specific
Instead of pledging, "I will lose weight," try something more like, "I commit to eating healthy and exercising daily unless it's a special occasion."
3. Lay out an exact plan
Decide ahead of time how you will change your behavior, then write down the details on a piece of paper or electronic devices. This is an act of commitment to your goal.
4. Share your goals
Let one or more members of your support system know that you are working toward making positive changes in this coming year, and ask them to be there to lift you up during the challenging times and to cheer for you during the successful times.
Set up a plan to call them if you are feeling like you are struggling to stay on track. In an ideal situation, ask a friend to be your accountability partner and you can be hers. Check in with each other daily or weekly so that you can provide each other mutual support and encouragement.
5. Focus on progress, not perfection
If you slip up, allow yourself the room to make the mistake and move forward in a positive direction without beating yourself up. Each new minute, hour or day is another chance to try again.
Remember that it takes four to six weeks to change a habit or to start a new one. Make every effort to continue on this path toward positive changes well into February, and things will get easier.
Make this year one in which you achieve your goals and learn new skills. Set yourself up for success by starting out the year on a positive footing.
Stacy Kaiser is a successful Southern California-based licensed psychotherapist, author, relationship expert and media personality, and a frequent contributor to Live Happy.