New year, new me, am I right?! But, seriously, we rarely see ourselves or others follow through on that. Why? There are a couple of really common frames of mind that are problematic when it comes to making New Year resolutions, even though they sound positive. “After the new year, I am going to ______,” or “This year I am going to/not going to _____.” Those blanks are typically filled in with vague, broad goals like lose weight, eat healthy, stop being negative, do what makes me happy, etc. Let me take a moment to clarify that wanting to accomplish those types of things are not the problem. I applaud anyone who has taken a moment to reflect and who has decided that they have a change they would like to make to better themselves. The problem is that those types of objectives do not put you in a position to truly improve yourself and make those improvements stick. This time around, you can kiss New Year resolutions goodbye, and set yourself up for success by taking immediate action instead.
Let’s talk about the New Year resolution trap. Take the phrase, “This year I am going to lose weight,” For example. “Lose weight,” says nothing about what exactly it is that you are trying to achieve or how you are going to do it. If there is something you want to do, it needs to be clearly defined. Also, “This year,” is an overwhelming time frame, isn’t it? You put unnecessary pressure on yourself by letting a far out deadline loom over you. Lastly, there is no “why” in “lose weight.” What is your reason for setting this goal? Eating healthy to lose weight and eating healthy to have more energy and feel confident in your body are very different ways of thinking (I think the latter is far more motivating). Knowing your driver is crucial, as it allows your actions to come from a genuine and empowered place; you want to eat healthy, you don’t have to. So what if we said, “In January, I am going to eat healthier, and lose 10 pounds, so I can look and feel good.” This is better, but it still is not actionable. What exactly are you going to do and how are you going to start doing it? Taking it a step further, “I will eat more fruits and vegetables and less processed foods, refined carbs, and red meat,” provides more direction than, “I will eat healthier.” However, we still are not fully setting ourselves up for success. The final necessary thought process to eliminate is the January mentality. The January mentality is the same as the tomorrow or Monday or next year mentality. Why are you waiting to start working towards what you want for yourself? There will always be an excuse to wait or a fear holding you back. If you’ve made the decision that you want to make a change, do it NOW. These great, big, long-term goals we typically set for ourselves are daunting and not realistic. True accomplishment takes constant, daily work. Your success does not surmount to achieving a single end goal, but it is all of the incremental gains along the way.
Changes You Can Make Now
Okay, great. So you understand why the “New year, new me,” mindset is a trap. What can you do NOW to be successful in making the changes you want to make? Two words. Daily. Practices.
-Set daily practices— actions you can do every day, rather than lofty long-term goals.
-Make a short, easy to remember, doable list that you can execute every day. Every day you will succeed, because every day you are progressing, and every day you are doing something for yourself that will make you better.
-Think about what actions you can take on a daily basis to reach the goal. Continuing with our example, we’ve got a goal of eating healthier to lose 10 pounds, because we want to look and feel good. That is our motivation for carrying out our list of daily practices, but it is not representative of what we are going to actually do.
-Make the list short enough so that you can keep a mental checklist (2-4 things).
Here is a possible list of daily practices that would immediately launch you into a healthier lifestyle.
Meditate for at least 2 minutes
Start the day with hot lemon water
Have two portions of veggies with dinner, and eat half of them before anything else.
It is also important to build off of your list of daily practices. Once hot lemon water every morning becomes a habit, continue doing it, but replace it with something else you can do every day to even further better your health. There are tons of other daily practices that you can come up with depending on that you want for yourself.
Ideas and examples: pick 2-3 of these or come up with your own!
Take two minutes every morning to meditate, pray, or perform affirmations
Sweat every day (even if you don’t have time for a 60 minute workout, you can likely squeeze in a 20 minute walk or jog)
Call a family member or friend that you don’t reach out to frequently
Have fruit for breakfast or with breakfast
Practice yoga (even if it’s at home for 10 minutes and even if you’re in savasana the whole time)
Do ___ number of push ups/ sit ups/ burpees
Eat salad for lunch
Write down a list of things you’re grateful for
Drink 64 ounces of water
Learn something new (read an article or book, watch a documentary, etc.)
Eat a fruit or vegetable at least three times a day
Eat whole grains instead of refined carbs (ex: brown rice or quinoa rather than white rice or pasta)
Eat two meatless meals a day
Take a probiotic
Try to think of your whole self when coming up with your list. Make at least one of the 2-4 practices something unrelated to food or fitness. Ask yourself if you want to be more mindful, improve your love life, or sleep better. When you stress less, love more, and sleep deep, you have more energy and clarity to make better health and fitness choices. Do not wait until tomorrow, or Monday, or January. Grab a pen and paper (or more likely the “Notes” section of your phone) and create your list of daily practices. Start bettering yourself NOW!