How New Year’s Resolutions Can Hurt You

And how to stay motivated anyway

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Photo By Patty Johnson

I suppose the beginning of the year is a good time as any to start fresh. Makes some sense. But the problem with New Year’s resolutions is that we’re not always ready for them. We might say we’re going to make ten significant changes at the start of the year, we try them all for the first month. But then, all motivation fizzles out and disappointment sets in.

This happens because change is hard. Therefore, it requires planning. If this weren’t true, we’d all be super fit, working our dream jobs and saving a bunch of money.

So imagine the disaster we’re setting ourselves up for when we decide we’re going to start multiple new resolutions all at one time, just because everyone else is. The creation of unrealistic goals often also leads to disappointment, a deflated sense of self and anxiety about our failures.

There’s a healthier and more effective approach, which includes giving ourselves the emotional space to grow into our goals.

Envision the goal you would like to accomplish. Can you envision how your life will look after attaining the goal? What does attainment of the goal mean to you? Begin to plan out the steps you must take to accomplish it.

Consider one goal at a time. Attempts to achieve more than one goal at a time can take up a lot of emotional effort. If we feel overwhelmed, we tend to want to give up. Focusing on one change at a time can increase the chances of making lasting change. Therefore, each change deserves its own space.

Plan the logistics of your goal. Do you need specific equipment? Will you need to reorganize your workspace?

Elicit support. Will you share your intentions with the important people in your life so that they can cheer you on? Create opportunities for self-motivation. Where can you place encouraging affirmations of the goals you’d like to accomplish? Can you memorize some of them? Would it be helpful to create a timeline?

Consider possible obstacles so that your motivation isn’t wiped out when you face barriers. If you’re planning a vacation, that may throw you off of your schedule, which can affect our ability to remain consistent. Plan for those changes and be forgiving of yourself when changes cause you to lose momentum. You can always restart the next day.

Clarify your goal. Most importantly, you’ll need to write out specific, actionable and especially realistic steps to attain your goal.

Above all, start at the best time for you. If you know you have heavy time demands at work every January and the kids are home for winter break, is the New Year truly the best time to launch into new endeavors? If not, maybe the New Year is a great time to start planning on when you can start making attainable goals.

How have your New Year’s goals been coming along? I’d love to hear what’s working for you or what challenges you might be facing.

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