There is always so much pressure to make big, sweeping resolutions for the new year. And with 2020 — a new decade — on the horizon, I bet we're all feeling that pressure a little more than usual. I want to preface this by saying you are by no means obligated to have New Year's resolutions. They don't often work, and if they're going to cause you more stress than happiness, don't do it! But while arbitrary, a brand new year often seems like a chance to start anew, to make changes in your life you've always wanted to make.
So if — and that's a big if — you really want to commit to striving toward some goals in the new year, here are 10 tips to make sure you stick with it.
1. Pick one thing to change at a time.
It's December 30. You've been wasting away at your parents' house for a week, simultaneously manic from all the sugar cookies and exhausted from family obligation and travel. It's easy to feel like when the new year rolls around, you want to overhaul everything. But when you're formulating your New Year's resolutions, it's best to pick one thing. Or two things. But pick one thing to tackle at a time. You're much more likely to stick to one new habit than eight new habits in all different areas of your life.
2. Make sure it's important to you.
I cannot stress this enough. Make sure your goal is relevant and personal to you. Don't choose a goal because you think it's what's expected of you or what you should do. Don't, for example, make a plan to lose weight if you're generally healthy and happy in your body, just because it's what you think people would want from you. Really take some time to look inside yourself and decide what it is you want to accomplish for yourself in the new year. Do you want to learn a new skill? Develop a hobby? Get really solidly good at playing hide and seek? Whatever it is, make sure it's actually meaningful to you.
3. Be specific.
We all say we want to "exercise more" and "eat better" and "get better at hide and seek," but what does that really mean? When you think about your goals, be as specific as you can possibly get. Having a tangible goal will make progress measurable and easy to track. "Exercise more" could be "go on three walks per week." "Eat better" = "Have a serving of vegetables with two meals a day." And "get better at hide and seek" obviously means "lie in the crawl space below your home for four hours without moving."
4. And be realistic.
In addition to being specific, you have to be realistic. Make sure your goals are attainable. It might not be realistic, for example, to assume you're going to become a professional-level baker in the next year, but you can set a goal to master the cupcake. And it might not be possible to go from lying in the crawlspace under your home for zero minutes to four hours all at once. You might have to work up to it. Start with five minutes, then ten minutes, etc. But at the end of the year, when your siblings can't find you and consider calling the police because they're so concerned, it will all be worth it.
5. Make micro-resolutions.
According to David G. Allan at CNN, year-long resolutions just don't work. Instead, focus on behaviors and goals for 30 days. Four weeks of honing one new skill or behavior. Seems reasonable, right? Even if you have big goals that will take all year to accomplish, you can split them up into 12 smaller goals to make them easier to swallow. If your goal is to eat better, eat a piece of fruit at breakfast every day of March. If you want to learn to sew your own clothes, spend August watching all the YouTube tutorials you can get your hands on. And if you want to become a hide and seek master, use September to meditate every chance you get. You'll need that kind of peaceful focus when you're lying under that crawlspace.
6. Write down your goals.
I am a huge proponent of writing things down. I don't know about you, but I am so much more likely to get things done if I have a handwritten to-do list I can cross things off of. Just the act of writing out your goals is helpful, but it's even better to take it a step further. Journal about your progress. Buy yourself a little goal notebook to track how you're doing. Buy yourself a poster board, write "I WILL HIDE SO WELL THEY'LL NEVER FIND ME" in big bold letters, and hang it on your bedroom door. Write down your goals to remind yourself what you're working toward.
7. Make a concrete plan.
Writing down your goals and tracking your progress is important, but you likely won't even get to that step if you don't have a plan to tackle your goal. So many people decide what their resolutions are in the last few days of the year and then feel paralyzed on January 1, not knowing how to actually go about accomplishing them. If you can think ahead a few weeks and write out a concrete plan for your goals, that's ideal. Pick your 12 micro-resolutions before the year starts. And then within each of those, decide on the steps you need to get there. Believe me, on January 1, you don't want to end up in the crawlspace without a plan.
8. Talk about your resolutions.
Just like people who run marathons, people who incessantly talk about their New Year's resolutions can be insufferable. (Can you imagine someone whose New Year's resolution is to run a marathon? Ugh!) But find a couple people close to you who can be trusted to support and encourage your goals as opposed to enable bad behavior, and tell them your goals.
Text them your progress and ask them to check in on you once in a while. Could you imagine if you got a text from your best friend that was like, "Hey! How much time have you spent in the crawlspace this week?" You'd want to get in that crawlspace. It's amazing what being accountable to another person will do for your productivity.
9. Reward yourself.
It's so important to build in rewards for when you're doing well. Obviously, the goals you choose should themselves make you feel better as you make progress, but that doesn't mean you don't deserve a treat every once in a while. Just make sure your reward doesn't undermine your goal. If you're well on your way to eating better, don't reward yourself with a day of junk food. Buy yourself a new sweater or get yourself a massage. If you're up to two hours in the crawlspace, don't go on a two-week honeymoon to France. No matter what your husband says. Instead, buy some coloring books to pass the time in the crawlspace. Don't do anything that will jeopardize all the hard work you've put in.
10. If you slip up, don't give up.
How many times have you started the day saying you would eat healthy or stay in the crawlspace, but then you eat a bag of chips or get spooked by a spider and run out, so you think, "Welp! That's ruined. Might as well give up!"? We've all been there. But don't get discouraged by setbacks! Even if you've lost track of your goals for months, you don't have to wait until the next year to start up again. Take a few moments to collect yourself, and then get back to your plan. Crawl back under your house. We believe in you. You can do it.