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Community & Behavioral Health | Recovery | Social Change


Changing the Conversation

5 Ways to Adapt Your New Year's Resolutions

12/29/16 12:20 PM | George Payne | Self-Care


New Year’s is here, and with it come your New Year’s resolutions. Like a whisper in your ear from a better version of yourself, New Year’s resolutions are more often carried out for awhile and then ignored as time passes. But, that is not a reason to avoid them entirely. Much like the concept of avoiding your primary care provider to ensure that you never hear what’s actually ailing you - never setting new goals means you’re destined never to fail, right? That’s wrong. I don’t mean to be patronizing, but some failure is inevitable, so don’t undermine your drive to become a better person just because you’re afraid to fail. Let’s call it long-term self-care.

This kind of self-care is about planning for a healthier you by leveraging who you are at this moment. If it doesn’t cause too much extra stress, let’s think back to your grade school report cards for a moment. If your teachers were anything like mine, they may have suggested that you look at your report cards like a snapshot in time. The report card was ultimately outdated the moment you received it; it was actually just a glimpse into the kind of student you were when the data were collected. Sometimes parents don’t see things that way, but you’ve grown up now, and you have the ability to see things differently.

Your grade school report cards were not an absolute picture of who you were at the time - you were also a dreamer, a thinker, an extra-curricular activist, a budding athlete, and an insightful young scientist. So, try not to let childhood scarring keep you from creating a better version of yourself. Your report card wasn’t an absolute picture of who you were, and your New Year’s resolutions shouldn’t reflect that falsehood either. Long-term self-care is about learning how to adapt to future stress. Read more self-care tips.

So, let’s do this together…here are 5 ways to set and adapt to your New Year’s resolutions more easily:

  1. Start early, fail fast.

When setting New Year’s resolutions, don’t hesitate. The longer you wait, the more time you will have wasted. As you adapt your resolution, the day you start will become less and less relevant. It won’t matter that you started on January 1, or on the first day of the week, or on the first morning that you walked into the office in the New Year. Try not to build up hype around the time you started; just get started. Self-care teaches us not to set ourselves up for failure whenever possible.

  1. Forgive, remember, and laugh.

No matter what kind of personality you have, you also have the capacity to forgive. Self-care is often about forgiving yourself and others. Forgive yourself if you misstep on the way to a better you. Just remember that you tried, how you tried, and why. This way, your misstep can be used as a stepping stone to future success. And shucks, if you’re able to laugh at yourself for trying, then trying again can only bring you success or more laughter. Sounds like a win-win!

  1. Small goals = small rewards.

Without being 100 percent counterproductive in your reward system, give yourself what you want. If every time you eat a floret of broccoli, you follow it with similar-sized piece of candy, you’re going to have a bad time. If you’re normally against eating any vegetables at all, eating a floret of broccoli can be a big deal - but, do it once a day for a week, and you will have eaten a bunch of broccoli. Follow that pattern for a month and you will have eaten a small garden plot of broccoli, which might be more broccoli than you’ve consumed your whole adult life. That sounds like an achievement to me, so reward yourself (appropriately).

  1. Share your goals.

Sharing your goals can be tough. Just like suggestion #1, if you wait until you’ve achieved something great to tell someone about it, it may never happen, and your failure will seem that much greater. Tell someone close to you about your goals and your process. This will make you accountable to someone you care about. Better yet, bring them in on it! For instance, even if they’re already in good physical shape, you may find having someone experience the same kind of soreness and excitement from working out to be motivating. Misery might love company, but achievement lasts longer when it’s shared. Remember, self-care is also about letting others take care of you.

  1. Document your struggle.

Remember the report card - the feeling of an impending evaluation could feel like the end of the world. As you read it or it was read to you, every sentence was punctuated with a punch to the gut! But, as it was folded back up, you were given a new lease on life. Your struggle was documented. You were given new benchmarks to strive for. In the end, that snapshot in time only served to introduce you to who you were the last time you tried. Now you should feel free to try again without the fear that you are certain to fail the same way again. You only have yourself to thank for that one.

In summary: Start your New Year’s resolution as soon as you feel the urge. Don’t hesitate. If you fail, forgive yourself, remember your struggle, and laugh it off. Try again. As you succeed, be sure to reward yourself (appropriately). Share your struggles, your successes, and your rewards.  They last longer that way. And document everything. You’ll surely succeed beyond your failures if you can recall in detail how you tried the last time. Keep going. Your path to long-term self care starts now!

Learn more about applying mindfulness and compassion in your work with clients through this live, online course from t3 coming up this spring:

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George Payne

Written by George Payne

George is a Project Assistant at the Center for Social Innovation. Previously, he worked in education development, education technology, and international education organizations. George has Master’s degrees in International Education Management and Public Administration from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.