Happy first Monday of the year! Most people have their New Year's resolutions planned out by the time the 1st rolls around, but I'm here to help you all stay dedicated to those goals and help you succeed, even after you've lost that "fresh start" excitement. Read through this month's blog post to learn about the history of new year's resolutions, the most popular resolutions, why people fail, and how to make yourself successful.
The tradition of making new year’s resolutions began approximately 4,000 years ago in Babylon. The ancient Babylonians celebrated the new year in March with a massive 12-day, religious festival. They made promises to their gods and deities to uphold, and the belief was that if they made good on their promises, the gods would bestow good fortune for the coming year. If they did not uphold their word, they would fall out of favor and have bad luck.
During Julius Caesar's time, the celebration of the new year was moved to January in honor of the god Janus, who was believed to be able to look back into the previous year as well as ahead into the coming one. The Romans who honored this God made sacrifices and promised good conduct for the upcoming year.
In the mid-1700s, Christians held special services on new year’s eve or day to praise God and make promises for the year ahead. These watch night services are still held today, mostly in evangelical protestant or African-american congregations.
It may surprise you that this international tradition came from religious roots, but it is largely a secular practice today. These days, we take the new year as a time to reflect upon ourselves and the mistakes we made in the past year so we can make goals to follow through on the next. Most often, these goals are centered on self-improvement, like the ones listed in the graph.
Reading through this list on the graph, you may realize that all of these resolutions heavily rely on your own self-determination and motivation. No one can really hold you accountable to these goals except for yourself. Many people also “bite off more than they can chew” by committing to huge goals that seem impossible to achieve. Long-term goals are important, but they mean nothing if you don’t have steps to get from where you are now to where you want to be. People may also feel too pressured to stay committed to a particular goal, even if it isn’t quite right or hasn’t been working out. Not every method of reaching a goal is going to work for every person - you have to find something that works for you.
All of this may just sound like extra work, but refining your 2021 goals will help you achieve them! Reflect on if you want a new year's resolution to feel a sense of accomplishment, or if there is something about your life that you are willing to change to meet your goals and change yourself for the better. Here are my top 10 tips to help you conquer your new year by becoming who you want to be:
- Break down big or long-term goals down into bits that are easier to manage. A great goal to have is to save a certain amount of money throughout the year to use to purchase holiday gifts and treats! If you have a goal to save $250 by November, then you’ll want to save about $25 per month. This can be applied to learning parts of a new language or losing weight, too! By looking at smaller chunks, it’s easier to stay encouraged and motivated to reach your goals.
- Designate certain times to you goals. Consider a goal to read 1 book per month for 2021. A great way to keep up with readings would be to set aside a particular time where you can unwind and read everyday. I recommend reading for a half an hour before bed as a good start!
- Track your progress in a healthy way. If you want to eat better, don’t start with a calorie counter. Instead, try to take pictures of what you have in your pantry and refrigerator before you clean out all the junk food. Then, every week when you go shopping, take a picture of what you buy so you can compare your good choices to where you started! Rather than stepping on the scale each day, take a picture of yourself once a week or month to watch your body change over time.
- Write your goals/progress where you and others can see them. If you live with others, post your goals and progress tracker in a central location where everyone can cheer you on as you dominate one goal after another. If you live by yourself, post your goals on your mirror so you can see them everyday.
- Start as small as you can to build habits. In the past, I always struggled to exercise more because I felt like I had to dedicate a certain amount of time and effort to working out (like going for a 20-minute jog). This simply isn’t true because YOU make the rules. Start with an easy 10-minute stretch in the morning for two weeks. Then add in a 5-minute walk on top of your stretch for another two weeks. Increase or change your challenges over time and you’ll be on your way to a better you before you know it. If you build the habit when it’s easy, it will be easier to stay committed to your goals when you begin to challenge yourself more.
- Avoid big, vague ideas. Perhaps you’ve heard of some resolutions like “be happier” or “live life to the fullest.” While these are some great things to try, there is no clear way to even start on these goals. It is better to determine what will make you happier or help you feel fuller - consider dedicating more time to something you already enjoy or learning something new!
- Experiment with SMART goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. It is a common tool used to outline goals and create a road-map to success. This tool doesn’t work for everyone though, so don’t get hung up if you’d rather create your own road-map! If you don’t know where to start, I recommend making a SMART goal and refining it over time.
- Reward yourself. To quit smoking, for example, give yourself a small reward for every day that you don’t smoke. As you’re successful over time, increase the value of the reward, but space it out over a longer period, like once a week. If you continue this practice successfully over time, the idea is that you’ll be able to quit smoking without becoming reliant on a different reward.
- You can always change or alter your goals. I recommend only doing this if your current goals aren’t working for you. Do not use this as an excuse to give up on a goal you’ve already made just because you’ve lost hope. Bettering yourself takes a massive amount of dedication, but these tips should help you build confidence in yourself.
- Remember that you can restart your journey at any time. I cannot emphasize this enough!!! Just because you “fail” your fitness journey halfway through January, who’s to say you can’t restart the next day? And if you fail again? Restart another time. You don't have to wait until 2022 to make a resolution again. The only limitations you hold yourself to are the ones you create. On the flip side, you don’t have to “wait” to restart. If you miss going to the gym on Wednesday, don’t wait until Monday to try again, get going on Friday!
The biggest point I want to emphasize is that your goals make it your journey. You make the rules and you control what you do. Getting started is by far the hardest step, but when you build good habits, they stick with you. If you don’t know where to start with a particular goal, use the internet to your disposal! One of the greatest things that helped me at the beginning of 2020 was reading this article about how to reduce anxiety when going to the gym.
Alternatively, you can adopt a more unique resolution than the more popular ones that have already been covered. It is important to note that even if these goals don’t follow the traditional goal path, following the 10 tips above is still incredibly relevant and can help you succeed. Here are few different ideas that you could build off of:
- Cook a meal together with your partner once a week. If you struggle in the kitchen as much as I do, maybe try a meal kit that gets delivered to your home. This will give you everything you need and remind you to do it every week!
- Join a club or group that meets regularly. Try a local book or foodie group that meets to exchange ideas and make friends. Just make sure you stay distanced and healthy.
- Create a cleaning schedule for your home. This helps you stay on top of those forgettable, rare chores (like dusting or vacuuming), but it also helps delegate tasks in your house so everyone is responsible for keeping your home clean.
- Use a planner every day. This is one of those things that’s super easy to track, and it helps you stay more organized in your day to day life.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator/escalator. This is one small change that can really add up over time. If you live or work somewhere with just TOO many stairs, try taking the elevator for part of the way and walking the rest. Keep a note in your phone or planner to tally the number of times you do this!
- Call your parents or other family to catch up once a week. With COVID-19 still threatening our community, calling your loved ones can really boost their mood and yours! Staying connected is super important while we can’t be together. Try setting an alarm for a certain time every week to remind you to call.
- Drink more water. Buy a water bottle that you love and take it with you everywhere! Sometimes using a straw to drink can help you up your water intake, too. This is another goal that you can tally in your phone or planner everyday when you finish one whole bottle.
- Meet with a therapist or counselor. To be clear, nothing has to be “wrong” to go see a therapist. Therapy is a great way to get in touch with yourself and those around you, and help you work through anything that you may be struggling with. A therapist is also a great social outlet while we can’t be with others and they could even help you build more goals that are specific to you.
- Manage your mood. If you struggle with anger, sadness, anxiety or anything else that affects your mood, try new methods or tips to combat these emotions and feel better. Trying to open up and talk to others (like friends or a therapist) may also help you better understand why you're struggling with these intense emotions.
- Cut back on screen time/social media. Almost every phone will track your screen time, so make sure you check it regularly and take steps to put the phone away, like at the dinner table or turning it off before bed.
- Shop locally when possible. One of the best ways to start this is by investigating small businesses around town, just like Earle’s! Northern Colorado is such an amazing entrepreneurial area, that you should be able to find lots of cool places. When the weather gets warmer, I recommend going to check out a local farmer's market.
- Make a more productive work space. The way I do this is by setting a certain space aside for my work, thoroughly cleaning and organizing the space, and then setting my most important materials out so I can get right to work. You should also let in as much natural light and air as possible to keep you refreshed! If you’re not able to be close to a window, try putting some plants or flowers on your desk instead.
Hopefully these ideas will get you started, and remember those 10 tips! Write them with your goals if you need to, but you can use this advice as a tool to get you to reach your dreams. And there’s nothing wrong with following the more popular resolutions, just make it into your own. Thank you for reading, and remember that Valentine's Day is just around the corner, so come to Earle's to get everything you need for your sweetheart. Happy New Year!
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