How to Renew Your New Year’s Resolutions When You’ve Fallen off the Wagon
As soon as the holiday season ends, we’re making New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, quit smoking, or start exercising. Yet come April, most of us have long forgotten our good intentions. January is not the best time of year to make life-altering changes: we’re recovering from holiday stress and adjusting to the demands of a new year all in the dark and dreary months of winter. But spring is the perfect time to renew those resolutions. If, like me, you've fallen off, here are some tips to help you get back on the wagon.
- Revisit and revise your original goal. Consider your original resolution. Was it doable, or was it unrealistic? If you resolved to lose 5 pounds a week, perhaps a more realistic goal would be 1 or 1.5 pounds a week. Maybe you can’t exercise every single day, but what about 3-4 days a week? Modify your resolution so it’s attainable.
- Identify the factors that prevented success. In addition to being unrealistic, were there other factors that inhibited your progress? Perhaps you started out strong but lost steam after you faced an unexpected setback. Maybe you got sick or hurt and had to stop what you were doing. What can you do differently this time? Who can you ask to hold you accountable? Or perhaps you simply didn’t make your goal a part of your regular routine. This go-around, schedule those afternoon runs or aerobics classes in your calendar. Commit to making your goal a top priority.
- Figure out how to better equip yourself. Are there any resources, equipment, apps, or materials that would help you achieve your goal? If you’re trying to lose weight or exercise more, a food scale, a pedometer, or a helpful app like My Fitness Pal might be useful. If you want to read more this year, maybe you need to see your optometrist and get reading glasses. Set yourself up for success by gathering all the necessary resources first.
- Keep a written record. Once you’ve revised your resolution, write it down and keep it where you will see your goal every day. Specify exactly what you hope to accomplish and include dates and amounts. For example, my goal is to be able to run a 5K by the Special Kids race on June 5. Or I hope to read 50 books by December 31. Writing down goals makes them concrete and gives you something to work towards. Also, keep track of any milestones (i.e., pounds lost, miles run, books read) and/or setbacks (i.e., illness, vacation, work project). Taking notes can help you see how far you’ve come or pinpoint the cause of a struggle you’re having.
- Make it a habit. The only sure way to achieve success in keeping your resolutions is to practice it regularly so that it becomes second nature, like that cup of coffee you have every morning at breakfast. To create a habit, you must be persistent and consistent. Plan to go for a run every day at 1:00. Track your calories in your food diary or app immediately after you finish eating. Once you have done it enough times, it will be something that you do without even thinking. Your resolution must be a top priority so it doesn't get pushed to the back burner.
- Reward yourself. There will be setbacks when you strive to attain a goal. Anticipate them. Don’t give in and quit. Instead, review your goals and progress. Call a friend for encouragement. When you’re down 10 pounds, reward yourself with a manicure or take yourself to the movies. When you hit the 5K mark, treat yourself to new running shorts. Rewards motivate, and when you’re working towards a goal and have faced multiple setbacks, a special treat can encourage you to get back at it.
Even if you weren't initially successful with your New Year’s resolutions, don’t throw up your hands in defeat. Revisit and revise your original goals so they’re more realistic and attainable. Figure out what kept you from achieving success, and equip yourself accordingly. Write down the specifics of your goal. Be consistent in keeping your resolution by adding it to your schedule, and reward yourself for motivation. Get back on the wagon, and renew those New Year’s resolutions this month. Better late than never!