We’ve all been there before: waking up on January 1, bright-eyed and eager to meet the day, thinking, “A whole new year – a whole new ME!” After all, we’ve got big plans – a new exercise regimen (this will be the year it sticks!), a new way of eating (goodbye sugar! hello green smoothies!), a new plan for becoming happier, healthier, more mindful, more flexible, better with money and with glowing, dewy skin.
Wrong. January 1 is probably the worst time to make a resolution. Filled with good intentions, fuelled by Christmas chocolate (or something more…festive), we’ve all woken up on New Year’s Day, made hasty resolutions and then lived to regret them.
Chances are good that if you’ve ever greeted January 1 with plans for a total life overhaul, you’ve also watched your gym shoes gathering dust in a corner on January 15, and opened the fridge to bunches of wilted, slimy spinach on Valentine’s Day.
The fact is, it’s hard to change your habits – and making wholesale changes to your entire lifestyle overnight is a surefire way to set yourself up for failure. Who wants to go run 10K on a dark January night when the high is -20C? Would anyone willingly choose kale salad when there are still remnants of last night’s cheese ball to eat?
If you’d like to enter the next decade as an even better version of yourself, the best way forward is to take your time, make a plan and set yourself up for success every step of the way.
Try it in 12 steps
There are 12 months in a year – so why try to do all the hard work in January? In the same way that you wouldn’t go from couch potato to marathon runner in one day, you can’t expect to make any other big life change all at once. Sit down with a calendar and plot monthly goals that will help you get to where you’d like to be on January 31, 2020.
For example, if you want to run that marathon, a good place to start would be downloading the Couch-to-5K app and working through that program before you start increasing your mileage. It’s just like the turtle and the hare – slow and steady (and strategic!) wins the race.
A look at the calendar might also reveal a time-based incentive. Maybe you’ve got a milestone birthday, a big vacation or another occasion that you’d like to mark. Maybe you prefer to base your resolutions around the school year, or start them on your birthday. Think about a schedule that works for you.
Once you’ve laid out your monthly goals, take a bit longer to really think about how you’ll actually achieve them. The old saw about SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based) is an old saw for a reason: it works.
For example, if you want to improve your diet, just resolving to “eat better” won’t be enough. (What does “better” mean? Healthier? Tastier? They don’t always go together!) Instead, dig deeper and set a SMART goal. That might look like:
January’s goal: I will cook one healthy, homemade meal each week.
Specific – Choosing one cookbook, magazine or website to provide meal inspiration.
Measurable – Starting with one meal a week makes it easy to measure success.
Attainable – Planning to do your cooking on a night with no other responsibilities means it’s more likely to happen.
Relevant – Home-cooked meals are usually the healthiest option.
Time-based – A weekly meal is an easy timeframe for most people to manage.
Repeat this process for each of your monthly goals to really set yourself up for success.
Set the scene
If you want to run but hate cold weather, January probably isn’t the time to join a runners’ club – unless you invest in some good cold-weather running gear. The same goes for eating more healthfully – you’re more likely to succeed if you’ve emptied your pantry of cookies and chocolates (helloooo, Christmas leftovers!) before you get started.
As you plan your year of goals and give each one the SMART treatment, spend a bit of time thinking about what other changes you need to make in your life. Think of it as infrastructure – you wouldn’t build a new subdivision without ensuring the houses had access to sewers and electricity, so why would you overhaul your entire fitness routine without ensuring you had sneakers that fit, and someone to watch the kids while you’re at the gym? Making sure your resolution infrastructure is in place means you’ll face less resistance (from yourself and others!) as you try to make changes.
As 2020 looms on the horizon, remember: the key to a better decade ahead is to take your time, make a plan and set yourself up for success every step of the way. Happy new year!