Holiday Habits and Realistic Resolutions
By David Martin, President and CEO of VeinInnovations
Tips on Making Resolutions You Can Stick To
Our minds are occupied with decorations and Christmas gifts we’ve yet to put under the tree, and the new year gets pushed aside. But 2014 is just around the corner and it’s time to start thinking about the changes we hope to make in ourselves! The fireworks that explode to celebrate New Years are accompanied by optimistic personal promises. As January fades to February, resolutions are forsaken or forgotten about. What changes do you hope to make in 2014? This week, I’m discussing resolutions you can stick to and strategies for starting new habits that will last all year.
Resolutions That Last
Forty percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions each year – only eight percent of us accomplish our goals. Don’t get discouraged by that statistic! Most Americans fall into one of several pitfalls that hinder finishing out the year. Here are a few tips to help you land in that eight percent.
- Keep your list short and simple. Our lives are fuller than we realize. Work, kids, family, friends, the day-to-day chores of living take up a lot of time. Write out your big list of resolutions. Your first list may have 20 goals! Spend some time looking over what you’ve written, and look for trends. Are “Spend less at restaurants,” “Cook more meals at home,” and “Eat more seasonal vegetables” all our your list? Turn those three resolutions into one actionable goal, like “Pre-cook two healthy dishes on Sundays to have for lunch,” or “Spend two weeknights cooking a vegetarian meal as a family each week.”
- Reign in your ambition. Instead of, “Lose 40 pounds by March” set a realistic goal with measurable steps. “Attend two weekday morning spin classes at the Y” or “Attend 45-minute strength training class on Wednesday afternoons.”
- Make your resolutions public. Share them with family and friends, put it on Facebook, Tweet, or start a blog. Blogs abound where authors publicly share their journey to accomplish a goal. Julie Powell, determined to learn how to cook, spent a year chronicling her efforts to prepare every recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Your journey probably won’t lead to a book deal and a movie, but staying accountable to others can help you achieve your goals.
Remember that willpower is a muscle. Exercise it! Go further in your goal each day, improving in reasonable increments. Use your imagination, really, to improve your ability to resist things that are bad for you. Can’t stop thinking about the chips and salsa you’re dying to eat instead of the healthy meal you’ve resolved to include in your diet? Think about your plans for the weekend, the project in the yard you want to tackle, or what’s going to happen next in the book you’re reading. The more you exercise your willpower, the easier it is to use. (To read more about improving willpower, click here.)
Habits aren’t formed overnight, but that’s often the unrealistic expectation we have for our resolutions. Habits are formed slowly over time. Establishing a new habit is challenging, but the payoff is great: habits can be hard to shake. And who wants to shake an exercise or good diet habit? I wrote about how habits are formed earlier this year in the column Life Defined By Habit. Here’s a quick overview of the “habit loop.”
- The cue: This first part of a habit is the trigger that causes you to fall into automatic mode while you carry out the second part of the habit process, behavior.
- The behavior: The action part of the habit. Brushing your teeth is a process you don’t pay attention to unless your attention is called to it specifically. Otherwise, you’ll perform the behavior and forget it.
- The reward: At the end of your habit, there’s something your brain likes that helps you remember the action for the future, a reward As you repeat the action, your brain thinks less and less, and habits are formed.
Set realistic, measurable goals, improve your willpower and start some new habits. Join the eight percent in 2014!