It's that time of year when every ad, social media post, or well-meaning loved one quickly reminds you that you need a fresh do-over. Of course, self-improvement is difficult any time of year, but you may feel extra pressure to embark on a life change at the beginning of the new year.
Text: Lyndsay Jensen
New Year's resolutions get a bad rap for being unattainable. It's been proven repeatedly that people don't usually stick to resolutions and fall off the wagon in the first month. However, the process you take to reach the goal holds more weight than simply choosing to change.
1. Make meaningful resolutions
Sticking to a resolution is far easier when it aligns with your priorities. What matters to you most in life? In what ways can your attempts at self-improvement help serve those values? For example, if having quiet time during your day is essential to you. Still, you get frustrated whenever you attempt to meditate - perhaps reading a book before bed is a more achievable intention.
Context is crucial to your plans and engaging in daily, context-specific behaviours that create a habit. If you're mapping out how to achieve a resolution, such as improving fitness, think about how this goal fits your pre-existing routines. Maybe you throw on workout clothes right after making your bed and before brushing your teeth, and then you go for a 10-minute walk.
For people with already limited time, adding more items to your to-do list can deter self-improvement – so be realistic with your time.
2. Mini-resolution goals
New Year's resolutions tend to fall under behavioural goals, where someone commits to doing something different. Jumping into a massive life change isn't sustainable for most people, and far-reaching milestones can feel overwhelming and demanding. People often ditch their goals if they're too easy or far too tricky, so breaking down your resolutions into more achievable targets helps people stick to them. For example, if you're resolving to eat healthier, a first mini-goal would be to buy more fruits and vegetables. Second, try not to let these foods go bad. Next, prepare and consume those fruits and veggies three days a week and build up from there.
3. Make goals fun
Sometimes reaching our goals feels uncomfortable and unpleasant, like those first few times at the gym or when your new hobby gets boring. When these annoying and painful moments rear their heads, people are unlikely to persist with the change. However, making these tasks or sensations more enjoyable and rewarding helps you stick with them. If you've vowed to read more, treat yourself to a café latte when you're about to pick up a book. Or save your favourite podcast to enjoy while you're on your self-imposed daily walk. Combining temptation with a chore makes it pleasurable, and you start looking forward to it instead of dreading it.
Enlist a friend with similar goals to share tips and solidarity — and make it a social event. Especially if your goal is to drink less, enlisting a friend is a means of catching up, checking off a few items on your to-do list, and socialising without the pressures of alcohol. Having a back-and-forth coaching situation with someone else striving in a similar direction can be helpful.
4. It's ok to slip up
Inevitably, there will come a day when you break your knitting streak or need to spend money on an unexpected expense and miss your financial goal. Life happens! If you begin to see mistakes as an opportunity for growth as opposed to failure is better positioned to move forward.
When deciding how much time you'd like to dedicate to a new hobby, incorporate a "get out of jail free" card. If you told yourself you'd practice the guitar seven days a week with three "get out of jail free" cards, you'd still meet your goal if you picked up the instrument four days a week. People are more likely to persist with their goals with these "emergency reserve" days integrated into their plans because built-in forgiveness is inherently more attainable.
5. Something new each month
Who says your resolution has to be sticking to just one thing? Instead, shake things up by setting a goal to try something new and different each month. If you're a foodie, consider trying a new restaurant, recipe, or ingredient. Whatever goal you pick, start small and work up to signing up for that pottery or yoga class. Get creative, and don't forget to get your friends and family involved—they might help keep you accountable!
Aiming for self-improvement is never a bad idea, and despite the cliché of New Year's resolutions, you shouldn't feel deterred from wanting to better yourself. Just be clear with your intentions, set a plan with mini-goals, and don't let setbacks steer you off the beaten path.
To end, I wish you all a happy 2023, and may all your hopes and dreams come true for you and your family. It's not only the start of the New Year – but also The International's 5th birthday! Thank you to the team and readers for supporting us through the ups and downs of the past five years.