Out with the resolutions!

Coffee Girl

Renae Brumbaugh is a bestselling author, award-winning humor columnist, and freelance writer.

Renae Brumbaugh is a bestselling author, award-winning humor columnist, and freelance writer.

New Year’s Resolutions… they’re as much a tradition as eggnog and fireworks. One of the main differences is that, while other traditions make us feel good, these yearly goals often convince us we’re failures. U.S. News reports that 80 percent of people toss aside these hopeful aims by Valentine’s Day. Why bother? We’d be better off ditching the resolutions and making cookies instead.

Research shows that nearly a quarter of us don’t last two weeks before throwing in the towel, and only about 20 percent make changes that last two years or more. There are several reasons why setting lofty New Year’s goals doesn’t last. Addressing these reasons may help you be more successful.

We’re not ready. Many of us set goals based on what we think we should do instead of what we want to do. If we hate working out and don’t want to exercise, that daily walk will feel like punishment, and it won’t last.

We don’t record our progress. Change happens slowly.

Keep a log to measure not only your weight, but your body measurements. Even if you only lose a pound in a month, you may see changes in your size. But you’ll never know unless you keep track!

We don’t have a plan. Saying we’ll stop smoking sounds great, but when the urge comes, we cave. Instead, try cutting one daily cigarette per week. At the one-year mark, you’ll smoke 52 less cigarettes a day. Hopefully that means you’ve stopped smoking.

We think it’ll be easy. Any change is hard, especially when we’re stressed or tired. Develop a strategy to handle the hard times and consider how you’ll start again when you’ve fallen off plan.

We forget that change means sacrifice. To change, we must give something up. For example, joining the gym may mean less time with your family.

Eating healthier may mean saying no when friends invite you to eat out.

In addition to tackling the reasons we may fail, here are a few science-based strategies to help ensure success:

Keep it small. Instead of saying you’ll exercise more, choose a minor, achievable goal. Example: Take the stairs instead of the elevator.

Connect the new habit to an old habit. You already have hundreds of habits. Ride the coat tails of an existing one. Example: You drink a sugary soda every afternoon at 2 p.m. Substitute your 2 p.m. soda with flavored water.

Make it easy. Do you already walk for 20 minutes, three times a week? Make it twenty-two minutes for the first week or two. Or add a fourth day for only fifteen minutes. Once this feels normal, add a little more.

Rewrite your mental story. Write an honest account of why you’ve failed in the past. For example, you may struggle with chronic inflammation because you tend to eat sweets when you’re stressed. Rewrite a new account of how you want to respond to stress and remind yourself of this new version of yourself often. Studies have shown our mental stories are powerful indicators of failure or success.

Resolutions are a personal choice. If you’re not at a place where making change is practical, that’s okay! If you choose to set goals for this year, keep them SMART: Specific, Manageable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timebound.

For example, By June, I will be able to climb three flights of stairs without being winded. I will start by taking one flight of stairs before using the elevator, and I’ll add another flight each month. I’ll continue with three flights and build up my tolerance. With the right planning and mindset, there’s no reason you can’t achieve success.

Most importantly, remember your most powerful source of strength.

Matthew 19:26 tells us that “with God, all things are possible.” Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” And in Philippians 3:14, Paul writes, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize of the upward call of God.”

When our goals match God’s goals for us, and we work hard to please Him, He helps us past the bumps and carries us over the mountains.

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:18-19.

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