Wrangling Resolutions

2020? Already? It feels like just yesterday it was 2012 and I was mildly uncomfortable that people on the internet were saying the world was going to end. Now it’s already 2020 and the start of a new decade. (Which is not the roaring 20s. Unless you start listening to jazz, bobbing your hair, and wearing your stockings rolled down with rouge on your knees, please don’t let me hear you calling the 2020s that. Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk)

I wanted to talk to you today about resolutions because I’m a sucker for a good resolution. I love a new start to anything: a new planner, a new piece of wall art, a new hairstyle, a new outfit.  It’s like, “Hey, this small change could bring out a better me. I wear red lipstick now because I’m a confident boss lady,” I believe in the “new year, new me” mentality. Yes, I know you’re still technically the same person and I don’t believe in changing to make anyone else happy, but if you want to be a better version of yourself where you learn healthier habits that serve you and make you a healthier, happier person then GO FOR IT! You are the boss of you and if you wake up and decide that in 2020 you are going to be the kind of person who cooks more or does yoga or uses a planner and that makes you happy then ignore the nay-sayers.

The problem with resolutions is that often we are really motivated at the beginning and then go strong for a few weeks, but by mid-January, we’re losing steam, by mid-February were unmotivated, and by the beginning of March we don’t even remember what the resolution was to begin with. When you remember you said you wanted to learn how to use your camera and start doing photography you feel like it’s too late to try and you’ll start over next year.

Dude, I totally get it. That’s why it’s time to start doing this resolution thing differently.

Recently I listened to an episode of the Bossed Up podcast where Emilie talked about the psychology of New Year’s resolutions. (Listen to the episode here.) Basically, though you should still definitely go listen to the podcast, there is something called the fresh start effect which is why we like resolutions. We love a fresh start and are motivated by them. That’s why the gym is full on January 2nd and empty by Valentine’s day. So the idea is if a fresh start is motivating to us, why is there only one day a year to have a fresh start?

We need to redefine what a fresh start is. A fresh start can be January 1st, but can it not also be February 1st? Can’t Monday morning be a fresh start?

I recently read an article on CNN about micro-resolutions. (Read it here.) The idea of micro-resolutions is that 365 days is a long time to commit to something, but 30 days is very manageable. To say, “I’m not going to eat sweets anymore” is setting yourself up for failure, but you can say no to dessert for 30 days. 30 days is doable. Then you’ve set a precedent for yourself. “I was able to go all January without dessert and I feel better. I have more energy and I’ve lost 4 pounds. I can totally do this for another month!”

Looping back around to fresh start effect: how do you keep pushing yourself to keep going on your micro-goal after the first 5 or 6 days when it starts to get hard? I’ve figured out that habit trackers are a Godsend for me.

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Habit trackers can come in many forms, but this is the one I’ve started making. I get a piece of grid paper (this one fits into my planner perfectly because it comes from the same brand, but any piece of grid paper will do) and on the last day of the month I write out what goals I want to focus on for the month. (Right now I’m focusing a lot on my physical and mental health in my goals.) You might notice that 8 days in I decided to start tracking another goal. It’s okay to make a random Wednesday a fresh start too.

They are not huge goals, but one thing builds on another. One of the most important things to remember when you make your goals is that they need to be something that you can actually accomplish. If you’re a completely sedentary person, it might not be the best goal to set to say that you’re going to run a half-marathon this year. Nobody likes to fail. It sets a bad precedent for your future goal making. If you do accomplish this goal then next time you can set a bigger one and tell yourself, “I was able to accomplish that goal. I can do this one too!” Setting realistic goals, like “I’m going to go to the gym and walk on the treadmill for 30 minutes a day, three times a week,” sets you up to win and set bigger goals down the road. You can totally run that marathon, but it’s better in the long run to chunk that into smaller goals that get bigger and bigger. 

I don’t know what this says about me personally, but seeing my habits lined out in a bar graph is really motivating. Maybe deep down I’m still the kid who had to make all A’s in elementary school. I take 5 minutes each evening to think about my day and fill out my habit tracker. You can see that I am rocking some habits (my teeth have never been cleaner) and some habits I need to figure out how to work into my day more. The beautiful thing about it is that I might not be able to color a box in one day, but I know that the next day is still possible and I can take a minute to think about how I can achieve that goal for the next day. As the month goes on it’s like looking at a rainbow made up of all the times I was successful.

So I’m going to wrap this up because I’ve been terribly long-winded, but I hope that you’re willing to try out the micro-resolutions or the habit tracker or maybe even both this year. Let me know in the comments if you’re a resolutions type of person and why? What are your goals for this year or even just this month? How do you motivate yourself to meet them?

No matter what your goals are and how you make or track them, I hope you rock all of them in 2020!

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