Now that we’re a few weeks into January, it’s a good time to realistically assess any progress, or lack thereof, on your resolutions. It might be reassuring to hear that if you’ve fallen off the exercise-and-diet wagon, you’re not alone. Some research shows that only about 8% of Americans who make resolutions stick with them; and by February, about 80% have already shifted directions.
If that describes you, it’s ok! Don’t view it as failure, but as an opportunity for a fresh start. You now know what doesn’t work. That’s your cue to think a little differently about the healthy habits you want to adopt, and come up with ways you can make them attainable and approachable (think: baby steps). Here are some tips to consider when setting (or re-setting) healthy goals for the coming year.
- Commit to just one thing. It’s tempting to make a long list of aspirations. But that list is easy to forget when life happens. Choose just one thing to focus your attention on. And remember that changing behavior isn’t easy, so it may take more time and effort than you expected.
- Be specific. Some of the top goals that people set for 2024 revolved around improving fitness, improving finances, improving mental health, losing weight and improving diet, according to Forbes. While those may feel like meaningful resolutions when people set them, they are also lofty and unspecific. When you set a goal, opt for a small action you can easily commit to. Maybe that means setting aside a certain amount of money per month to improve your savings; going to the gym a specific number of times per week to improve your fitness; eating five servings of fruits and vegetables per day to improve your diet; downloading a new app to help evaluate what you’re eating. Be thoughtful and intentional in the goal you set, and be specific about the steps you’ll take to stick with it.
- Make yourself accountable. It’s easy to say to yourself that you’ll do something and then get too busy or distracted to do it. Think about actions you can take that will make you feel committed to the goal. For some people, that might mean signing an actual contract with yourself. For others, it might mean telling friends and family about your goal and asking them to help you stay accountable. It may also help to connect with someone who has a similar goal and ask them to be your accountability partner. That could be someone you know in real life, or you could find a motivational or support group online with like-minded people.
- Track your progress. Adopting a new habit is hard. But when you start to see results, that habit becomes its own reward. Start a weekly journal and track your progress. That progress can come in the form of measurements or it can be about changes in how you feel, both mentally and physically. Keep this up all year, so you can look back on it at the end of 2024 and reflect on how far you’ve come.
- Be patient. We are all creatures of habit, and altering those habits can be uncomfortable. Understand that you can — and will — wobble from your goal from time to time. Be flexible and forgiving, and know that choosing to live a healthier life is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. And you’re worth it.