11 Jan 2016
Do New Year’s resolutions seem pointless to you?

For some people, they feel like arbitrary decisions, empty promises we make to ourselves only for the sake of a new calendar year.

Or maybe you’re discouraged from making a resolution because you’ve failed to stick to past New Year’s goals. (If so, you’re far from alone: A 2014 University of Scranton poll found that only 8% of people reach their New Year’s goals.)

But, if you’re ready to turn things around in 2016 and make a resolution you can stick to, there are ways to keep yourself on track.

Make sure it’s the right change for you

Before you can make real change, you need to know exactly what kind of commitment it will take.

Say your resolution is to join a gym and get active. If you’ve never worked out before, visit a gym before buying that membership. A lot of gyms will offer guest passes so you can try it out first.

Use it as much you can for that trial period, even if it’s only good for three visits. Check out the weight room, try some exercise classes and hop on a few cardio machines. Feel out the vibe of the gym, find something you think you’ll like and assess the intimidation factor.

It’s really normal to feel nervous when you’re new to the gym, but trying it out will help you figure out if it’s the place for you. Ask yourself, “Can I see myself doing this?” If you are intimidated, ask yourself, “Is this a feeling I am willing to overcome?”

With any goal, you don’t want to give in to feelings of overwhelm or fear. All changes take time, especially if you’re doing something outside of your comfort zone, which is why it helps to know what you’re committing to before you go all-in.

Figure out how it will fit into your life

Resolutions tend to be focused on positive, healthy changes. There’s no question that making a resolution to quit a habit, improve your diet, become more active or make more time for things that matter to you are all great goals to have.

But, resolutions impact many areas of our lives. Let’s go back to the gym for a second because it’s a popular New Year’s goal for a lot of people.

This is another way doing a trial run at a gym will help because you can go at different times of the day and see how busy it is and how it will affect your schedule.

If you are going before work, what time will you have to wake up in the morning? Working out first thing in the morning isn’t for everyone, so again, ask if you can see yourself doing it over time. Can you get to bed at a decent time so you’re not hitting the snooze button?

If you decide to go the gym in the evening, how will that impact your life at home, time with friends or chores and errands?

If you go on the weekends, how much time can you realistically commit?

Let’s try another resolution. Say your goal is to save money and you want to do that by cutting down on eating out, but most of your social life revolves around having dinner and drinks with friends.

Does that mean you’re going to see your friends a little less often? Or, can you still stay as social, but change things up a bit – maybe invite your friends over for coffee or a glass of wine instead or for a home-cooked meal. Or, maybe you want to check out some free things to do around town and invite your friends to come along.

Before going all-or-nothing into a goal (and having your friends wonder why you’re not around anymore), work out how it will affect other areas of your life and what adjustments you might want to make as a result.

You don’t have to commit 100% right away

Change takes time, especially if you are giving yourself a big lifestyle overhaul.

Say you decide that it’s time for you to go vegetarian. You’ve thought about it for a long time and you feel ready.

But, it doesn’t mean that you need to go cold turkey (pardon the pun) on meat fish, and poultry as soon as we roll over to January 1.

Instead, you could start by cutting out one type of food. Maybe you want to start with beef or pork for the first two months of the year. After that, you can cut out another type of food.

And, along the way, you could create other smaller goals for yourself. Maybe you want to try one new vegetarian recipe a week. Or, maybe you want to have a certain number of days per week where you only eat veg – perhaps you could start every Monday in January and then in February add Tuesday into the mix as well.

Feel it out, let your body and mind adjust and along the way you’ll get to know whether this is a lifestyle change that’s right for you.

Plan it out

Maybe your New Year’s resolution is to turn a hobby business into a full-time gig by the end of the year.

That’s ambitious, but a lot of resolutions are.

So, work it out. What will you need to do every day, week or month to make it happen? Setting an intention is great, but if you don’t have an action plan to back it up, then the results will rarely fall into your lap.

Or, maybe your resolution is simply to try more new things. Do you already have some ideas on what those are? Start writing them down and assign one for each month – that will give you 12 new experiences throughout the year and you can always add more as you go along.

And, if a change does feel overwhelming, then try to see how this monthly approach could work. If you want to cut down on sugar, for example, then make it a goal to implement one change to support that resolution every month. Maybe in January you could join a cooking class for healthy eating. In February, you could decide to cut out sugar from your coffee. In March, you could decide to cut down to one dessert per week.

And, if you are joining a gym, then you could also plan it out to go three times a week on your lunch break in the winter and then add a fourth day on in the spring. In the summer, maybe you’ll want to try switching to morning workouts or adding in a yoga class every Saturday.

These are just some ideas, but by the end of the year you’ll have made 12 big steps towards achieving a goal.

Remember, too, that if your resolution is something that you want to stick to for the long-run, then taking it slow at the start is going to help it take root in your life.

Big changes rarely happen overnight and approaching your resolutions with realistic plans and a willingness to ease into them will help you create goals that feel reachable rather than overwhelming.

Liz Worth

Tarot reader and author of four books: PostApoc, Amphetamine Heart, and Treat Me Like Dirt: An Oral History of Punk in Toronto and Beyond. No Work Finished Here: Rewriting Andy Warhol, will be published by BookThug this Fall. Currently rewriting Twin Peaks scripts as poetry.