It’s that time of year again. It’s a new year and you have some resolutions you want to make. Here are some tips to sustain those changes for the long-term.
1. Choose an attainable goal—start smaller than you think . Start small. If your goal is to lose 10 lbs, start by making a list of ways you think you’ll get there. Start with the smaller changes first—drinking more water, not buying junk food to bring in the house, having healthier snacks available. Most people jump straight into spending hours at the gym, but if the first time you go to the gym you work yourself too hard or you hurt yourself, you probably won’t be going back on a regular basis.
A first goal if you haven’t worked out in a while is to just physically walk into the gym. It’s that simple—get in the door. You’re more likely to go to the gym for that initial workout if you don’t have a specific list of things you want to do there. Plus, once you’re in the door, you’ve already met your first goal and you have a victory to celebrate! Once you meet this goal, next time set a bigger goal, and so on.
2. Schedule it. We are all really busy, so changes often don’t happen if they aren’t on the schedule. Have a resolution to learn a new language? Schedule a specific time everyday where you will drop everything and practice for 15 minutes. Aiming to keep your room cleaner? Block off Saturday mornings as your cleaning time. Want to turn going to the gym into a habit instead of a chore? Do more than just get a membership to hold yourself accountable. You’ll be more likely to show up when it’s a scheduled class, if someone will miss you if you aren’t there, or if you’ll get charged if you don’t show up.
When you schedule it, make sure you set an alarm or reminder to let you know the time is getting closer. Make sure to also give yourself enough time to get there or complete other tasks. Take a look at your schedule. Is there something you can outsource to make a little time for yourself, like hiring a cleaning company, using a grocery delivery service, or asking a friend to alternate picking up the kids from school? Though there may be a monetary cost, you will gain time for yourself and more easily achieve your goals.
3. Find successes in your progress . Many large goals are a process, one that isn’t always seen immediately. Don’t forget to celebrate the small successes along the way. If your goal is to run a 5K and right now you can’t run at all, realize that being able to run even 30 seconds is an improvement. Instead of focusing on what you can’t do, focus on what you can do since you started your journey. Look for other indicators of progress, such as fitting into an old pair of jeans that didn’t use to fit, actually taking time for yourself when before everyone else was the priority, or being more on time. If you are trying to be more on time, don’t beat yourself up if you end up being late to something. The goal was improvement not perfection. Seeking out perfection will often cause you to feel like a failure—be flexible and reasonable with yourself.
4. Use failure as a learning opportunity. If you feel like you have made a mistake or are failing, reframe your thinking to view it as a learning opportunity. If something doesn’t work, it’s just letting you know you need to try another way. Morning workouts may not be your thing, and that’s okay. There are many other hours in the day to try. If your goal is to build more confidence, don’t give up if you took a shot at the big work presentation and it didn’t go according to plan. Maybe it was too big of a jump for you and you need to start with something smaller, like speaking at a family or friend gathering where you’ll be more comfortable. Remember to learn not only from your successes, but from your failures too.
2. Don’t torture yourself. Make sure you are actually enjoying your goal. If it is torturing, don’t do it. Chances are you won’t continue. If it causes physical or emotional pain or if it is taking up too much time that you rather use doing something else, it’s okay to change it. You don’t have to keep the same exact goal if you find it isn’t for you. If you always wanted to run a marathon but you find yourself at the doctor’s office over and over again for knee pain, you’re not a failure for not running that marathon. It’s just feedback that this goal wasn’t a good fit and you should find an activity you can more comfortably complete.
A new year is a great opportunity to implement a new, healthy habit in your life. Pick a goal, build a plan, and measure your progress along the way. Realize some goals have a clear finish line, while others are life-long growing experiences.
Want some help setting attainable goals or need someone to help hold you accountable during your journey? JFS Orlando has licensed counselors trained in a variety of areas, including self esteem, life transitions, and weight loss. JFS accepts Medicare, Medicaid, most commercial insurances, and even provides a sliding fee scale to clients who qualify. To schedule an appointment, call 407-644-7671 today!
Ashlyn Douglass-Barnes, LCSW is the Clinical Therapist Supervisor and a licensed clinical social worker at JFS Orlando. Ashlyn has worked in a variety of settings including outpatient community based mental health, inpatient/admission psychiatric hospital, substance abuse/DUI, dialysis/medical, and in home/office outpatient therapy.