It’s that time of year again. There’s rain pattering on the windows, Christmas has come and gone and we’ve entered a new year. I might complain about the weather and the sun making its daily exit before 4 pm, but really, this is one of my favourite times of the year. It’s a time of fresh starts (although, should you be reading this at another time of year – that’s a perfectly good time for a fresh start too) and cosy evenings perfect for tinkering away on goals, projects and new year’s resolutions. You know the usual stereotype, of sprinting into January, long lists of goals in hand, but finding yourself back in your old routines, goals forgotten, by February or March. Well, with these tips on how to set good new year’s resolutions, you’ll be able to stick with them all year through.
“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.” – Edith Lovejoy Pierce
Steps for How to Set Good New Years Resolutions:
- Pick a few things to concentrate on
- Make sure you genuinely want them
- Pick a start date (you don’t have to start on Jan 1st!)
- Make an action plan
- Plan for roadblocks
- Plan breaks, rewards and milestones
- Sum your resolution up with one word
Pick a few things to concentrate on
I’m definitely guilty of not doing this. We all throw ourselves into the new year wanting to be a very different person than the person we’ve been up until that point, with new interests, habits, friends, jobs, situations, skills, results… It’s too much too fast! We simply don’t have the capacity. So, narrow down your list of resolutions to the goals you’re really passionate about. Group relevant, smaller goals into one so you can space them throughout the year. Not only will this help you not burnout, but it’ll also help you stick to your resolutions and get more out of them!
Make sure you genuinely want them
This is really tricky. The best advice I can give here is just to be completely honest with yourself – something that’s difficult, but an amazing skill to develop. It’s important that your goals come from you, to make sure you really have what it take to complete it. So many of the ideas and ideals we challenge ourselves with come from other people. They might be expectations our parents, bosses, partners, friends or society has given us, consciously or not, for who they want us to be. They might be ‘the thing you’ve always wanted’ or something you think is cool, but likely won’t ever put the work into.
I always thought it would be really cool to be able to speak Spanish. I’d set myself the goal of learning over and over again, but I always fell off of it really quickly. Doing the work didn’t excite me – even the end result wasn’t motivating enough for me to put the work in. When I finally took the time to really think about it, I realised it was just something I thought was ‘cool’. I didn’t genuinely really care about it and without that genuine care, I was never going to get anywhere with it. It finally felt good to give up on it, because I knew it wasn’t a good goal for me and I could put my energy elsewhere, into something more important to me.
When it comes down to it, I don’t think you can give something your all if it doesn’t genuinely come from your heart, if it doesn’t spark that real joy and fire in your belly. Take some time to discuss your goals with someone close to you or spend time writing about them – why do you want it? See what ideas you do (or don’t!) come up with and differentiate your genuine desires with ‘cool’ ideas and other people’s ideals.
Pick a start date (it doesn’t have to be Jan 1st!)
I’d meant to write this blog last week, but decided last minute that I needed (and deserved) a few more days on my Christmas holiday to reset myself before jumping back into work. So when I sat down to write this blog (hello from Jan 4th 👋), I considered throwing the idea in the bin – simply because it would be going out a few days after the new year. As you’re reading this, it’s clear that I realised that that is complete rubbish. The new year isn’t just about Jan 1st, nor do resolutions or goals need to be set at the perfect time. I started some of my resolutions today, some I won’t start for a couple of months, simply because the timing isn’t right yet and that’s okay.
I agree that there’s a feeling in January, like a fresh Monday morning boost of motivation, but realistically, the only time you can make real change, real headway on your goals, is when you decide that you will.
Put together an action plan
This bit is really important because it’s where you start bringing your sparkly ideas down to Earth and making real action on them.
Reasons to have an action plan:
- It helps you pace yourself – you can’t start a marathon with a sprint
- Helps you stick with your goal, as you always know what you’re doing next
- Helps fight overwhelm, because everything has been considered, and given a time and a place
I like planning month by month – so at the end of each month, I’ll plan for the next one. This, for me, is a nice length of time to make some headway on a goal but means I don’t get too far ahead of myself in planning that something can’t be shifted around if it needs to. Not to mention it makes for frequent breaks and milestones to keep motivated, as well as opportunities to change habits, reevaluate and try new things.
But how you plan is up to you – maybe you want the whole year planned out, maybe it’s week by week, maybe you just focus on daily habits and watch them stack up. Experiment and find the best way for you to set good new years resolutions.
Plan for roadblocks
This is such a great trick to have up your sleeve. Right now, hopefully, you’re feeling motivated and excited about making change, but someday soon, you might not. Plan for that. How are you going to stay motivated? What usually trips you up when completing goals? How will you keep yourself accountable?
I’ve written before about how to stick to goals and I think one of the best ways is to plan for the trickier parts in advance. When things start getting tricky, it can be easy to get overwhelmed and drop the ball. But with plans to help you already in place, you’re far more likely to reach for help, to try that little bit harder and keep on track, because past you has already got your back.
Plan breaks, rewards and milestones
I mentioned this briefly earlier, but it’s more than important enough to deserve its own section. Reward yourself! You’re working really hard, you’re showing up for yourself and you’re putting the effort in – that’s commendable and deserves recognition from you. Giving yourself rewards is really important to keep you happy and will even help you stay on track.
Most days, this’ll likely be a good pat on the back and some wholesome kindness to yourself. Give yourself a nice bath after a particularly cold, hard run. Cook your favourite dinner after a particularly hard day at work. But when it comes to bigger milestones, and likely bigger treats, my advice would be to preplan the milestones and to keep your reward either completely separate from your goal (eg. don’t reward making more nutritious food choices with a giant slice of chocolate cake – it just teaches you to obsess over those foods/rewards even more) or something that helps you further your goal (eg. a new gym outfit if your goal is regular exercise).
Sum up your resolutions in one word
This was a concept I picked up a few years ago – so long ago that I can’t even remember where from – but I’ve loved it and used it ever since. The idea is to sum up your overall goal and intention for the year in one simple word. For example, last year, mine was ‘grow’. From that word, I knew that involved changing careers, going self-employed, setting up the blog (hello and thank you for being here 💜) and my YouTube Channel, diving into other new interests, travelling (that one didn’t go so well…) and tackling my mental health from new angles. But, regardless of those specific goals, it stood as a mantra and a motivator to remind myself to grow in whatever situation I found myself in. Wherever I was, obstacle or opportunity, I chose the path that would help me grow.
It proved invaluable, easy to remember, simple to act on and a great motivator to keep me accountable to myself.
And there you have it, my recipe for how to set good new years resolutions that you’ll love and be able to stick to. This is my first post of 2021 so I’ll take the time now to wish each and every one of you the very very best in 2021 and, of course, the best of luck with your new resolutions!
Go get ‘em! Love, Ella-Rose xx