Let’s be honest. How many of us have actually kept a New Year’s resolution? If you’re one of those rare people who have quit smoking or developed a solid workout routine because of a resolution… kudos to you! Please send us your motivational secrets!
Many of us can feel pretty defeated when our resolutions fail by February 1. It can be so disappointing that we may be discouraged from trying to make positive change in the New Year at all.
Our theory: New Year’s resolutions fail because they are unattainable—a year is a very long time—or imply we are “deficient” in one area or another.
- I’m not fit enough. My resolution is to lose 20 pounds by 2017.
- I’m not friendly enough. I need to smile more.
- I’m not smart enough. I am going to read 25 books in 2016.
You are not deficient. That’s why we made a list of five New Year’s resolutions for people who hate resolutions. These resolutions are positive, attainable, and designed to help you stay empowered come February 1.
1. Focus on 10 or 30 Days, Not 365
Tell yourself you will try your resolution for just 10 days. Shorter goals are far more attainable and help you build endurance to sustain longer goals.
Have a resolution in mind already? Start by keeping it for 10, or if you’re feeling inspired, 30 days. If you make it to your goal day, reward yourself. If you don’t, reward yourself anyway! (Why? See Resolution #2.)
2. Replace Shame with Self-Compassion
As we’ve mentioned, New Year’s resolutions can be riddled with an “I’m not enough,” shame-filled ideology.
Punishing yourself through shame leads to withdrawing from friends, lower academic or professional performance, less joy in activities you love, and general depression and anxiety. It can even cause you to lash out and become more aggressive toward others.
So how do we replace shame with self-compassion?
- Recognize when you are shaming yourself. Here’s a good gauge: when you think negative thoughts about yourself, ask yourself: Would I say these words to my [daughter] [sister] [mother] [brother] [best friend]? If you wouldn’t, consider whether or not you actually want to be saying those words to yourself or if perhaps they have become habit.
- Acknowledge your humanity. You are a human being with gifts and flaws. Embrace the gifts (see Resolution #4). Acknowledge the flaws, and let them go.
3. Remove the Word “Should” From Your Vocabulary
ACHS President Dorene Petersen made a wonderful comment on a piece of writing we were working on the other day. She said: I am a great believer that one never “should” do anything. Motivation has to come from a positive place.
When we place “should” into our sentences, we again imply we are deficient or in need of repair.
- I should run a mile everyday.
- I should eat a raw kale salad instead of McDonald’s tonight.
- I should read to my kids every night.
See how a simple word change alters the sentiments of these sentences.
- I can run a mile every day.
- I choose to eat a kale salad instead of McDonald’s because I feel better.
- I want to read to my kids every night.
In the words of President Petersen, let your motivation come from a positive place.
4. Make a List of Your Strengths (or Gifts)
This is a simple one. Grab a pen and paper, find a quiet space, maybe diffuse some essential oil. Now fill the page with as many personal strengths (or gifts, if you prefer a softer term).
There is no small strength. You can write down things like:
- I’m great at Monopoly.
- I am a clear communicator.
- I do a good job of keeping up a sustainable, “green” home.
- I am a generous friend.
- I am a good listener.
- I have excellent fashion sense.
Next, keep this list somewhere visible: your bathroom mirror, your wallet, your desktop. Once a day, take 20 seconds to read at least five of your strengths aloud.
This simple practice keeps positivity in your life daily, and can help you maintain Resolution #2.
5. Don’t Resolve
The word resolve has several definitions, including firm determination and to settle a problem, dispute, or contentious matter. That’s rather intense, don't you think, and sort of implies there is a black-or-white solution, a right or wrong answer.
But in our experience, that's just not how life is. So, if you don't leave any room for a little life to happen in the middle of all your great intentions, there’s a fair chance your resolve will hit some painful road bumps along the way. It might just derail your resolve and 2016 resolutions altogether.
So, don't resolve to do or be in 2016. Choose. Make the choice to show up as your own best advocate in 2016. Pick a reasonable goal. Probably not five, ’cause that's a lot of paperwork to manage, so to speak. Pick one, maybe two if you're type A, and choose to make your best go of it. Follow #1 through #4 above, but make sure to leave some space for life to happen along the way.
In other words, if you’re on day 9 of your 10-day “resolution” and the grocery store closed before you could make it there on your way home from work, and you’re out of kale, and you’re pissed off and freaked out because you’re not going to meet your salad resolution, don't panic. Even the McDonald’s drive-through offers salad options, and you can make your own delicious balsamic and olive oil dressing once you get home!
Life isn't black-and-white so don't hold yourself to that impossible standard. Do your best, then re-assess, and if needs be, recommit tomorrow.
Here’s to a New Year and attainable, positive resolutions.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent disease. This article has not been reviewed by the FDA. Always consult with your primary care physician or naturopathic doctor before making any significant changes to your health and wellness routine.
Disclosure of Material Connection: Renee Long is a Communications Specialist and Lauren Shapiro is the Dean of English, Communications Manager, Press Coordinator for American College of Healthcare Sciences (ACHS), the Institution that publishes this blog. However, all opinions are our own. This blog may contain affiliate links. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
 Lamia, M.C. Shame: A Concealed, Contagious, and Dangerous Emotion. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/intense-emotions-and-strong-feelings/201104/shame-concealed-contagious-and-dangerous-emotion