There is a sign near my house that displays different phrases almost every week. Some are comical, others are inspiring. It currently hosts, “Old ways won’t open new doors.” With the new year approaching, this is rather advantageous. Of course, it was probably intentional.
On Tuesday, we start another trip around the sun. Like countless other people, I have been considering my resolutions for 2019.
I’ve made them every year. I’ve set health, financial and general life goals for as long as I can remember. I am sad to admit, I am one of the 80 percent that never follows through.
The first few days are great. I drink more water, go for walks and avoid the drive-thrus. But in the age of instant gratification, I quit when I do not see immediate results. Why try, when my switch from fast food to vegetables made no difference?
There are quite a few flaws to my approach; similar mistakes that my fellow 80 percenters also make. First, most of the changes I want to implement use a negative language. “I will stop drinking soda” is a frequent flyer for me, but research shows that taking a more positive approach is more successful. Instead of stopping something, I should begin something. “I will start drinking more water.”
Amazing what rephrasing can change.
My desire for instant gratification also contributes to my lack of success. Change takes time. A 2009 study at University College London found that it takes up to 66 days to form new habits, meaning I have to keep up my new habit until at least March 8. We have years of habits we seek to change in just a few days, which almost immediately sets us up for failure. Change takes time and a lot of work. You have to drink the water, eat the fruit and save the money every day until these adjustments become second nature.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle is choosing resolutions that are too broad. Transformation isn’t done in large bites, but in small steps that add up to success.
Instead of “I will save money,” focusing on narrower changes can lead to a more favorable outcome. “I will save $5 every day instead of buying a coffee” is far more specific and achievable.
Include your family in your resolutions. It’s easier to achieve goals when you have people in your corner. Involve your kids and help them decide on their own resolutions. Want to read more? Read to your kids. Better yet, help them read to you. Limiting social media? Restrict screen time for your kids as well. Want to be more active? Find activities and destinations in your area. Visit the library, walk through historic downtown Oakland, go to one of the numerous farmers markets in our area. Our county is full of resources. You’re reading one of them now.
You do not have to change everything. Honestly, you don’t have to change at all. But if you choose to make new year resolutions, choose something important to you. Write it down. Conquer one at a time. And take small steps every day to achieve your dreams.