New Year’s resolutions? Or real change instead?

Most people give up on their New Year’s resolutions in the first few days: after the overly generous vow, they lose the spirit even after a small stumble. Without understanding and patience, instead of a new, positive habit, the ’gain’ is a failure. We help to prevent it!

Step 0: Clarification

When thinking about New Year’s resolutions, it’s important to clarify an important issue right away: you don’t actually need a new year at all to change something in your life for the better. So just shake off the pressure of this right at the beginning and say: ’I can decide to change any given day’. Of course it still can be a January day – but you’ve taken the tension out of it, so it’s less scary.

Step 1: The question

Most of the time, New Year’s resolutions are too big and too similar. It is better to start with a question: ’what do I want to change in my life?’ Of course, those, who are prone to pessimism – and who wouldn’t be in January?! – they easily answer ’everything!’, but it is important to answer this question as precisely as possible. If we really find that we want to change in many areas, that’ okay, but it is important to prioritize and decide which area we want to start with. One shouldn’t make 6-8 vows at the same time – it is guaranteed that you cannot keep them. Choose one area, two at most, and look for the smallest, most specific change within it. For example, instead of vowing to ’live a much healthier life’, a more specific vow is to say that ’in 2023 one of my meals will be a fresh salad’. Instead of the vague ’I’m going to move more’ say ’I’m going to walk for at least a quarter of an hour every day.’

Step 2: Self-awareness and honesty

Know who you are and be honest with yourself: if you’ve been a person who spends their life in an office chair and a couch, you won’t become a mountain climber overnight, if your have been a workaholic and a whirlwind who fills every waking second with a task, you won’t become a Zen Buddhist peace fairy by tomorrow. Here, too, it is worth starting with questions: who am I today? What is my lifestyle like? What is my average day like? Then put the second question next to it, which applies to the future: what kind of person do I want to be? Choose a change that is not too far from your current self, but is still progress.

Step 3: Curiosity

You can’t change by only wanting the result: choose a goal where you find the path leading to it interesting enough, too. Try to be open-minded. Familiar yourself with the idea that if you make changes in your life, then – oh my god! – you will change as well. Be curious about the person you can become. And also be curious about the process: how does it feel, for example, if you get up half an hour earlier every day? What does it add to your day, what does it take away? How do you feel on the first day of your vow, the fifth, the tenth, the thirtieth? If you feel like it, keep a diary of your experiences.

Step 4: Enthusiasm

You can’t achieve change if you hate the entire project. Remember step 2: choose a goal that is not completely out of character with the kind of person you are, and moving towards your goal will not be so difficult. In fact, there’s a good chance you’ll even enjoy it!

Step 5: Characteristics of a good goal

Have you ever heard of SMART, one of the most popular acronyms in the art of goal-setting? The letters of the word denote a characteristic of good goals:

  • S, as specific
  • M, as measurable (not vague or generic)
  • A, as achievable (check step 2 again!)
  • R as relevant, something that is important to you
  • T, as time-based, something with a deadline

For example, ’I want to live a more active life’ is a vague goal, but it can be nicely SMART if you say, for example, ’I want to take at least 6,000 steps every day in January.’ Walking as a form of activity is perfectly specific, the number of steps can be easily measured, 6000 steps can be reached surprisingly easily, roughly by two fifteen-minute long walks, walking as a tool to a more active life is absolutely relevant, and it can easily be time based as well. This is just one example, with SMART, you can reshape any of your goals easily.

Step 6: Help to persevere

The person who helps you when you are working on a new habit or goal is called an accountability buddy. They are those people who will check in with you every day at a specified time, in a specified format (by phone, chat, live) and ask how you are doing with your goal for the day. They don’t nag, scold, judge, comfort, tempt, they don’t do anything, just ask what’s going on. Ideally, your buddy also has a goal they are working on, so you could be each other’s accountability buddies. We also know such a buddy that is available for you at any time: Lupi, TeamPuli’s watchdog, helps you reach your step goals every day.

Step 7: Patience and tenderness

For many people, New Year’s resolutions bleed out when they throw it all away at the first missed day, at the first stumble, saying, I failed, it won’t be perfect, so I don’t want it anymore! But think about it: if on the ninth day it doesn’t work out and you miss one day of your goal, but the next day you shake yourself and continue, then it’s quite possible that in the end that one day will be the only one missed – while if you give up, then after nine days, that’s all. An imperfect but achieved goal is much better than one that is not fulfilled because of one small thing. Patience and tenderness towards yourself are essential in all areas of life, especially when changing your lifestyle. Speaking of which, giving up perfectionism can also be an excellent New Year’s goal.

Happy New Year!