New Year's resolutions are the first topic around the water cooler once January rolls around. It seems that everyone has a love-hate relationship with them. We love the extra motivation and clarity, but hate the feelings of failure that arise when we inevitably fall short of our lofty goals. Yoga has much to offer those of us working to continually improve ourselves. In the spirit of the new year, here are four tips on crafting and maintaining resolutions throughout the year.
1. Ask Why You Want to Meet This Goal
By questioning motives, we’ll soon find the base issue at hand. Let’s say you want to lose weight. Rather than picking an arbitrary number on the scale and creating a impossibly rigid routine, identify why you want to lose weight. Perhaps you want to live healthier, to play with your kids without losing your breath, or to fit into that fabulous dress? Make that your goal. Focus on how you can fill your life with foods and activities that nourish you, instead of trying to remove non-nourishing habits. When we focus on obtaining what we want to create in our lives (rather than what we want to remove) we have a greater chance of success. This is a radical way to view change.
2. Acknowledge That Failure Is Part of the Process
It’s easy to become so frightened of failing that we lose the ability to grow. Often when we set a goal or resolution, if we forget or ignore it, we feel badly about ourselves. Maybe we even think we aren’t able to meet the goal or don’t deserve to. These are normal feelings. But they are just our feelings and not necessarily our reality. We must push against these feelings and the “automatic thoughts” that arise, in order to become our best selves. Facing our fears of failure allow us to become mentally and emotionally stronger. When we avoid failure (like giving up a resolution after one “bad” day), we miss out on the chance to grow beyond ourselves. Accepting failure as part of the process allows us to learn from and move on from mistakes.Just get right back on that horse if you fell off!
3. Take Small Steps
Picking the resolution is the easy part because often we already know what we’d like to change in our lives by the time it’s January 1st. The hard part is knowing how to accomplish the resolution. Start small and tack on additional goals as you find success. Let’s say you want to earn more money this year. Instead of making huge sales goals or planning to drastically cut down on spending, think of one action a week you can take to increase the likelihood that you earn or save money. Make it a game. Make meals at home one week. Call a sales lead the next. The third week, find free events to go to. Or talk to your boss about what it would take to get a raise. How creative can you be? By keeping the weekly goals small and manageable, we increase the likelihood of sticking to our goals and seeing big changes by the time January 1st comes around again.
4. Hold Yourself Accountable
Commit to some time to reflect on your efforts each week. Lots of people skip this step but it is the most important, in terms of sticking to your goals. We have to measure our successes to build momentum and motivation. Maybe the first week your resolution was really hard, but when you look back after a month, you see you’ve saved a couple extra bucks. After four months, you’ve saved a couple hundred. By the end of the year, you have enough for that vacation. If you weren’t measuring each week, you might feel that your first month was a failure. When in fact, you would’ve met your goal if you had felt motivated. It doesn’t have to be a big time commitment; five minutes writing about how your goal went each week should be more than enough. If you hate writing, you could also make a chart, giving yourself a sticker or check for each week you met your goal. Pick small rewards for obtaining your monthly goals. Even better, if you have a group of colleagues or friends who are also trying to stick to their goals, have a quarterly or yearly meeting to discuss what your goals were last quarter/year, what successes you had over the last quarter/year, and what your goal will be for the new quarter/year. Make it fun and you will stick to it!
Do you have tips for staying on track with your goals? Please share! We're all stronger when we work together.
Erin Haddock is the director of Five Keys Yoga, LLC.