Part of our Counselor’s Corner series. Click to read other posts in the Counselor’s Corner.
It’s the time of year when people are launching (or already breaking) their New Year’s resolutions. The solutions below will help you make a manageable New Year’s resolution and give you ideas for how to keep it.
Focus on the Positive
People tend to make New Year’s resolutions on things they struggle with or areas of weakness. Coming up with a positive twist on your New Year’s resolution may help motivate you. For example, instead of resolving to “lose weight,” set a goal to be more active by adding exercise or an activity that gets you moving. Also, focus on the benefits that will come from accomplishing your goal. If you can visualize what you will gain from sticking with your resolution, you will have a better chance of keeping it.
At the beginning of the school year I wrote a post about creating SMART goals—goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. You can apply the same SMART goals concept to your New Year’s resolution by breaking it down into smaller goals. Creating SMART goals will help you set parameters and know if you are on track. Below is an example of how you can create a SMART goal to help you reach your overall New Year’s Resolution.
New Year’s Resolution: Move more.
SMART Goal: In order to support my New Year’s resolution of moving more, I will join a Zumba class at my local gym. Starting on January 8, I will attend Zumba on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:45 p.m. to 6:45 p.m.
- Specific: The goal addresses what you want to accomplish and answers the 5 Ws (Who? What? Where? When? Why?).
- Measurable: The goal is simple to measure—did you go to Zumba or not?
- Attainable: This goal is realistic because it adds activity two days a week. (Aiming for five or six days a week isn’t likely to be attainable.)
- Relevant: The goal is relevant to life as a parent or an educator who is resolving to move more in the New Year.
- Time-bound: The goal specifies when it will start (January 8) and how long each Zumba session will last (one hour).
If you are having a hard time committing to your resolution, telling others about your goals may provide support and help hold you accountable. Share your New Year’s resolution with family, friends, and coworkers. Use your cyber resources, too: When you are trying to move more, it can be motivating to have someone “like” your Facebook status every time you log a workout. If you are working to get organized, posting before-and-after pictures of a closet or cabinet could help you get some positive feedback and motivation to unclutter more areas.
Find Strength in Numbers
Finding a friend who has the same New Year’s resolution can boost the chances of success for both of you. Planning to move more? Join an exercise class together—it’s much harder to skip a workout when you know your friend will be there waiting for you. Planning to reduce clutter? Arrange with a friend to help each other unclutter various areas of your homes. You could even host a tag sale or navigate eBay together with things you want to sell. Need someone to keep you in check? Even if you are miles apart, you can get a friend’s support via phone or online. Schedule daily or weekly phone check-ins to share your progress toward your goal.
Set Yourself Up for Success
Think about what tools you will need to be successful in accomplishing your New Year’s resolution—and get them ready! Below I recommend some items related to popular New Year’s resolutions that will help set you up for success:
- Calendar or agenda: No matter what your New Year’s resolution, a calendar or logbook can help keep you on track. Record progress toward your goal and schedule workouts or projects. Printed calendars go on sale after January 1, so now is a great time to buy one! You can also use a digital calendar on your computer or smartphone.
- Gym membership and/or workout gear: It’s pretty hard to stick with an exercise goal if you have nowhere to exercise, nothing to wear, and no gear to use. Research where and when you will work out. Set yourself up for success by laying out your clothing and gear each evening or before you plan to exercise.
- Organizational supplies: If you want to reduce clutter and reclaim your space, purchase boxes and containers to store your items, or reuse boxes from your holiday gifts. You will also need some bags or boxes to collect items to sell or donate.
Want to add some extra oomph to your motivation? Try focusing your New Year’s resolution efforts on doing good for someone else. Organizations like Crowdrise allow you to raise money for charities by participating in different athletic events. Maybe you’ve resolved to volunteer in your community. Volunteer Match is a site that can help you find an organization that supports your skills and interests. And if you do a major cleaning overhaul and donate items to your local Goodwill or Salvation Army, your New Year’s resolution efforts will help someone else as well.
My personal New Year’s resolution is to move more. I am actually training to run my first half marathon. For some extra motivation, I decided to run for charity as a Girls on the Run SoleMate. The money I raise by running for Girls on the Run in the Pittsburgh Half Marathon will benefit Girls on the Run of Pittsburgh. Each time I dread getting out of bed in the morning to go to the gym, I think of the girls I will be supporting by running. It helps motivate me, and it makes me feel good to give back.
What resolutions are you making for 2013? What strategies can you share for setting realistic goals and reaching them?
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What Do You Really Want? How to Set a Goal and Go for It! A Guide for Teens by Beverly K. Bachel
Doing Good Together: 101 Easy, Meaningful Service Projects for Families, Schools, and Communities by Jenny Friedman, Ph.D., and Jolene L. Roehlkepartain
50 New Year’s Resolutions: How to Make Them, How to Keep Them by Fiona Steinkamp, Ph.D.