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  • Writer's pictureDr. Jessica

5 Tips for Making New Year's Resolutions that Last

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5 Tips for Making New Year's Resolutions that Last

2019 is finally here! That means it's time for a new year and a new you, right? Many of us set out in the new year with a vague idea of things we want to do, but after the first few weeks the newness wears off. It can be difficult to stick to the plans that we made. Setting goals and making New Year's resolutions can be fun and motivating, yet can also be daunting. The rollercoaster of life sometimes takes us on a ride, derailing us from achieving those goals. Yet, making goals and striving for change is important for personal growth. We are called to a life of transformation, to make a difference in this world.

I like to organize my resolutions into several categories for different areas of my life. That way, I'm challenging myself not just to make vague goals, but to think of things in specific ways. One example of can organizing your resolutions is to think of goals that will move you toward physical, emotional, spiritual, and social well-being. Or, you may choose to set goals for home, work, family, church, finances, etc. Last night, while visiting with friends to celebrate the New Year, one family related how they each pick a word on which to focus for the year- such as acceptance, change, focus, love, faith, etc. Then they center each of their goals around the word they chose for the year. Writing down your goals in a journal or on a notecard that is visible will serve as a reference point throughout the year.

To help you make resolutions that last, I have compiled a list of practical ways to aid in achieving your goals and transformations. Remember, it takes 21-28 days to form a habit, so stick with it and soon it will become second-nature.

New Year's resolutions worksheet from Canva

1. Be realistic- set yourself up for success. For instance, planning to run a marathon in the next year, when you've been a couch potato for the last five years, probably isn't an attainable goal. Instead, set your sights on a smaller goal such as walking a mile, or running a 5K. Then, as you achieve the smaller goal, you have a sense of accomplishment. If you're anything like me, this can be motivating. Once the first goal is met, you can make a new one. This is true in any area. Though lofty or challenging goals are admirable, if the big picture isn't immediately attainable, you may give up. Our brains are wired for reward, so do yourself a favor by setting realistic resolutions.

2. Be intentional and specific- break goals down into steps. This idea piggybacks on #1. Broad, vague ideas are difficult to remain focused on and accomplish. Come up with the big picture for the year in specific areas as suggested above. Then, divide those goals into smaller, short-term goals. Be intentional about how you are going to accomplish each thing. Want to lose 20 pounds?--how will you do that? will you go for a walk for 30 minutes 3-5 days a week, or will you join a gym? will you aim for 1-2 pounds a week? find ways to cut out sugary foods? You get the idea. Focusing on smaller accomplishments helps you to not be overwhelmed by the long-term goal.

3. Find ways to stay motivated- rewards help! Remember, as mentioned above, our brains are wired for reward. The best way to train yourself (yes, I do mean train, forming a new habit is like training your brain) to stay on task and remain focused is to develop rewards for yourself. Make the rewards frequent enough to be attainable. You can develop rewards for achieving smaller goals and for bigger rewards for the long-term goals. Just don't set up rewards that de-rail your path! (i.e. if you want to loose weight, rewarding yourself with a huge ice cream cone might not be the best choice, but you could treat yourself to a new pair of pants that make you feel good and reminds you that your clothes are fitting better now). Rewards can be tangible or intangible. Perhaps you're trying to spend more time with God- praying and doing devotionals on a regular basis. The reward can simply be that you feel at peace and more connected, relationships flourish as a result. Or maybe you resolve to spend more time with friends, so you arrange to have coffee with a friend at your favorite cafe to discuss the things you're doing.

4. Have an accountability partner- someone to encourage you. Pick someone you trust to keep you accountable, motivated, and on track. Perhaps this is a friend, your spouse, a co-worker, your children, or your pastor, even your boss. You may have more than one person, one for each goal you want to accomplish. If you want to be more productive at the work, then your boss, manager or co-worker can keep you accountable. If you're looking to develop a spiritual habit, then your pastor or friend from church may be the best person for the job. The important thing here is to find someone you trust. You want to be able to be open with that person about the reasons for your resolution and trust that they will treat it in confidence. This person should be honest and reliable- someone you can talk to, who won't judge, will call you out when you need it, and give you encouragement to keep going. Set up regular times to check in with that person to discuss how things are going. Better yet, maybe you find someone with similar goals that you can accomplish together. Having a walking partner or a small group for devotions can be helpful. If you want to read more books, joining a book club would be a great way to stay accountable and get out to socialize.

5. Prepare for pitfalls and setbacks- they will happen! Lives get busy, we get sick, things happen to get in our way of accomplishing our goals. The important thing here is to recognize that life happens, but don't let it de-rail you in the long-term. Accept that there may be times that you can't get to the gym or you were too sick to get out of bed. Have a plan for getting back on track and give yourself some breathing room! It's ok to take time out or take a break. Allowing yourself some rest can rejuvenate you for the next goal. If needed, don't expect to pick up where you left off- go back a few steps and continue the journey. Our paths are not always straight on the road of life. Learning, growing, and transforming through our mistakes, pitfalls, and setbacks is the ultimate goal. Getting through challenges and hard times is what helps us to help others.

Bonus #6. Pray and meditate- with God all things are possible! (This is really the #1 thing we should do but for organization's sake, I made it a bonus). As you sit down to write your New Year's resolutions, ask God to search your heart and mind for those things in you that He wants to change or transform. Be open to what He has to say. Change can be hard to embrace. God will often shine light on the things we are most resistant to release. If we seek Him in earnest, He will provide. He will refocus us when we become distracted. What better accountability partner could we have? Growing, changing, developing into the beings we are meant to be...the person that God designed us to be... requires careful thought and meditation, intentionality, and a willingness to follow God's path for us. So, I encourage you to take some time today to sit in a quiet place to meditate on the changes and goals that God is placing in your heart for the year to come. Be prepared for what He has in store, for His path for us is better than we can ever imagine!

Happy New Year and happy resolution-making! May you be blessed by the things in store for you in 2019.

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