Lots of people choose resolutions that fit in one of two categories: Money or Health. It could be paying down debt, saving more or earning more. It could be doing more exercise or eating fewer cookies. Or, it could be cutting down on cigarettes or alcohol, saving you money and improving your health.
These are all quite simple, right? To pay down debt you need to spend less money and put it towards debt payments. To cut down on alcohol, you need to stay in more or cut alcohol out of your weekly shop.
It’s not like deciding you want to learn to play Vivaldi’s four seasons when you can’t even read music.
In spite of choosing resolutions that seem simple, lots of us don’t stick with them. They’re far from easy.
Habits are hard to change
If you decide to learn to play Vivaldi’s four seasons, you know you have to make time to specifically focus on learning a new skill, having lessons (most likely) and practicing in between. And you know it’s going to be hard.
If you decide to save money on the food shop, you’ve got to stop yourself from doing the things you automatically do, week in week out. Then, you have to start doing new things that aren’t automatic, so they take time and feel inconvenient. They may be simple changes, but its hard to stop doing things that come naturally to you.
The leniency of Christmas amplifies the severity of January
Here’s another challenge to our new year’s resolution. It’s fair to say that most of us are more lenient with ourselves in December. We build a bit more into our budget to treat ourselves, we share good food with families and friends… and in our house, we have the heating on much more often, so our guests aren’t cold!
When January comes, rather than just getting back to normal, we set incredibly ambitious goals and set about enthusiastically changing ourselves and our lives. The changes would be hard at any point in the year, but being so lenient with ourselves in December can lead to our goals seeming too severe by comparison. It’s hardly surprising so many people give up before the month is out.
January is a start point- work yourself up gradually
This isn’t a make or break month. It’s a start point. If you’ve spent 10 years ordering a takeaway on a Friday night or open a bottle of wine every Thursday night or every evening is cosied up on the sofa watching TV, you don’t have to quit that completely in January. You’re in the first 31 days of changing something about your life. Right now, January might stretch out in front of us, but we all know that time will be gone in a heartbeat.
It’s up to you to decide what will work for you. If you’re giving up takeaways, maybe reduce them by 50% in January. And try to replace them with a meal you can look forward to instead.
If you’re swearing to stay off the red wine until Friday at the earliest, perhaps pencil in a couple of Thursday evening strolls for January to give yourself something to do at the point when your brain is thinking ‘where’s the corkscrew?’!
Don’t wait until next year to start again
You might get to the end of January or February and realise you haven’t made a very good start at all. You might already have decided you’ve given up. It might even be summertime when you think “I was supposed to be getting fit this year”.
The first day of January is just a day. Just like tomorrow is just a day. You don’t have to decide to make your life better in a specific period of the calendar, you can do it anytime.
It will be worth it
Your goals are not about inflicting unnecessary suffering on yourself. They’re not about making life tough for no reason. They’re not even about showing others what you can do. They’re your goals and they are about making your life better.
There will be tough days, days when you feel like you’ve failed, days when you undo previous good work. Any action, any step in the right direction, is a success. You need to remember those successes and work to make more, rather than dwelling on failures.
Your goals may be difficult to achieve. But they will make your life what you want it to be. And surely, that makes it worth it.
Are you someone that sets new year’s resolutions? How do you tackle your goals, especially when you feel you’re failing?