You’re likely in the throes of the holidays right now. You may be busy attending parties, baking cookies, buying presents, and watching the kids perform in holiday plays and concerts. If you’re like most Americans, you’re probably eating a bit too much of the rich holiday food and spending too much on all the decorations and gifts.
And come New Year’s Eve, you may be like the typical American vowing to lose weight and save more money or pay down debt. Unfortunately, the typical American fails at her goals before January is even over. Trying to change engrained habits simply because you make a vow to and the calendar flips to a new year is a recipe for disaster.
This year, resolve to do things differently.
Last year across blogs, S.M.A.R.T goals were all the rage. S.M.A.R.T stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. This can be a good way to approach your goals. However, if you tried this method last year and it didn’t work, I have a different strategy for you.
Instead of overwhelming yourself with a myriad of goals, pick 4 specific goals.
For instance, let’s say you want to lose weight. Rather than saying, “I’ll lose 25 pounds this year”, why not choose something more in your control. For instance, “I’ll eat at least 5 fruits and vegetables a day.”
A second goal related to losing weight may be that you want to curb the amount of junk food you eat. Your next goal may be, “I’ll only have junk food once a week.”
You can likewise make goals for your finances. If you have credit card debt that is bothering you, why not vow to pay an extra $100 a month on your bill if that’s the best you can do? (If you can pay more, of course, do that.)
You might also resolve to not use the credit card while you’re paying it down and instead move to cash or a debit card.
That’s four goals. Rather than jumping into January 1st trying to accomplish all 4 goals, go more slowly. This isn’t a race. What’s important is that you accomplish your goals.
Maybe you start first with eating 5 fruits and vegetables a day. That’s it. For the first three months of the year, that’s the only goal you focus on. After all, according to PsyBlog, making any new behavior a habit takes on average 66 days, though it depends on how hard the new habit is.
Come April 1st, you should have the first goal accomplished and be able to maintain it, which means it’s time to implement the next behavior change. This time, perhaps you work on eliminating the junk food except once a week.
By July 1st, you implement the next habit, and October 1st, you add the last habit. One quarter at a time, you’re changing your life. Because you’ve chosen to slowly change your behavior one manageable goal at a time, come December 31st, you’ll be able to proudly look back at all you accomplished.