The new year is almost here. Have you made any resolutions yet or are you one of those folks who don’t bother because you know you won’t keep them?
I haven’t made a serious New Year’s resolution in forever. In recent years, I’ve joked with my wife and my friends about resolutions that would be easy to keep and fly in the face of traditional resolutions. “Next year, I’m going to drink more beer.” “I’m going to gain weight.” “You know what, I think I’ll spend even more time on social media next year.”
But while I wouldn’t recommend doing any of those things (especially spending more time on social media, if you enjoy your sanity anyway), I do think there is something to making easy-to-keep resolutions that could actually improve your life, without making unrealistic promises to yourself that involves wholesale changes.
Here’s an example that wasn’t necessarily a New Year’s resolution, but a minor change you could make in your life to rid it of a minor annoyance. Do you frequently misplace your car keys? My wife did. All. The. Time.
One year for Christmas, I even bought her an electronic key fob that, when you used the remote, would make a beeping noise so you could track them down. Needless to say, she couldn’t find the remote one time when she needed to find her keys.
When we bought our new house last year, I made a point to set up a table by the front door where we would both drop our keys when we came home. It takes a little effort, but if you make a point to do it every single day, eventually, it becomes second nature. Having the visual cue of the table was also a helpful reminder.
It actually wasn’t until this past week, when my wife had to run to the store for a last-minute Christmas gift on Dec. 24 and returned in a tizzy, that she forgot to put her keys on table. That led to a bit of a scurry when she returned to work on Thursday and couldn’t find her keys (they were in the pocket of her jacket she wore out that day).
This is a specific example, but the philosophy of making a concerted effort to change a habit and giving yourself visual reminders can be an effective one.
Maybe you want to resolve to keep the inside of your car less cluttered. (I don’t think this is exclusively a journalist problem, but I’d say about 85 percent or more of the journalists I’ve known over the years suffer from this, myself included.) If you make a point to clean off your passenger seat of any extra papers or wrappers every time you arrive home at the end of your work shift, you can keep clutter from piling up.
But maybe you want to do something a little bigger than remembering where your keys are or keeping your car’s interior cleaner.
Experts suggest setting what are called “SMART” goals — that is, goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. For example, if your broad resolution is to lose weight, don’t just leave it open ended and don’t make it unachievable either. Say you want to lose 50 pounds, set a goal of losing at least 1 pound per week over the course of the year.
It’s a small enough goal that it is achievable and if, after the first month, you’ve lost 5 pounds, it’s something to hang your hat on and motivate you to keep progressing.
Your goals should also be relevant — in other words, something you actually care about achieving. If you know you aren’t really motivated to lose weight — you don’t really want to change your eating habits or start exercising to get healthier — then the likelihood of achieving it pretty low.
Here’s one more suggestion: Find a partner who wants to achieve a similar goal and help motivate each other along the way. It could be a spouse, a friend, a co-worker … even a parent or, conversely, an adult child.
Using the weight loss example, the two of you could go to the gym together or take turns cooking a healthy meal that you share during lunchtime. Text each other to ask about progress. But remember, it’s not a competition. Celebrate successes and lift each other up during failures.
Happy new year and best of luck with your resolutions, no matter how big or how small, just remember to make them realistic.