There’s something about the start of the year that makes us all eager to turn over a new leaf. Maybe it’s that crisp new calendar you get to put up on the wall (or the more anti-climactic roll over of your iCalendar). It could be the thrill of a whole 12 months of new opportunities. New chances. A fresh start.
Maybe it’s the mass of social media hashtags and Instagram pics, Pinterest boards brimming with plans and goals and #newyearnewme. You could be chock full of inspiration and excitement!
Or, if you’re like me, you’re staring around a holiday dressed home that looks a bit like it’s been dragged through a few too many parties and seriously needs to call it a night. The tree is sagging, it can’t keep its skirt on, and it’s dropping ornaments faster than I lost my earrings on a Saturday night.
So a girl can’t help but think about wanting to turn over a new leaf, to throw away the old and welcome the new. It’s only natural! New habits! New routines! Let’s make this the best year yet!
But it’s also the worst thing to do
I’m here to tell you that New Year’s Resolutions are the wrong way to go, and I’ve got 5 reasons why you should avoid them as much as possible!
1. It’s Not Realistic
So many of us fall into the trap of starting the new year with these high hopes and major goals, fueled by all that desire to have a clean slate for the year. And unfortunately, the research is there proving that these sorts of goals are actually the least likely to succeed! For years, researchers have been touting that nearly 80% of all New Years Resolutions fail. A study by Strava, the athlete’s social media site, even found that by January 12th, most people are likely to have fallen off the wagon is some way.
And most of this is because we go too far, too fast. We want to get started right now, and we want the results yesterday. But setting unrealistic goals, expecting too much of ourselves too quickly, can set us up to feel unmotivated and discouraged by our perceived failures.
I am always celebrating the idea of baby steps. When did they become synonymous with lack of progress? As I recall, I filmed and posted about my children’s first steps as if they were landing on the moon itself. First steps are the essential building blocks of all our goals. Don’t be afraid to start small and grow from there!
Pick one small, manageable change and set a timeline of one week – then check in and adjust. Feel too easy? Add an extra day of trying the habit out in your schedule. Feel too hard? Pull back and check in with that confidence level again. On a scale of 1-10, how confident do you feel? Anything under a 7 might need some adjustment.
For right now at least. You can always adjust. Celebrate the baby steps!
2. This Isn’t Your Real Life
Right after the holidays is basically this time-rift where nothing seems real, and the date doesn’t matter. I spend more time wondering whether it’s Wednesday or Sunday than I do in really focussing on my goals during this time of the year. Because of this, any goals or changes we make might not last when we switch over to our regularly scheduled program.
A new exercise routine you start when you’re at home with the kids on break might not last when you’re back to work and juggling pick ups and drop offs. Or even the opposite: wanting to eat healthy when the Christmas cookies are still chilling in the freezer isn’t going to make anyone successful.
You’re better off waiting until midway, or even to the end of January before tackling a major life change. Give yourself at least a week or two of your usual routine, and let the rush of the holidays settle behind you first, and then try to make a gradual, small change.
3. It’s a Wish, Not a Goal
I want to be healthier. I’ll be kinder to myself this year. I’ll eat better. I’ll become more fit. I’ll be more patient, more loving, more mindful.
What do all these have in common? Spoiler alert: It’s in the heading. These are all wishes. Things we desire, but don’t state the actual behaviours we plan to change. Wishes aren’t goals and they’re not manageable and yet that’s the trap most people fall into with their New Year’s Resolutions. Their goals are vague, general, and definitely not measurable.
Try sticking with SMART goals, meaning actions that fall into all of the following categories:
You should be able to answer what you’re doing, when, where, for how long, and how often – as well as when you’re going to check in with this goal to see how you’ve done, and what you’ll do to give yourself a pat on the back! Check in with yourself about how realistic this goal feels for you. Remember? We are aiming for at least a 7 out of 10 for your personal sense of confidence you can get the job done. Anything less is probably too much to handle.Glenn Carstens-Peters
4. You’re Building On Your Insecurities
No one gets anywhere with criticism, at least not towards a healthy change that improves your life and makes you feel better! Many of us source our future goals for the new year from our perceived failings from the last 12 months.
Why do you want to lose weight? Because you don’t like how you look in the mirror? That resolution may tie to a feeling of shame and sadness – and that’s the emotional fuel you’re going to be tapping into every time you revisit that goal.
So consider instead building on something positive when you choose a goal. A goal of wanting to make health conscious choices with exercise and eating might sound the same as dieting, but the tone is set for building you up, not breaking you down with your own negative beliefs.
5. The Winter Blues
The weather outside is frightful, and the fire is so delightful…. so I’m gonna stay inside and Netflix, y’all.
Winter is notorious for being the season of worsening mental health, low mood and even lower motivation. This is the time we all seem to hibernate and isolate. We lack the sunlight needed to boost our moods naturally with Vitamin D, we are locked in by snow storms and winter flus, and we are all dealing with a Holiday Hangover from the stress of family gatherings and too much pressure for the perfect Christmas Season. Some of us even are chronic sufferers of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or cyclic depression that naturally worsens in the winter months.
And yet now is the time we are choosing to try and tackle a major life change? Talk about setting ourselves up for failure.
It might make more sense to focus on self care and getting through the toughest months of the year, and just maintaining a reasonable level of activity while dealing with all these added stressors. If you are going to tackle goals, stick to ones that support good mental health during the winter months: try to socialize, to reduce stress, to challenge those isolating tendencies and stay active in your community. Hold off on the big lifestyle changes until the snow melts a bit more, and it might be easier to get to the gym, instead of needing to get your snow shoes out.
So what sort of more reasonable, and successful sorts of goals are you planning on achieving this year? Share with us in the comments below and let me know how you handle making healthy habits in your life!