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Happier and Healthier in 2016: New Years Resolutions that Work

Hello 2016! We welcome January with a sense of excitement and hope for the possibilities of change and accomplishments in the New Year. January is a time to think about change and for many of us that means setting a New Year’s Resolution.

You may have heard that New Year’s resolutions don’t last. Some studies report that as few as five percent of New Year’s resolutions are kept, and that most fail by the end of January. If the resolution involves diet and exercise, it will likely ‘fail’ by the time you read this article.

I don’t think that not setting a New Years Resolution is the answer either. And, even if 95% of resolutions fail, that still means that 5% of people who set Resolutions achieve them!

If you don’t set goals, (call it a New Years Resolution, intention, or whatever you like) you’re missing out on a wonderful opportunity to live the life you want to live- to be the person you want to become.

In this article I’m going to walk you through a simple-step-by step process to create a New Years Resolution that works.

Step 1. Reflect on 2015. The New Year is not a blank slate- it’s a continuation from years past. Take time to celebrate your successes and to acknowledge the areas where you struggled. Positive and negative experiences shape who you are and you can learn from both. Ask: What went well? What challenges did you face? What are some of your happiest moments? What lessons did you learn? Where are you at the end of the year compared to the beginning of the year? How did you do on last year’s goals? If you take time to write down your review, you’ll have the special gift of being able to read it again in the future.

Step 2: Dream. What do you want for 2016? This is your chance to dream! You may include specific goals such as “I want to run 10K this year” as well as vague goals such as “I want to be happier and healthier this year”, or “I want to spend more time with my family”, or “I want to travel more”. Attach emotion and feeling to your dream. How do you want to feel?

Step 2 ½: Don’t define success solely on result- especially when it comes to weight loss. Focus on getting healthier, becoming stronger, being more confident, along with action items related to that (I’ll get to that part shortly). Usually the result of listening to your body and becoming healthier and happier is weight loss, if you have weight to lose, but don’t let the number on the scale determine your success.

Step 3. Pick your top 1-3 dreams for 2016. Don’t worry too much about missing out on other ones- usually by focusing on one goal, other goals will become easier, or happen naturally.

Step 4. Break down your goal in action items. Specific goals are easier to measure, such as a goal to run 10K. You either did, or you didn’t do it. Intentions such as “to be happier” or “to spend more time with family” or “have a more positive body image” are more difficult to measure, but if you perceive you’re happier, or that you spend more time with family (and your family agrees), that’s all that matters.

In other words, don’t get caught up on needing to measure every single intention. Instead, focus on the action steps. What do you need to do each day to become happier? Maybe it’s starting a gratitude practice. Maybe it’s scheduling recreation into each week. Maybe you need to work on a project that you are excited about doing. If your intention is to spend more time with family, you could take action by scheduling two electronic free evenings together as a family each week, or truly connect with your spouse each day.

Step 5. Turn those action items into goals. “You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret to your success is found in your daily routine”- John Maxwell.

When choosing action items, be realistic. You don’t need to overhaul all your habits at once. Start with one or two items and build from there.

Some goals, such as a goal to run 10K can be mapped out over 90 days or so. But break each goal or intention down into daily habits that you can track one week at a time. I recommend weekly goals as they are more manageable, they are immediate wins (you can feel successful after one day or one week versus 30 days or more), and they get rid of procrastination.

Step 6. Track your daily habits. Life happens- and it’s really easy to forget about spending more time with family, or packing your lunch, or keeping a gratitude practice when you have stressful deadlines at work, or you just don’t ‘feel like it’. I recommend using a daily habits success list to track your habits.

Step 7. Get support. You don’t have to do it on your own. You can share your goals with a close friend, and give them a daily update, hire a coach or join a community of people who share a similar goal.

Step 8. Finally, give yourself the grace and space to fail, and to try again. One missed workout doesn’t mean your New Years Resolution has failed. Look at the big picture and work on getting a little bit better. Great is the enemy of good.

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