With it being a new year, you might have found yourself in a conversation with someone who asks you what your New Year's resolution will be this year? You might have spent some time evaluating how the last year has gone, which leads to thinking about all the things you want to do differently in this new year. How many New Year’s resolutions have you made in the past that you gave up within a few days? I can’t even tell you what my number is since I have failed at so many of them. I even went a few years protesting the idea of New Year’s resolutions because I failed at them anyway. I also feel that if I don’t have them decided by Jan 1st and I am ready to start, then it is useless to set the goals later.
Over the last few years, I have learned from others and myself that resolutions or goals are a valuable tool if done with a little bit of direction and guidance. Also, they can begin at any time during the year. So, I am offering some tips here to help you succeed with your resolutions and goals.
New Year's resolutions and Goals: Be Specific
Be clear and specific about what you want to achieve. To help clarify, let’s use the common, “exercise more” goal that many of us say we are going to do.
Instead of the vague goal to exercise more, it is best to specify the type of exercise, frequency, and duration. For example; I am going to exercise more by jogging for 30 minutes, three times per week. That is a specific goal that you are more likely to stick with.
Make your Resolutions and Goals Measurable
There is value in setting goals that you can measure to help track your progress. This could involve tracking your achievements by keeping a journal, using a fitness app, and/or using specific metrics to gauge success.
If I am going to exercise more by jogging for 30 minutes, 3x per week, I might keep track of the amount of minutes that I am jogging and the number of times a week that I do this exercise. A wearable fitness tracker is an easy way to track your exercise, but there are many free apps for your phone too.
Make your Resolutions and Goals Achievable
While we want goals or resolutions to challenge us, we want them to be realistic and attainable. Set challenging goals for yourself, but make sure they are within the realm of possibility. Unrealistic goals can lead to frustration and discouragement.
If I have never been much of a runner before now, it would be unrealistic of me to think that I can run a marathon in 3 months. Is that too extreme? Okay then, maybe you want to run 6 times per week. It would be important to ask yourself: Is that an achievable goal for you depending on your state in life? Do you have time to devote 6 times per week, or is your schedule only going to allow 3x per week?
Align your goals or resolutions with your overall values. This helps maintain motivation and ensures that your efforts contribute to your broader life goals and values.
Is jogging a relevant goal for you if you absolutely hate running or if you don’t feel that you are in poor physical health? Or, you might value your health and want to start taking better care of yourself, but you want to find another way besides running. There are many ways to take care of your physical body and many other exercises you might enjoy more than running; you just need to find what fits your lifestyle. The goal can remain the same as 3x per week, or more,, but you insert the exercise you want to do.
Set a deadline for achieving your resolution! This creates a sense of urgency and helps you stay focused. It also allows you to break down large goals into smaller, more manageable tasks.
A year can feel like a long time! In using our original example, there is no time or end point. What if we add something to help us with motivation by setting a goal that we are working toward? For example: I am going to run a 5k by the end of May. Or maybe if you have never been a runner before, you want to work your way up to jogging 30 minutes 3 times a week by the end of May. Maybe you are just going to start out by walking 3x per week, because running is too hard for you. You can start anywhere; you know your own body and ability! There is a program called Couch to 5K that helps people start slowly and build up to that 5k dream. Whatever goals you set, you can break them up into monthly or even quarterly goals to help keep you motivated and working toward your overall goal.
Plan of Action
Outline the specific steps you need to take to achieve your resolution. Having a clear plan can make the process more manageable and less overwhelming. There are some things you might need to think about in order to meet your goals.
If you want to take care of your physical body by jogging 30 minutes 3x per week by the end of May, what physical items do you need to meet this goal? It is as simple as getting a pair of running shoes and clothes that you can jog in? Should you create a music playlist? Do you need to plan out your route? Do you have a treadmill or access to a treadmill for when the weather does not cooperate? Additionally, what days and times are you going to run? This is where you spend time thinking about the obstacles that might get in your way of achieving your goal and problem-solve the ways to reach this goal.
Share your resolutions with a friend, family member, or mentor who can provide support and hold you accountable. Having someone to share your progress with can increase your commitment. It’s also more fun to do things with others. Invite a friend who might have the same goals as you. Also, writing your resolutions down can help. When you write your goals down and see them regularly, it will provide you more opportunities for success.
As we continue with our example of “exercising more by jogging 30 minutes 3x per week by the end of May”, write your goals down with as much detail as possible and a plan of action so you can see it often. Tell someone what you are working on and/or consider asking for a running partner. If you don’t know anybody who enjoys running, look up a local running club or see if there is a group in your neighborhood or local recreation center.
Acknowledge and celebrate your achievements along the way. This can help maintain motivation and reinforce positive behavior.
When we celebrate, it doesn’t always have to be about spending money or a food reward. You might have a book that you are holding onto as a reward and you can read it once you are able to run 3x per week for a month. Maybe you have waited to work on a puzzle until you have been able to run the full 30 minutes without stopping.
Be open to adjusting your goals and resolutions if necessary. Life circumstances can change, and flexibility is important for long-term success.
If you are working toward jogging 30 minutes 3x per week and you begin to have problems with your feet, your doctor might suggest that you take a break from jogging. If that happens to you, maybe you consider other forms of cardio that are not hard on your feet; for example, swimming or riding a bike. Or, maybe your schedule changes and running at your chosen times/days doesn’t work at the moment; you can always work on finding another day and time to get your exercise done. Worst case, maybe you have to take a short break from the goal; this does not mean that you cannot pick up where you left off and start again!
Regularly assess your progress and make adjustments as needed. Reflecting on your journey can provide insights into what is working well and where improvements can be made. Remember, resolutions are more likely to be successful when approached with a positive mindset and a willingness to learn and adapt.
While you are reflecting on your goal of jogging for 30 minutes 3x per week, you might learn that you don’t like running in the evening but prefer to do it in the morning. You’ve learned something about yourself and you adjust your time of day to suit you better. You might realize that you prefer to jog without music or headphones in and so you decide to not use them anymore. Or, maybe you have learned over the course of your time jogging that you really do not enjoy running at all. Your overall goal is to take care of your physical body so what might that look like instead of running? It might be biking, walking, rowing, swimming, etc… You will have learned so much about yourself through this process that you get to decide how to change direction. The beauty of running is that you have a lot of time to think, so having time for self-reflection too is a win-win!
Summary and Resources
We talked a lot about when you have a goal to get more exercise, because this is a common resolution that people make in the new year. However, maybe you have different resolutions. Maybe you want to improve your spiritual life, spend more quality time with your family, give up a bad habit, or eat more healthy foods. Whatever your goals, it is wise to start slowly with any changes to give yourself a better chance at success. If you want to start late, that’s okay too; give yourself grace and start tomorrow, or next week. If you fail, forgive yourself and start over when you are ready. Any change you make is a step forward, and the new year is as good a time as any to create some positive new habits. Good luck to you with whatever you decide to do!
Here are some links to activities that some people started in January:
The Bible in a Year with Fr. Mike Schmitz
The Catechism in a Year with Fr. Mike Schmitz
Couch to 5K Training
Do you want to spend more prayerful time in reflection this year? Check out our prior blog post on this topic here: