Steps for a New You in the New Year

Is it really New Year’s Resolution season already? Is it really time—again already?—to finally get our acts together and get things right for once? That sure came around fast.

It might seem like only yesterday that we were abandoning last year’s goals, but if you’re like most people, you actually gave them up way back in February. So in the interest of getting it right this time around, here are a few tips on rocking your New Year’s Resolutions in 2019.

First of all, pick the right resolution

Most people focus on health and fitness related goals. They resolve to lose 20 or 30 pounds or to fit back into those fancy pants they bought five years ago. These are what we would call SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and (if you set a due date) Time-Bound.

Experts will advise you that if you want to reach a specific goal, SMART is the way to go. But there are drawbacks. First, failures to reach the goal or stay on track with the timeline can be discouraging, leading to abandonment of the resolution; and second, actually reaching the goal often gives a person permission to give up on the habits that got them there, leading to backsliding and loss of progress.

As an alternative, you might consider more general goals—such as developing healthy habits—that, as a side effect, will naturally lead to those more specific, measurable achievements.

Write out a plan

If your goals are health and fitness related, this really needs to be a two-pronged approach involving both diet and exercise. Remember the old saying that “abs are made in the kitchen.” You don’t need to jump into any hard core calorie restricted keto plan or any other fads. A simple Mediterranean or DASH diet will do, and you’ll be doing yourself a huge favor—both to your waistline and your bank account—if you cook most of what you eat yourself, rather than dining out. To that end, writing out a meal plan and hitting up a grocery store at the start of each week is key. It might seem like a large chunk of time up front, but it will actually save time during busy weekdays when everything is already prepped and ready.

As for the exercise side of the equation, you’ll want to pencil in at least 150 minutes per week, spread across most days. Cardiovascular exercises are important—anything from a brisk walk to an intense HIIT class—and so is strength training with either weights or elastic resistance tubing or bands.

The meal planning, cooking, eating, and exercising will take up a significant portion of your time each week. It’s how you’ll reach your goals, after all. So it’s important that you plan out when and how you’ll work these things into your new lifestyle. Make a schedule, write it down, and refer to it frequently.

Find a community

A support system of like-minded friends can help you through any rough patches. You might find groups sharing your interests online, but ideally you’ll meet people in real life—friends from your new gym, for example, or a hiking group or cooking class. For an extra kick in the incentive, consider working with a personal trainer or consulting with a nutritionist. Paying for professional services could be just what you need to keep your motivation up.

Check your progress frequently

You’ve already written out your plan, so don’t let that hard work go to waste. Check in with it at least once a week to make sure you haven’t forgotten any key elements.

Don’t be afraid to make adjustments

So you missed a few days on the treadmill. You caught a cold. You ate pie. None of that is the end of the world. If you feel like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, it’s okay to lighten the load a bit. Change up the schedule to make it easier on yourself, or change it up just for fun. The important thing is that you’re developing a lifestyle that you can maintain for the long haul.

And finally, remember that January 1 is just another day

There’s really nothing special about the New Year when it comes to changing your life. Change isn’t something that happens in a day, and it’s certainly not something that happens just once a year. If your goal is to get stronger, or healthier, or smarter, or wealthier, there’s no point in waiting on the calendar. You don’t have control over what happens tomorrow or next week; you don’t have control over what happened yesterday or last week; the only day you can control is today.

So pick yourself back up and get going with those resolutions.