Happy New Year! If you haven’t yet made any New Year’s resolutions, it’s not too late. Don’t miss this opportunity to make resolutions that may transform your life—or at least improve it significantly.
Over the years, I’ve experienced both success and failure in trying to keep my New Year’s resolutions. I’d like to share five of the most important lessons I’ve learned:
1. Don’t make too many resolutions. Even if you’d like to change your life in 20 different ways, you are better off making two or three changes in 2022, leaving the rest for future years. Better yet, leave the rest for other people. Why must you be the one to do yoga every morning? Let someone else in your family do that. You can’t do it all, you know. My wife is the yoga person in our family; I’m the running person. Whenever she says, “Do you want to do yoga with me?” I start running.
2. Choose your resolutions wisely. Make a list of all the changes you’d like to make and cross off most of them. Think about which resolutions will have the greatest impact on your life. Will giving up sweets make you feel as happy and healthy as running regularly? It certainly might, especially if you’re already experiencing enough running: diabetes runs in your family or you are running out of teeth.
3. Don’t aim high – aim low. Aiming high is how most people fail. Some of them have never exercised in their lives, yet they somehow convince themselves that they’re going to run 5 miles per day, beginning on January 1. This usually results in a long line at the doctor’s office on January 2.
Patient: “Ouch! My backside hurts!”
Doctor: “Looks like you suffered an overuse injury!”
Patient: “But I just started running.”
Doctor: “Yes, you’ve been overusing your couch!”
New habits are hard to adopt – that’s why you should start with something small. If you haven’t done much running, don’t try to run all around your neighborhood. Instead, run all around your coffee table. That may not seem like much, but it gets you off the couch, and before long, you’ll be running all around your living room.
Trust me, it is better to feel good about achieving a small goal than striving for a big goal that you can’t achieve consistently. Once you’ve established a habit, you can gradually increase it, and the only risk you’ll be taking is the risk of being kicked out of the Slackers Club.
4. Reward yourself. This is very important, especially if you’re trying to achieve a goal that doesn’t give you instant gratification. Whether you wrote 100 words in a journal or exercised for 15 minutes or studied chemistry for 30 minutes, give yourself a special reward: Take the rest of the year off. No, perhaps a smaller reward would be sufficient, something like a nice hot bath that doesn’t ruin any other resolution.
5. Don’t give up. If you succeed in avoiding sweets for five days, but attend a party on the sixth day and eat 10 cookies, what should you do? Well, like a cyclist who hits a bump and falls off a bicycle, you should get back on the bike and continue your journey. There will always be bumps on the road. Even Kim Kardashian sometimes goes an entire day without taking a selfie. But the very next day, she’s back at it, taking 200 of them.