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How to make better New Year’s resolutions

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4 Tips for making goals you can actually keep in 2020.

2020 is only one day away, which means … it’s time to start thinking about those New Year’s resolutions.

Full disclosure: I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions. Usually, they’re too grand and too vague, like: “In 2020, I’m going to lose weight” or “I’m going to work out every single day of 2020.” The problem with the first is that there’s no plan in place to accomplish it, and there’s no measure by which to assess said accomplishment. So on January 1, you might eat nothing but salad and go for a 5-mile run. By January 5, you might be burned out on lettuce and rocking a wicked case of shin splints, precipitating a nasty slide into Netflix-and-popcorn territory. Usually by February your resolution is abandoned and all but forgotten … but even if you stick with your salad-and-running routine, how can you assess whether you’re meeting those resolutions when there’s no way to quantify it?

“Lose weight” is too vague — let’s say 2020 ends up looking a lot like 2019 as far as diet-and-exercise go, but on December 31, 2020, you weight 3 lbs less than you did on December 31, 2019. Did you accomplish that resolution? Or say you take up lifting weights and go from a size 12 to a size 8, but the scale stays exactly the same — have you failed?

You can see the problem with typical New Year’s resolutions. So here are some suggestions to make your resolutions for 2020 better than previous resolutions.

1
Make it specific

In order to accomplish a goal, you have to make sure it’s laser-focused and clear. If you want to get healthier, pick an area of health that’s specific to your goals. It can be dropping two dress sizes, lowering your blood pressure, or running a 10K — just make sure it’s a specific goal that speaks to you personally, so you can focus, rather than being overwhelmed by a vague idea.

2
Make it measurable

If you’re having trouble finding a specific goal, it helps to make it one you can measure. So if your doctor said you need to get your blood pressure down, ask him for a specific number to aim for. If you want to lose some weight, get yourself two pairs of jeans — one in your current size and one in the size you want to reach by the end of the year. Keep them in the front of your closet so you have a tangible reminder every morning. If you want to take up running or weightlifting, talk with some runners or personal trainers and ask them to help you come up with goals you can meet, whether that’s running a 10K or deadlifting 200 pounds. Whatever your resolution is, make it quantifiable so you can see your progress and celebrate when you reach that goal.

3
Make it realistic

This is a very important step that you should not overlook — you have to choose a goal that’s realistic. While it might be admirable and inspirational to declare you’re going to run the Boston Marathon this year, if you haven’t run a mile since 3rd grade PE class, that’s an extremely unlikely goal. Instead, choose a goal that’s doable for you. This is going to depend on your circumstances, your resolution, and your current lifestyle, so if you’re not sure if your goal is realistic or not, bounce the idea off trusted friends or family members. If you’re entering a whole new world that your friends and family are unfamiliar with, find an expert or at least someone proficient in that area and ask their opinion. And most importantly, don’t get discouraged if you feel like you’re setting your goal too low. It’s better to choose a realistic goal and accomplish it than it is to choose an unrealistic goal and feel like a failure on December 31.

4
Make it time-bound

One of the benefits of New Year’s resolutions is that they’re already time-bound. You set a resolution to meet by this time next year, giving you a built-in time frame in which to accomplish your goal. The problem is, a year is a really long time … but the days slip away quickly. You can wake up in March having not taken a single step towards accomplishing your resolution but still feel like you’ve got plenty of time to get it done. This is a mistake. March will be July and July will be November before you realize it. So break the time up into smaller increments and give yourself goals to meet along the way—again, utilizing the same principles we already discussed. This will get you going immediately and allow you to track your progress, both of which will keep you consistent and give you a feeling of accomplishment to motivate you through the rest of the year.

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