If You Broke Your New Year’s Resolution, That’s OK — Here’s How to Get Back on the Horse
“New Year, new you!” “Now’s your chance to change everything about yourself you don’t like!” “Yes, it’s possible to make massive, sweeping changes in the next 30 days that will definitely stick!”
…and other lies we hear about New Year’s Resolutions.
I love a new year because a catalyst for change can be great, and a brand-new year is the perfect opportunity to make that happen. It feels like the time for a fresh start and gives us the chance to reflect on what worked well for us last year (and what didn’t).
When approached from a healthy perspective, January is an amazing time to create new habits and routines that will set us up for success. But the truth is, most of us view this as our one shot to get it “right” — so when we inevitably fall off the proverbial horse and break our New Year’s resolutions, we feel like we have to wait another 11 months to get back on track. And that feels really, really depressing.
Here’s the good news: I’m here to tell you that falling off the horse is not only normal and ok, but actually welcome. Why? I’ll get to that in a minute. In the meantime, how do we make these new routines stick? I’m going to share my top four tips for getting back on track and putting routines in place that we can sustain throughout the whole year. But first, why does this happen in the first place?
The clean slate fallacy
Throughout the year, many of us go about our daily routines with very little analysis of whether or not they’re actually working well for us. Our routines feel good enough, and every few months, we might think, “I should do something different. Something better. Some of these routines and habits I’ve formed could really be improved.” But the thought often goes in and out of our consciousness, and we return to what we always do.
Then suddenly, the holiday season arrives, and we’re knocked out of our routines. For many of us, our schedules shift significantly: We go to more gatherings, we travel more frequently, and school is out of session. During this two week period when there is no routine, the pressures of hosting and present-buying start to overwhelm us (or underwhelm us, in the midst of a pandemic), there’s a lot of time to think… and drink, and overindulge. And feel emotions that knock us off our feet. We declare right then and there that we are going to change everything come January 1st.
But the holiday cheer subsides, and the normal routine returns. We’re immediately back to waking up at 7 am, rushing out the door for school dropoff and work, coming home… to the same old day. Here’s the reality: Nothing actually changed in our lives other than a declaration that it would, and the calendar switching to a new last digit. We didn’t actually set up systems or habits to support our new goals. So, what do we do?
Focus on your mindset and internal cues
Believe or not, the best time to interrupt your mindset is while you’re in your normal routine. And this is crucial: Don’t wait for the perfect time to make a change. (See, I told you falling off that horse was actually good news.) Only 19% of resolution-makers keep their resolutions because the system is designed to fail. When we’re out of our routine and everyone around us is redesigning their lives and making resolutions… that’s actually not the best time to make our own resolutions. We need to base these changes on internal factors and motivations, not because it’s what everyone else is doing.
The first step to making lasting change is to focus on your mindset and your internal reasons for wanting change. You likely know in your heart-of-hearts which one change would make you happier and more fulfilled. And you know that if you make that change, you’ll be a little bit kinder, a little happier, and have a lot more ease. When you focus on why you want to make a change, you’re far more likely to keep the motivation and follow through. But it has to come from the inside.
Determine your biggest pain point and set up a system
Once you’re clear on why you want to make this change, instead of focusing on the 17 biggest “priorities” to make it happen, pick your one or two biggest pain points, and put plans in place to change only those things.
Maybe your cluttered home is increasing your anxiety and contributing to daily fights. (For example: “Mom! Where are my glasses?” and, “Honey! Where did you put that very important piece of mail?”) These little frictions may just be plain dragging you down. Commit to methodically decluttering your home and setting up systems that serve you and your family.
Or perhaps you feel tired — like all-the-time tired. Commit to getting to bed earlier, setting your alarm so you have time for some movement in the morning, and meal prepping so you can fill your plate with more nutrient-dense food for natural energy.
We all have unique pain points that, if fixed, would make a huge impact on our lives. Pick only those to focus on this year. There’s always next year to fix the rest.
Play the long game
Any program or book that promises you a complete life change in 30 days is, well, lying. Yes, it’s possible to see incredible changes in your life by simply shifting your mindset. But real, lasting change takes time. Play the long game. Commit to switching habits out that will eliminate your pain points over the course of the entire year. In January, the thought of taking 12 months to achieve one or two goals might feel incredibly daunting. But come December 31st, looking back and saying “I finally did it!” is super satisfying. Don’t lose sight of the big picture.
Celebrate every little win
So how do we sustain these changes that might possibly take the whole year? Celebrate any and every little win. You went to bed at 10 instead of midnight three nights this week? Way to go! Time to book that massage. Don’t focus on the four nights that didn’t go as planned, and instead celebrate the three that did. Remember, we can’t hate and punish ourselves into the person we want to be. We have to love ourselves into that person.
It’s true that New Year’s Resolutions fail. But you don’t have to. When you approach them with the right mindset, identify what pain points that — when eliminated — would really move the needle for you, commit to the long game, and pat yourself on the back every chance you get, you’ll not only surprise yourself next January 1st, but also you’ll realize that you sure had fun along the way.
Corinne Morahan is a Professional Organizer and the Founder and CEO of Grid + Glam, an organizing and media company designed to give busy women back their beautiful spaces and the breathing room they deserve. You can find more organizing tips on her website, GridandGlam, and her Instagram.
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