5 Ways to Make Lasting Changes in 2017
Read Time: 2-3 Minutes
Now that the champagne toasts are behind us, it's time once again for the dreaded declaration of unrealistic “resolutions" that follows. Whether it’s going to the gym every day, maintaining a Zen-like attitude on the daily commute, or making a home-cooked meal every night, by now we all know how these things go—you start off strong, taper off by month two or three, then feel guilty for not having stuck to it. But New Year’s resolutions are practically designed to fail; when we pinpoint a habit we resolve to amend or declare a goal we must achieve, we rarely look at the underlying reasons we haven’t yet accomplished what we’d like to.
To make real, lasting changes in your life, it’s important to start from the inside out. In this “anti-resolution” post, we’ll explore five easy ways to bring about positive, meaningful changes that last.
- Cultivate gratitude.
It’s hard to enact positive change when we’re focused on what we don’t have or are hung up on what we see as personal inadequacies. Taking the time for some simple exercises in gratitude can help us focus on the good in our lives and the progress we’ve already made. It’s much easier to make changes for the better if you’re starting from a place of positivity and perspective.
If you want to start out simple, try incorporating gratitude into a pre existing daily routine—like your morning cup of tea or nighttime beauty ritual. In those five or ten minutes, think of a few things you’re thankful for. Starting a gratitude journal is another great way to keep perspective and be reminded of how far you’ve already come. By focusing on the good in your life, it will be easier to envision and drive changes in the new year and beyond.
- Start small.
It’s good to set high goals, but making unrealistic, unattainable resolutions is just setting yourself up for failure. Lofty declarations like “I will work out every day of the week” or “I will deal with stress better” sound great—and are certainly worthy of striving for—but they don’t include any actionable, step-by-step route to success. Start with a more realistic goal that addresses the root of what you’re aiming for.
For instance, maybe you want to resolve to wake up an hour earlier every day. Before setting an early-riser resolution, take a look at the habits that have prevented you from already achieving this. Are you staying up late watching TV, social media scrolling in bed, or just generally dawdling before bedtime? Find ways to address the cause first, then go from there; try going to bed just 15 minutes earlier every night until you feel naturally more awake in the mornings. Starting small and focusing on the root of what’s impeding our ideal realities will help bring goals to fruition faster.
- Don’t be mean to yourself.
All too often, resolutions just end up being, well, sad. Declaring you’ll stop eating desserts isn’t just unrealistic, it’s also depressing. Although it’s tempting to make such a resolution right after the holidays, when cocktails and cookies flow freely, depriving yourself completely of little indulgences will likely only result in a cycle of extremes—cutting out all sweets (or whatever your guilty pleasure of choice), then totally overindulging, then trying again to cut it out completely, and so on. Not only is this no fun, it’s also likely to be worse for you in the long run.
Instead, try carving out space for these rare treats; thinking ahead to that amazing piece of pie at the family reunion and truly savoring it will be a lot more enjoyable than depriving yourself at special occasions and then blowing it all on something less memorable. As for chocolate (which we all deserve), try going by the 72% rule: any ethically sourced chocolate that is at least 72% cacao will provide good antioxidants and zero guilt. By establishing healthy ways to indulge, you’ll be able to pace yourself healthily and ultimately better reach your goals.
- Focus on quality, not quantity.
Living in a numbers-obsessed society, it sometimes feels like our lives have become a set of statistics—how much you weigh, how much money you make, how many vacations you took this year, how many times you worked out this week. But this kind of thinking can quickly become unhealthy, and ultimately sacrifices meaningful change for immediate gratification. New Year’s resolutions often end up numbers-focused, whether you’re aiming for five days a week of yoga or are trying shed 20 pounds.
By focusing on quality over quantity, you’ll be able to enact more meaningful, long-lasting change. Instead of reaching for the 25-pound mark, for example, outline broader goals that encompass a healthier lifestyle—in both mind and body. Set forth a multifaceted plan you’ll actually be excited to stick to—trying new workout classes, taking up a meditation class, or compiling new healthy, delicious recipes to try. Keeping a solid vision of where you’d like to be is great, just make sure you’re not getting bogged down by numbers; one or two great experiences is way better than several mediocre ones.
- Set daily goals.
A year is a long time. In twelve months, overarching goals can shift, life can move in unforeseen directions, and circumstances—whether good or bad—may prevent you from doing what you’re focused on right now. Making resolutions for the year ahead might seem like the best way to ensure you stick to your goals, but it often just ends up constricting. Sometimes life takes unexpected turns,whether it’s a career shift, a change in your family or love life, or a relocation, and we can’t always follow through on our original intents. Rather than setting yourself up for guilt or anxiety, empower yourself through flexibility. The ability to adapt—and reroute or re-envision goals rather than becoming discouraged—is more important than any concrete “resolution.”
Instead, set daily goals you can realistically achieve within a day’s timeframe without making yourself crazy. Making frequent, solid progress toward day-by-day goals is more practical and also more motivating. And looking back on a week of these completed endeavors is way more likely to leave you feeling accomplished—and ready for the next challenges ahead—than setting a static, one-time goal and then slowly falling behind. Think in days and weeks, and the months will take care of themselves. By setting daily goals, you’ll be better able to stay on track for both short- and long-term ambitions in what’s sure to be a beautiful 2017.
With all the pressure surrounding New Year’s—to have a picture-perfect party night, a movie-like midnight kiss, and a meaningful resolution that will leave you looking back next New Year’s Eve with pride and accomplishment—it’s no wonder so many of us fall down on overly ambitious resolutions. So we’re taking a different tack, focusing on actionable, attainable goals that we can work toward daily with mindfulness and positivity in the year ahead—because solutions, not resolutions, are what bring about real change.