A notepad is shown with a list of New Year's Resolutions.
Believe in yourself. You can achieve your goals. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

“This year is going to be different.”

This statement comes to mind for many of us as we approach the start of a new year.

The hope behind the sentiment holds even more importance as 2020 came loaded with the heaviness of the pandemic and the loss of so much we took for granted and considered normal.

As we move into 2021, many will continue the tradition of creating New Year’s resolutions.

Common resolutions revolve around exercise, weight loss or changing bad habits. Others may think about what types of behaviors they want to resume once it is safer to move and socialize freely. Perhaps they’re resolving to spend more time with family and friends or traveling.

We may consider lessons learned during 2020 and find new value placed on spending time at home.

Regardless of the goal, it is important to keep a few things in mind if you want it to be successful.

1. Do a little research on SMART Goals.

SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. These are detailed below and key to a successful New Year’s resolution.

2. Be specific.

If you want to be healthy in 2021, identify what that means. Is it eating healthier foods? Break that down further into actionable goals. For example, you may resolve to eat a specific number of plant-based meals per week, or a certain number of servings of fruits and veggies per day.

3. Track it.

Choose a goal that allows you to track your progress in some way. For example, you could use an app to log what you eat or write down on your calendar the number of minutes you exercise each day. Start small and slowly build your way up.

4. Be realistic.

If you are trying to start a new behavior, be reasonable about what you can accomplish. For example, if you don’t exercise now, aiming to exercise most days of the week would be a big jump. It is better to start small by exercising one day a week, and then increasing this once you have been consistent. Starting small also allows you to build your confidence along the way, rather than feeling like a failure if you could not do it.

5. Identify something meaningful.

Focus on what you like to do and build from there. Again with exercise, if you hate running, telling yourself that you will run every day is not likely to be successful. If your goal is exercise, find a method that you enjoy, as this will ultimately be more sustainable and motivating.

6. Create a deadline.

When do you want this goal to be achieved? When will you know that you have met it? Be specific about what this looks like.

7. Be flexible but focused.

Keep your thoughts in check as you work on your resolution. It is easy to feel frustrated and want to give up if you are not immediately successful. Rather than tell yourself, “I’ll start over next week or next month,” remind yourself that doing something is better than nothing. Work in five minutes of exercise if you cannot fit in 20, or recommit to starting again tomorrow if you could not make it happen today.

8. Be patient with yourself.

It takes time to create a new habit or drop an old one. It is better to remain supportive and give yourself a little grace if you make a mistake or do not follow through.

9. Celebrate success and seek support.

Consider rewarding yourself when you have met your goal. Also consider if you would benefit from having someone hold you accountable. There are many groups out there to help support people in changing their habits, or you may consider sharing your goal and progress with one close friend who can help encourage you.