New Year, New You?

by Gina Onyiuke

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all— in which case, you fail by default.” -J.K. Rowling

With 2018 looming near, there’s no doubt that you’ve found yourself reflecting on all that has transpired throughout the year 2017. While many relish in the fact that they’ve accomplished every goal they set out to achieve this year, others may find that they’ve fallen short from their target. The truth is that more often than not, resolutions are broken within a month— or even a week— of setting them.

According to research, only 37.8 percent of people in their twenties achieve their resolution(s) each year. That means more than 50 percent of us are actually failing at keeping our promises to ourselves. I don’t know about you, but when I don’t accomplish what I set out to do, a definite feeling of disappointment washes over me, especially when I know that I’m more than capable of succeeding if only I tried a bit harder. The bitter taste of failure can leave a lasting sting that overtime builds into knots of frustration as we fall back into the same old habits we sought to escape.

So, what can we do to break the cycle? How do we become a part of the elite few who actually achieve what they set out to do? I strongly believe that everyone has the power to accomplish what they set out to in life. While there is no time like the present to start working on your dreams, there is something about the excitement of the New Year that brings about a feeling of renewal and strengthens our resolve to tackle our goals head on! This 2018, we have yet another opportunity to take control of the direction our lives are going in, and simply grow into the individuals we know we can be.

While I’m no expert, and I certainly do not claim to have all the answers, I have managed to pick up a few tricks and tidbits from experience that have been instrumental in bringing my dreams into fruition. These tips will help you to not only keep your 2018 resolutions, but any goals moving forward. This New Year, there’ll definitely be an improved you!

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JUST DO IT

Start by actually starting. Often we’ll talk ourselves out of an idea before it’s even had time to be fleshed out and explored (ahem, guilty). We’ll dream, and research, and think, but when it comes time to actually activate the dream with action, we chicken out. There are so many reasons why this happens, with failure and doubt leading the list. That’s why it’s important we remind ourselves that setbacks are an inevitable part of the journey. Rather than focus on our mistakes and use them as an excuse to give up, we should acknowledge how awful they makes us feel, while recognizing them as the opportunities for growth they are. In other words, take note of the mistake, learn from the lesson, then recommit to the path towards the goal.

THINK BEFORE YOU THINK

It’s said that our thoughts have power, and I’m inclined to agree. The “power of positive thinking” is a fairly popular concept, and can often come off as a bit of a cliché.

However, the proof is definitely in the pudding. The physical and mental benefits of positive thinking have been demonstrated enough times for me to not question its validity. If it is true that your thoughts and feelings ultimately become your reality, then becoming mindful of the thoughts and feelings you align yourself with is necessary to manifest your dreams. Read about how you can do that here.

SET S.M.A.R.T. GOALS

People can be vague when it comes to setting their goals and usually, when it comes to resolutions, we lean towards long-term aspirations. Making our goals specific, starting with the small, attainable, and short-term, instead of a singular, overwhelming idea can help keep things realistic. For instance, if I’d like to transition into a new career or make more connections this year, understanding what exactly that would entail by breaking it down into mini goals will prove to be incredibly helpful. By reducing my overall goal into smaller tasks, I’ve increased the likelihood of it being completed and decreased the chances of me giving up as a result of stress. Using a goal system can be integral when deciding how to break things down to simpler steps. I’m a fan of the S.M.A.R.T. method because it makes goals specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. By making your resolutions specific and realistic, among other things, there is a greater chance that you will stick to them throughout the year.

SCHEDULE IT

As the saying goes, people make time for the things that are important to them. Everyone is presented with the same 24 hours per day, 7 days a week. It’s how we make use of the time we’ve been granted that reveals what our priorities are. So, whether your new goal is to work out more or declutter your apartment, making your goals into a priority by actually scheduling them into your calendar is paramount. If you have a fitness goal, create time blocks for your daily workouts. Want to start meal prepping? Schedule time out to formulate a list of what you can eat and buy. Decide when you’ll go grocery shopping, and figure out what day is ideal to cook. Treat these New Year Resolutions like the engagements you usually don’t dismiss such as doctor appointments or job interviews.

SEEK ACCOUNTABILITY

Having a solid support group is said to be a critical component when it comes to keeping your goals because it dramatically increases your odds of success. While sharing your innermost secrets and revealing your dreams can be an undertaking that leaves you vulnerable and raw, this act of courage will prove to be a wise move on your part because one of the most effective things you can do is to get an “accountability partner.” This will be someone who keeps you focused and moving forward by checking in with you regularly and providing feedback on your progress. Consider even joining a group of people with similar goals. Not only will they provide encouragement, but you’ll be able to learn from one another. Why is outside support so important? Simply put, it’s one thing to break a promise to yourself; it’s far harder to let down friends, family, or a mentor.

EXERCISE PATIENCE

If your goal is to rid yourself of a particularly nasty habit, understand that just as an unhealthy habit develops over the course of time, the result that you’re eager to see will take time to reveal itself. Yes, there are people who experience rapid gains, but those observations are not representative of the reality of life— and that’s that lasting changes take time. And there will most certainly be ups and downs involved because progress is seldom linear. So stop beating yourself up and quit comparing your chapter to that of another’s. Remember, every step counts, so focus on placing one foot in front of the other, and trust me your consistency and hard work will eventually pay off.

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GET CLEAR ON YOUR WHY

What's the motivation behind the choices you make? Are you doing it for your family? For yourself? Once you’ve compiled a list of resolutions, take some time out to reflect upon and reevaluate your goals. Whether you’re attempting to lose weight, start a side-hustle, make money, or something else along those lines, ensuring that you’re doing it for the right reason is crucial. If you’re hoping to fit someone else’s standard by remolding yourself into their vision, while you may start out strong, the truth is, there’s a huge possibility that you won’t succeed. If you’re going to make a change in your life, whether big or small, having a clear understanding of the reasoning behind a goal can be incredibly enlightening and empowering. Most importantly, it will determine whether or not you stay on task.

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PRACTICE GRATITUDE

According to an article by the New York Times, studies reveal that contrary to popular belief, it is not willpower that is the biggest determinant of whether or not we’ll persevere and keep our goals. Rather, it is gratitude and compassion that are the most influential factors. They compel us to not only collaborate with other individuals, but to help our own future selves.

Findings show that pride, gratitude and compassion, whether we consciously realize it or not, reduce the human mind’s tendency to discount the value of the future... Feeling pride or compassion has been shown to increase perseverance on difficult tasks by over 30 percent. Likewise, gratitude and compassion have been tied to better academic performance, a greater willingness to exercise and eat healthily, and lower levels of consumerism, impulsivity and tobacco and alcohol use.”

CELEBRATE YOUR WINS & DOCUMENT YOUR LOSSES— TAKE NOTE OF YOUR PROGRESS

Measuring your progress can serve as a source of motivation as you reflect on where you started and how far you’ve come since then. Take some time out to deliberate on your actions thus far, and take note of the changes that have occurred whether good or bad. Doing so can help you recognize when you’re hitting a plateau or going off course. This way, you can adjust your efforts accordingly. As mentioned, mistakes will happen from time to time; what’s important is how you react to them. No one is perfect; the sooner you realize that and accept your weaknesses in addition to your strengths, the better off you’ll be. Being able to practice forgiveness is yet another priceless tool that will help you achieve whatever it is you’re striving for. It’s important to remember that people aren’t born knowing how to be disciplined. It is a learned behavior— one that some excel at more than others. And so, it should be noted that discipline can be learned and ingrained into character through repetition. It’s no wonder why they say consistency is key!  

Now that I’ve shared my tricks, it’s time that you share yours! What are some of your New Year resolutions? What tips do you usually use when looking to achieve your goals? Share them below and together, let’s start the year off strong.

Nikole Rodrigues