My final New Year’s resolution was made in the year 2009. It was to quit smoking cigarettes. I was a 28 year-old, single woman living alone in her own house and working 2 jobs to pay the bills each month. That was about all I was able to do; just pay that month’s bills. No savings account. My credit card balance wasn’t going down. I was just getting by. So January 1 of 2009, I was going to stop smoking. Cold turkey. I was determined to start saving some money.
Looking back now, I would have never given myself that advice. I was doomed to fail (and I did.) I was surrounded by fellow smokers. My co-workers, family, friends and boyfriend at the time were all smokers. I had no ally or support system in this battle. Most importantly, I had absolutely no plan.
Eventually, three years later my efforts to stop were successful. The difference that time? I woke up on January 1 of 2012, hungover, short of breath and about 15 pounds heavier. I was now married, planning a family, and REALLY ready to make a change in my life. I told no one, but in my head I had a list of things that I would start to do to make changes in my lifestyle. Those things were as follows:
- Only allow myself 2 cigarettes a day
- No more drinking alcohol on the weekdays
- Exercise once a day
- Measure and track my food
- Most importantly: DO NOT call this a resolution.
January 2nd, I put that plan into action. I downloaded a fitness tracker and a running plan app for my phone. I started reading labels for serving sizes and abiding by them. (That was a real wake-up.) When I got off work, I smoked a cigarette, and that made me sick. When I was feeling better, I got on my treadmill and used my running app for directions on how to start running. I was sick again. Before I went to sleep that night, I smoked another cigarette. I was suddenly put off by the way it smelled. I went to bed feeling pretty good about myself. I had stuck to most of my plan and I actually exercised. Progress was being made.
January 3rd, 4th and 5th were more of the same, except I had decided the cigarettes had to go. I let my last pack run out and didn’t buy anymore. I missed them so much I dreamt of smoking, but I stayed strong and kept trying to be active. I lost all desire to drink any alcohol once the cigarettes were gone because I was afraid that I would want to smoke.
Three weeks into my plan, I was building stamina with running and my reps were going up during my workouts. Around week 5, I got brave enough to step on the scale and to my surprise, I was down 7 pounds. By then I had stopped drinking soda, eating more vegetables and being mindful of my portions. I was thrilled and things were getting physically easier for me with each passing week. I had a few days when I would stumble back into eating French fries, or I would be too tired to workout. But I always made sure I did better that next day.
By March of that year, I ran in my first 5k race and I felt fantastic! That year would prove to change the entire trajectory of my life, for the better.
Resolutions may be set up for failure from the start if we don’t even consider their literal definitions.
Definition number one is “a firm decision to do or not to do something”.
Ironically, this is the main reason that I tell people NOT to make resolutions.
Life is not always a firm yes or no. Our lives are busy, chaotic; the unexpected happens. If you are unable to accept that, defeat will surely follow. We have to learn to give ourselves some grace. We will not always be able to make the best choice, or have the willpower to resist something. THAT IS OKAY. Our decisions do not have to change just because we momentarily had a slip.
Definition number 2 is “the quality of being determined or resolute”.
To me this is a baseline requirement for anyone who is wanting to change, grow, or accomplish something in life. A determined, resolute person keeps putting one foot in front of the other in order to create the life they want, or to accomplish their goals. Resolution is not always negative, but we must learn to see this concept differently.
Definition number 3 is my personal favorite. “the action of solving a problem, dispute, or contentious matter”.
When we make a decision to do (or not do) something, we become determined to make that change for ourselves, and then we establish a plan to solve the problem that is causing us pain, or a plan to make a change in life so that we are a better version of our self. Problem solving requires thought, a plan, and action to find a solution. This is how we should approach important changes we want to make in our lives. There is no need to see them in a negative light or beat ourselves up.
Worried that you don’t have what it takes?
Commit to a plan for one day. JUST ONE DAY.
Write down or mentally note small steps that you will take for that one day. Follow them, but don’t obsess. And if you make a mistake, forgive yourself. Just keep following the steps. At the end of this one day, reflect on how awesome you are!
Whether you went a whole day without a soda, or if you eliminated all negative talk from your conversations-reflection is an important part of the process. While we think of how awesome we did, our brains produce a chemical called dopamine, which is important for creating positive feelings and creating intrinsic motivation. (Motivation from within.)
Alter your plan if necessary to be even more successful the next day. If you had trouble, use fewer steps in the plan. Example: if you planned to eat no sugar, drink only water, exercise for 20 minutes, and journal for 10 minutes but you only managed to drink water and take a walk, you have too many changes scheduled for one day. Make your goals for the next day to drink only water and to walk for 15 minutes. If you are still unsuccessful, pick walking or drinking water for day three.
Don’t be UP-SET with yourself. SET yourself UP for success!
The answer to the title question, How to Make a New Year’s Resolution?
If you need a support system, please reach out to me by email.
Click here for more information about dopamine and motivation