Dear Wayne and Wanda,
Every year, I start with the best intentions of keeping my New Year’s resolutions but I just can’t seem to stick to them. I usually make it a goal to be healthier. For me, this means going out less, cooking more healthy food, quitting smoking, saving money and sticking to my workout plan. I don’t know why, but every year, I just end up giving up before January is even over. As I’m writing this, it’s the first week and I’m already struggling.
I guess I know what some of my roadblocks are. My friends and I are mostly single girls in our 20s and we aren’t super active, so I can never find anyone to work out with me. Our main social activities are meeting for drinks or dinner out, so it’s hard to get people to cook. And cooking … I am the world’s worst cook. I can barely scramble an egg. So when I try to cook at home, it ends up a disaster, and I usually just end up ordering a pizza or something. I really want to go to the gym more. If I’m being honest, I don’t go to the gym at all, even though I have an expensive gym membership I pay for every month.
When I try to get my friends to join in my goals, they just make fun of me — in a loving way, but still, they tease me and say it’s the same story every year and I never stick to my resolutions. I feel like I need someone holding me accountable because I make all these big plans and don’t follow through, and there’s no real penalty or punishment — except my own disappointment. How can I stay true to myself and my goals and accomplish something for once?
There’s something about the start of a new year that makes almost all of us take stock of ourselves, our lives and the general condition of the world around us, and ponder what kinds of changes could make things better. This is nothing new: History.com suggests the Babylonians were the first to make resolutions, some 4,000 years ago, when they would make promises to their gods, believing unfulfilled promises would make the gods mad. How’s that for accountability?
Change is hard, and you’re trying to do a lot at once, dooming yourself to fail. In the business world, people talk often about making goals SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. Let’s take your goal of “eating healthy” for instance. What does that even mean? If you don’t know, you can’t do it. So be specific. Perhaps your goal instead is to cook dinner at home at least three nights a week, and to ensure each meal contains lots of fresh vegetables, healthy grains and a lean protein (if any). See the difference? This goal is specific; it seems reasonable, like something you could actually do, and it is definitely within the realm of possibility. Saying “I’m going to cook at home every night and only eat tofu and broccoli?” Probably not realistic! You’re single, in your 20s, and you like going out. That’s OK! So focus on small but meaningful shifts instead.
Your friends don’t sound like a whole lot of help, but there are resources out there to support some of these larger life changes. The Alaska Tobacco Quit Line (1-800-QUIT-NOW) has long proven to be a fantastic resource for folks trying to kick the nicotine habit. Consider taking a cooking class; there are a ton available online these days! Or try subscribing to a healthy meal delivery service like Fresh N Lean, which delivers “from Turnagain Arm to Government Hill,” according to its website. And finally, cancel the expensive gym membership. It’s an unnecessary monthly bill that no doubt amplifies your guilt. Find an activity that’s fun instead, or if you really do intend to give the gym a try, sign up for a cheaper option, like a $10-a-month membership at Planet Fitness.
I wonder how those Babylonian bodybuilders fared in the “No Judgement Zone” at the Euphrates Mall Planet Fitness? They definitely didn’t need tanning booths being that close the tropics, but I bet they had some killer massage chairs.
Wanda’s advice on getting SMART about your resolutions is, well, smart. I’ll add that you should also be smart about giving yourself the best chance to actually succeed. I mean, you’re trying to make four or five seriously major lifestyle changes stick at the same time, all beginning on the same day. Few if any among us mortals could pull that off. On top of that, you beat yourself up, and let your friends beat you up, before you even get some real momentum going. Not exactly positive motivation or a recipe for success.
So how about this: resolve to pick just one resolution. Focus all of your tenacity on that singular goal and knock it out of the park. Don’t listen to negative self-talk or friend talk. Don’t let past failures, slow progress or slip-ups deter you. Don’t take on more than you can handle. And don’t give up. Easy for me to say, I know, but once you achieve that first goal and that big change becomes part of who you are and how you live, you’ll feel like a champ who can accomplish anything. And all of those struggles and successes will give you the strength, confidence and resilience to tackle the next goal, whenever you decide to take it on.
Now go rock that resolution!