The month of January is named for the Greek two-headed god, Janus, who looks both to the future and the past. That is what many of us do at this time of year. We reflect on the year past, the ups and downs, the Top 10 Lists, the successes and failures along the way. We also look to the coming year and make our resolutions for a new start in the new year. This time last year, for example, I resolved to save for, plan and go on an around the world trip.
The top 10 resolutions
The most common resolutions or dedications to change have to do with our physical, financial and social well being. The #1 resolution comes after the self-indulgence of the Christmas season and that is to lose weight. That is often paired with a plan for: increasing exercise for fitness and health improvement and/or a promise to quit a bad habit with smoking near the top of that list. It can also include changing our bad habits of overeating, or eating junk food, our excessive drinking, or messy and disorganized spaces. We may include spending less money and saving more of it, enjoying Life’s simple pleasures, spending more quality family time, taking a course or learning new material. These are the most common on the to do list as we strive for a more balanced and active life.
The physical activity pays off on many of these resolutions. It can set the stage for losing weight, reduce colds and flu with a boost to the immune system, and improve sleep. Each of these then reduce stress levels and increase blood flow allowing those antibodies and white blood cells fight off invading troublemakers. I have a friend who, at 91 years old, got another dog. She said that was how she got her 2 daily walks in and did not want to give that up for too much couch time. Use whatever strategy works to get you going!
Sticking to the plan
OK. I know. Some resolutions only last a week or two but, believe it or not, this time of year is the best time for new plans to actually take root. About 46% last at least 6 months and that result is better than most! There is something about the New Year and the new start and the fresh slate timing that gets us motivated and paying attention to our lives. It is a time of reflection and weighing optimism with realism about our quality of life. We ask ourselves questions about our values and our lifestyles and how they actually match up. Then we commit to a plan to make the changes we want to make.
The most successful ones have some common elements. They follow the F.A.S.T. guideline for goal setting. They are Flexible and can be reset or readjusted but not abandoned. They are Attainable in that they are part of a realistic plan. They are Specific like I will lose 2 pounds a month for 10 months, or I will exercise 45 minutes a day for 5 days per week. They are also Timed so that by March, I will…., by June….and by October… There is then a measurable result at each time marker.
Others are the more creative Vision Board makers who use symbols, images and key words to create a picture or feeling of what they want in the year to come.
The most successful people made a written commitment, set small goals, create a doable schedule, minimize temptations, cultivate good habits, and build in ways of self-monitoring. Those are the biggest part of the 46% who make it past the first 6 months. They are playing the long game. They take it seriously and go for it!
When my Mom died in June, I almost gave up on my travel plans. However, I got back on track and am leaving for Victoria, B.C. soon, followed by New Zealand, Australia, India, and Turkey. Around the world in 85 days was the goal and so far so good.
So give the traditional feast gifts to Janus, cake and salt which you may want to take out of your diet anyway, and make the resolutions that will make your life the way you want it to be. Practice Gratitude daily and all the best with your New Year.
Any suggestions for new beginnings and how to make them come true?