What are some little things that go a long way?
How can I make small changes in the new year?
Health. Exercise. Nutrition. Money.
Why do our New Year’s resolutions usually crash and burn by January 2? We think too big.
That was my thinking for years as an overweight teen. College didn’t make me any smarter in that regard: That’s where I met my husband, who thought the same way. We both continued that thinking through our 20s and mid-30s — New Year’s after New Year’s: We’re going to eat less and drink less to get healthier. Yeah, right.
Then we moved from Pennsylvania to California for job promotions. We happened upon a primary care doctor who took our eating and drinking habits to task. Instead of generic advice to lose weight, she got into the nitty-gritty: If we stayed on this path, we’d end up maxing out our health insurance for diabetes, getting life insurance for alcoholics, and missing out on years of life.
She scared us enough that when she demanded we both get straight to a Weight Watchers meeting, we obeyed. That’s when we learned to think small; i.e., that little things go a long way. We refined our New Year’s resolution into a small habit. And eureka! We were wildly successful.
Now I’m happy to share that success with you and share tips to help you focus on little things that go along way, instead of New Year’s Resolutions.
The Most Common New Year’s Resolutions
What are the most popular New Year’s resolutions? Oh, how I know many of these all too well. You probably do, too. As expected, health-related resolutions appear the most made New Year’s resolutions.
Listing them is going to prove a few points.
- Lose weight
- Improve your finances
- Get a new job
- Eat healthier
- Manage stress better
- Stop smoking
- Drink less
- Spend more time with family and friends
- Get organized
And how do the millions of us who make these resolutions fare? According to the U.S. News & World Report, of the over 40 percent of Americans who make New Year’s resolutions, only 8 percent feel that by the end of the year they were successful in achieving their goals.
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In fact, on average, 80 percent of resolutions fail by the second week of February. That’s why jockeying for a treadmill at the gym in early January magically transforms into free reign by February, and why breezing through a fast-food drive-through during the first month of the year stalls to a crawl by the second month.
Some even say Quitter’s Day. is as early as the second week of January!
The “resolutionists” have returned to their cozy ruts.
The Most Common Resolution Mistakes
So why do such good intentions have such poor results? We track a few of the main reasons.
Mistake #1. Resolving Incorrectly
Resolution: a firm decision to do or not to do something.
Wish: feel or express a strong desire or hope for something that is not easily attainable; want something that cannot or probably will not happen
Many times you think you’re making a resolution when what you’re actually doing is making a wish. You have the wrong holiday: You’re basically blowing out the candles atop your birthday cake.
New Year’s Eve is such a hyped holiday, with parties, festivals, parades, and more, promoting the possibility of a better year, a clean slate, a magical transformation … just because the calendar year has changed.
It’s easy, and admittedly, fun to get caught up in the moment of thinking something you desire and hope for can actually happen. Yes, desire or hope can inspire a call to action, but change isn’t going to happen instantly or by sheer willpower.
Mistake #2: Resolving Too Broadly
Look at that list of resolutions again. Notice they’re big, broad, generic topics. They offer nowhere to start. And that makes them overwhelming.
By not being specific about your goal, there’s no measurable way to follow your progress to achieving that particular resolution. Being overwhelmed causes discomfort, and makes it hard to make decisions. So you procrastinate. Or you just resolve to try again next year.
Mistake #3: Resolving Too Much
Another way we set ourselves up for failure is that we take the “new year, new you” philosophy to heart: We think a new year means a chance to fix everything and be perfect. And who has only one flaw?
So we make multiple resolutions. Talk about overwhelming: Two, three, four broad, undefined improvements to tackle at once? Behavioral changes aren’t easy, so it’s best to keep things simple.
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Mistake #4: Resolving Too Quickly
Most of us don’t put much thought into the New Year’s resolutions we make; in fact, since we usually break them so fast, we just keep picking the same ones. It’s like we go on auto-pilot every December 31, tossing out a pie-in-the-sky goal and somehow expecting it to take root this time.
If you don’t think about why you’re making the same resolution, or devote any brain power to creating a more up-to-date resolution, you’re not liable to invest much into seeing it through. This plays right into the all-or-nothing philosophy.
In our instant-gratification culture, if we don’t ace our broad, undefined resolution right away, we don’t rethink it, we just scrap the whole idea.
How to Bring New Thinking to the New Year
So we’ve learned to take the first steps to keep New Year’s resolutions: take the time to think about what you really want, make just one resolution, and make it specific.
Now for the follow-through.
While your resolution could include improving those muscles, or keeping chocolate chip cookies out of your general area, the first muscle and the area you should start with is your brain.
If you don’t put yourself in the right frame of mind and with the right attitude, you’re doomed to fail.
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Find Your Motivation
So when you come up with a resolution, you want to become like an actor and ask yourself that infamous quote, “What’s my motivation?”
For me, once I understand the reasoning behind a decision, I’m much more apt to jump on the bandwagon and make it happen.
For example, when I thought about my motivation for my resolution to lose weight, it was not wanting to be saddled with the commitment, expense, and side effects of taking medication for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and possibly even diabetes. It was also being tired of feeling sluggish and moody, and of wearing what a well-intentioned friend dubbed my “grandmother wardrobe.”
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So I had my motivation, and then some. I also narrowed down my resolution at my first Weight Watchers meeting, when I saw the number the leader wrote on my materials for my ideal weight to be healthy. I had a number. I had something concrete to aim for.
And I had my call to action after that first meeting: I would attend weekly meetings and adopt the lessons, tips, and support they provided to meet my goal.
Luckily, there are many methods to “trick” your brain, many of which I learned as I began my Weight Watchers journey. For those of you whose resolution isn’t to lose weight, take heart: I’ve found these methods work outside of health and nutrition concerns, too.
Mainly I learned to think small and to think for the long haul.
What does ‘the little things in life’ mean?
“I think in terms of the day’s resolutions, not the year’s” — Henry Moore
This is a great quote among many inspiring New Year’s resolutions quotes.
It speaks to the practice of taking small steps to reach your overall goal, so you’re not overwhelmed into that brain-fog state of inaction.
For example, I needed to lose 45 pounds to get to my ideal weight. My mind had a hard time wrapping itself around that number.
But Weight Watchers chopped that into bite-size pieces, if you will. The first milestone to aim for was losing 10 percent of your body weight. After that, a recommended one-to-two pounds per week. Much more manageable.
You also only had to wrap your head around making small day-to-day modifications to your eating habits and your activity level. It’s those small changes that can make a big difference.
Start With Small Changes
You didn’t have to completely abandon all of your favorite foods. You could still enjoy them; in fact, even more so, when you focused on their quality and not their quantity. And you weren’t expected to go out and run a 5k or do five mornings a week at the gym hardcore if you were basically sedentary.
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You were simply advised to gradually incorporate healthier eating and some form of exercise into your daily routine.
This really worked for me. I started buying better coffee and leaving out the high-calorie creamers. I traded frou-frou sugary cocktails for one serving of liquor on the rocks. I still had the snacks and pasta and pizza I wanted, but I measured the servings. And I started walking to work.
I lost weight with these small changes, and when I hit that 10 percent goal, I could already feel lighter, physically, and mentally.
What does it mean when something goes a long way?
What I loved about Weight Watchers is they didn’t slap a timeframe on reaching your ideal weight. In fact, they advised against taking off too much weight too soon. Slow and steady wins the race, was their motto.
So give yourself time to succeed at your resolution. What you’re working on improving it based on habits that you didn’t develop overnight, so you’re not going to develop new and better habits immediately.
You also have to give yourself patience and perspective to succeed at your resolution.
Realize you’re going to have setbacks, but don’t let that take your eyes off the prize.
Stick With Your New Habits
With my weight loss, I was steaming along fine and then fell into a “plateau.” My weight stayed the same for weeks. I couldn’t figure out why. Then I realized that I had slowly started veering away from the habits I had adopted. It’s a very common occurrence with Weight Watchers, but it was a blessing in disguise: It confirmed for me that I wasn’t just doing a new diet, I was creating a new lifestyle.
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Track Your Progress
What helped keep those setbacks from crashing my resolution was putting them into perspective. I was able to do that by keeping track of my progress. Yes, I had weeks when I didn’t do well, but when I looked at the chart of how far I had come since I started, that inspired me to continue.
I was old-school and used a notebook to keep track of my eating, my activity, and my progress. But whatever works for you, whether it’s a spreadsheet you create on your computer, or an app on your phone, start and keep at it. It will be well worth your while.
Find Support and Accountability
Another factor that goes a long way is having support.
Shifting your focus from the outcome to the process is easier if you’re sharing that process with someone else. The support from the Weight Watchers meeting was great, but at that time, it was only once a week.
So buddying up with a supportive partner made a world of difference, especially since it was my life partner. When you tell those close to you about your resolution, you’ll have people rooting for you and watching out for you. You may even inspire them to improve too.
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Enable Your Good Habits
My husband and I became each other’s champions. Instead of enabling each other’s old habits of parking ourselves in front of the TV for hours with bags of snacks or having one too many rounds and staying up too late listening to music in bars, we would push each other to find new recipes featuring healthier foods and to go hiking on the weekends.
And if you can motivate yourself initially, and then find support to keep you going, making that commitment to your resolution can go a long way. When others start to notice that you’re improving, their positive comments will boost your motivation into the beyond.
All of that helped me lose 45 pounds and my husband 65 pounds. We now had the energy to go on camping vacations and to volunteer at a local homeless shelter. That well-intentioned friend took me shopping for a new wardrobe. And I enhanced some work friendships when I was invited to a gals’ weekly walk around the Rose Bowl.
Best of all, when my husband and I went to our next annual checkup, we shocked our doctor. “I can’t believe it,” she exclaimed. “Someone finally listened to me!” We made her day by not making her write prescriptions for us.
Get Your Printable Habit Trackers
Ready to swap your New Year’s Resolution for a small habit this year? Sign up below to get your printable habit tracker templates, with spreads for 30 and 31 days. Pick a habit to break and replace, and make it stick with these trackers.
So it can be done. I wish — no, make that resolve – for you to find the little things that go a long way so you can finally feel good about making good on your New Year’s resolution … and move on to a new specific and meaningful one to conquer the next time!
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What little things that go along way can you start?
More About Guest Contributor
Karen Condor is an insurance expert who writes and researches for the life insurance site, QuickQuote.com.
Last Updated on January 9, 2021