January 1st, that gleaming fresh start. It sits there, at the first breath of a new year, and beckons to us. “Shoot for the stars!” it says. “You can do anything!” it says. And year after year, we believe it…until somewhere around the 7th – maybe the 12th if we’re really committed – but inevitably, we find ourselves face down in a quart of Ben & Jerry’s or gossiping about that new hire at the office with the really nice car. How much are they paying that guy anyways?
Instead of running through the same regretful cycle in 2019, let’s adjust our expectations. The stars are great, but what if we brought our goals back down to Earth? Could we actually make it to February? June?
This year, set yourself up for success by creating realistic goals, mini victories that make a major difference over the long haul. Huge resolutions don’t do any good if you can’t stick to them, so start small.
1. Smile More
Many of us use the start of a new year as an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and “be good.” Stop gossiping. Stop cussing. Stop yelling. All of these things get tacked onto our lists and most are forgotten within a few weeks. It’s hard when we focus on what not to do. Try concentrating on what you can do.
Smile more everywhere you go. When you are feeling angry or sad or frustrated, make a conscious effort to smile to help your mind reframe the moment. It actually works. It’s science!
2. Say “Thank You”
Practice gratitude for the big and little things in life. It is as simple as saying “thank you” for your meals, for your home, for your friends and family, for the sunshine, for the rain, for the chance to wake up another morning and do it all again.
A simple “thank you” said to another person or even to the wind brings your attention to the positive and leaves less time for nasty negativity. Want to dive in a little further? Download a gratitude app to help you be more intentional and appreciative each day. Yes, there’s an app for that.
3. Clean It Up
Wish you were organized and cleanly but lean more toward messy and scattered? Try cleaning one thing per day – a countertop, a bathroom sink, a kitchen floor. Tidy up one item every day, saving the smaller items for those hectic days with little time. For example, when you’ve made it to the end of your day with zero opportunity to tackle a task, just grab a Clorox wipe and scrub the countertop while you are brushing your teeth. Done! Even these tiny steps make a world of difference by the time you get to Sunday.
4. Eat a Carrot (or some reasonable equivalent) Every Day
Weight loss goals seem to be the most favored and forgotten of resolutions. We’re all going to lose 20 pounds by March, right? We sign up for that gym membership, cut out all the foods we love, and then crash and burn by the turn of the month. Again, let’s redirect our focus to smaller victories and see where they lead.
Try just eating healthier by adding in more fruits, veggies and whole grains, little by little. When you are putting good stuff in, you will have less room for the “bad” stuff you’ve been drawn to in the past. Not sure where to start? Grab one item a day from this list of “superfoods” and stick with the ones you enjoy.
5. Track your Expenses
We all want to save money and the start of a new year provides us with a push to refocus on this priority. We might create a fancy spreadsheet or flip through some new “budgeting for dummies” guidebook. We set our sights high – pay down all our debt, save six months salary, eliminate credit cards.
These are amazing goals, but they are difficult to achieve if we haven’t nailed down the motivation to actually follow through. Take 2019 as the year to really start tracking your expenses instead. The results will make you want to change your spending habits when you see how many hours you work to pay for those frothy lattes or eight Fantasy Football leagues you line up every fall.
Don’t worry. You don’t have to run through your bills with a highlighter. It’s the 21st century. There’s an app for that, too.
We were going to get in shape, we were going to eat better, we were going to be nicer. We were going to do a lot of things last year, but by February, we realized that not only had we failed to reach the stars, we barely got off the ground. Give yourself a fighting chance this new year with some small but significant resolutions that you can actually stick to and see what it feels like to finally conquer those New Year’s Day dreams.