It’s the time of the year to dream about new healthy habits and commit to leaving behind negative patterns that don’t align with your true self. Many people promise to eat a healthier diet, start working out, read more, or watch less television, but only a few succeed in the long run. Use these tips to make sure your self-improvement goals become part of a regular lifestyle rather than great ideas that melt in the spring.
Set Clear Goals
When you set a goal, it should move you toward something you want, rather than away from something you don’t want. Energy flows where attention goes so put your attention on what you want instead of what you don’t. Be very specific. For example say, “I want to sit in full splits” instead of “I want to be more flexible.”
Make sure these clear goals are reasonable too. If you’re new to exercise, opt for a fun run of 1 or 2 miles rather than an Ironman. You can always work your way up to the big goals after you’ve had some initial success.
Don’t Change Everything at Once
Even if you recognize that both diet and lifestyle need radical change, prioritize your self-improvement goals. It’s like learning to juggle—you don’t start with six balls, you start with three and then add one at a time. Juggling three balls successfully feels way better than dropping six. And if it feels good, you’ll be motivated to keep going.
Maintain Your Momentum
If you set clear, realistic goals, you might feel like they are easy to achieve. That’s good! There’s no reason to make things more difficult for yourself and risk losing all the progress you’ve made. If things are going well on your diet, don’t reduce your calorie intake even more. If running once a day feels easy, don’t double your effort.
Instead, stick with what’s working and add in some rewards. When you get to the first month, treat yourself. If the reward is aligned with your intention, that’s even better. For example, if your goal is to spend time walking outside every day, buy yourself some new hiking shoes after a successful month.
Surround Yourself With Supportive People
When you make the decision to change a habit or create a different lifestyle, be prepared for potentially negative feedback from some of your friends. Some people may think that your choice to change is a poor reflection on their choice to remain the same.
The best thing you can do is spend time with people who inspire you to make positive choices. When you surround yourself with peers who celebrate your success, it will encourage your continued progress. You could also make new friends. If your goal is to start running, join a beginner’s running group. If your goal is to eat better, you could start a recipe-sharing club.
Remember That You Are Deserving
Even if you’re surrounded by great people, with a clear goal and built in rewards, the human tendency can be to let your personal wants and needs fall to the bottom of the list. After cooking, cleaning, and packing lunches for the entire family, your plans to go to the gym become easier to ignore. But just like flight attendants say, put on your oxygen mask before helping your children. You have to make sure your needs are met before you can take care of others. Seeing their parents model this same behavior, children begin to learn the value of voicing their opinions and taking care of their needs.
Be Gentle With Yourself
If you fall back into old patterns, instead of berating yourself, be grateful that you noticed. Wanting to change is the first step, so have gratitude that you recognize there is change to be made. If you fall off the horse, get back on and try again.