Charmed Life

How to Set Realistic New Year’s Resolutions

Local life coaches explain how to set goals that you'll actually stick to in 2020.

Like clockwork, as soon as we begin to settle into the New Year, the dread of setting resolutions creeps up. It seems like the same story every year. First, we concoct a list of must-dos and transformative personal goals. Next, we do our best. We jump headfirst into whatever it is we wish to change about our lifestyle, our relationships, our careers. But before February even hits, we get burnt out and give up. The list that was once looking hopeful suddenly appears insurmountable.

Sure, not buying into the tradition of yearly goal-setting is an option. But, for those who like to use the change of year as a starting point, there is still hope. We talked with Kristen Euell, a life coach at Rejuvenating Lives, and Dr. Natalie Hung at Charm City Psychotherapy on how to tackle this resolution thing once and for all.

THE APPROACH

Get to know yourself. “Your best bet for identifying and achieving something you want is to listen to yourself,” says Dr. Hung. When setting goals, it’s important to be realistic about what you actually want to achieve, what you can mentally and emotionally handle, and what you personally need to be successful.

And then, just do it. “Use what you have now and work your way up,” says Euell. “Don’t allow what you don’t have to stop you from even trying.” Adjust your goals to fit your current daily life. A workout program may not be in your budget right now, but you can still start doing workouts from your own home with free gym apps.

METHODS OF SUCCESS

Setting measurable goals and being consistent is key, according to Euell. For example, she recommends breaking a savings goal into a measurable and attainable system. “Say I want to save $1,000 in six months—that’s the main goal. I know that I will need to save at least $167 a month,” she says. “That number may seem big, so break it up to $84 every two weeks.”

Or, if you’re working toward a lifestyle change, such as incorporating more of a fitness regimen into your day, Hung suggests making your goals meaningful. “In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, it helps people to identify their values, take stock of the extent they are living within those values, and then make goals that close the discrepancies.” So, if you want to get fit but hate working out, perhaps your goal looks like trying one really fun workout a week for one month. At the end of the month, reassess how you feel to refine that goal.

STAYING ACCOUNTABLE

Staying on track and maintaining momentum can be tricky. Sometimes there’s a deeper emotion that creates a barrier. Sometimes we can all become a little too critical of ourselves. Regardless of what’s getting in your way, there are tools to help keep on keeping on.

Hung recommends check-ins with an accountability partner and celebrations for small achievements. “It works best if the person isn’t judgmental, but can instead help you troubleshoot what concrete and emotional barriers might have gotten in the way, and then regroup.”

Hitting a plateau or an emotional barrier is very common. The good news is that it’s temporary. “These emotions subside over time and feelings of mastery come instead,” Hung says. Developing compassion for yourself, rather than engaging in self-judgment, is what will help grow beyond past mistakes and find the next steps. “If you mess up, that’s okay,” says Euell, “but recognize where you went wrong. Try again.” And when you hit your goals, treat yourself.

Remember that progress isn’t always linear. Life gets in the way sometimes, and that’s fine, too. What makes personal goals so great is that it’s all totally up to how you feel, what you want to achieve, and when. You can adjust your timeline, try different methods, or even take a break. The important thing is that you keep trying and never bring yourself down.