3 Helpful Tips for a New You this Year

By Cathleen McKnight, DNP, APRN

My sister and I are shameless followers of the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast. Alongside her sister, Elizabeth Craft, Gretchen discusses practical ideas and hacks to apply in your personal journey toward happiness. Mirroring the practice of the ‘Happier’ duo, my sister and I settled on our personalized resolutions for the new year. Here were a few of mine:

  • Become a bone marrow donor
  • Complete a leadership certificate program
  • Read at least 6 leisure books
  • Position and hold Salamba Shirshasana without aid (also known as the yoga headstand)
  • Complete an annual health check-up and applicable health screenings
  • Create a healthier lifestyle for my family

Fast forward to the end of the year…how well did we do at keeping our resolutions? We failed miserably, accomplishing less than one-third of our lists. Come to find out, falling short of a New Year’s resolution is all too common. In fact, 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February of the same year according to U.S. News and World Report. So what can we do to improve ourselves in the New Year? Well, growth is all about learning from mistakes – that’s why I’ve put together a few helpful tips for a successful new you (and me!) this year, based on where my sister and I went wrong last year:

Set New Year’s goals instead of a resolution

Mistake #1: We made a ‘To-Do’ list instead of a ‘How-To-Do’ list.

What is your New Year’s resolution? Don’t have a resolution yet? Maybe you shouldn’t. Perhaps you should pump the brakes on setting a resolution and instead create one or more goals. While often used synonymously, a resolution and a goal carry different baggage. A resolution is a firm decision or statement of what you want to change. In contrast, a goal is aimed at a desired result. A goal requires planning and preparing. Someone who states a resolution to lose weight is far less likely to do so without having a measurable goal. Goals with a measurement and due-date are far more likely to take on traction. When motivation, or “the why,” is integrated into the goal, the bond is further strengthened. For example: “I want to lose 20 pounds by June 1,, to be a healthier example and have more energy for my kids. ”I’ve included milestones, or small, predetermined achievements, in my goal planning for the year ahead. Studies show that immediate, interval rewards are a stronger predictor of success versus relying on desire alone to meet the long-term goal.

Seek accountability

Mistake #2: We lacked scheduled accountability in 2019.

According to The Association for Talent Development (ASTD), there is a 65% chance of completing a goal if you commit the goal to someone else, and a 95% chance of success if you set specific check-ins with that person. There are several ways to implement accountability:

  • Make a schedule and put it on a calendar.
  • Engage with a formal expert with scheduled appointments (for example, meet with a registered dietitian for goals targeting health).
  • Partner with a friend for accountability, with outlined times to check in.
  • Commit to your goal publicly – tell your family and friends what you are planning to achieve.
  • Create a competition.

This year, I put my milestones and goals on my Outlook work calendar and have my sister on the hook for scheduled check-ins to review our progress.

Enjoy the journey

Mistake #3: We did not exercise patience and perspective.

As I reflect on where last year went wrong, maybe it didn’t go as bad as I originally thought. Without setting goals, would I have achieved any of these items? Instead of frustration, perhaps I am missing patience and perspective. Instead of checking off a milestone and getting frustrated when a goal is unable to be achieved, the focus should be geared to the journey and what you have learned along the way. Exercise patience. What is the point if you get all riled up in a quest to cross a goal off? If the road to success becomes a little rocky, modify milestones to maintain your sanity while still moving in a positive direction toward the end goal. Maintaining a healthy, balanced perspective can imply vastly different meanings based on the individual. Within my personal journey, maintaining perspective means not taking myself too seriously and engaging with friends and family who push my current view while laughing with me when I falter. In the quest for a healthier balance, it’s necessary to pause, lean back and objectively review and appreciate all aspects of a situation when things go wrong. Perspective strengthens your agility and ability to respond to unanticipated barriers to goals and happiness in the future (and yes, barriers will pop up again and again!). One strategy to exercise perspective in times of conflict is to imagine you are a fly on the wall and look at the bigger picture. Many times, emotion escalates a problem internally when it really isn’t that bad. On your journey this year, opt for a half-full glass with an optimistic perspective – that in itself might end up being one of your greatest accomplishments!

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