3, 2, 1, Happy New Year! The ball has dropped, champagne is pouring, and I just finished leading all my little cousins in doing the Cha Cha slide. Yes, every New Year's all my older relatives watch and clap while I take center stage showing off how low I can go. Still, with the final “Everybody Clap Your Hands” ringing in my ears, I reflect on the previous year and recognize parts of my life that could use a bit more reinforcement. It’s cliché to say this year's going to be my year, but 2023 feels different: this is the one where I finally make a change. It’s going to take effort, resilience, but hopefully these tips should make it easier for me and for all you ambitious people reading.
1. Specific Attainable Goals
Lose Weight, Be a Better Person, Start a Business, Be more Social, Focus on Yourself... These are all common ideas and resolutions. Everyone has the idea of bettering themselves, but it all begins with laying the foundation for what you want to become. First, remember that specificity makes a resolution concrete. Instead of "lose weight," attempt to lose 15 pounds in 6 months. With the goal now being losing 15 pounds, it has become specific, measurable, and, most importantly, realistic. As I go through the motions of trying to lose weight, I can see how many pounds I lose the first month, the second month, and so on. Of course, there are analytics I can use to track my progress, and based on how everything is going, I can make tweaks to either fix any obstacles or celebrate that everything is moving in the right direction. Finally, make sure this goal is something that is meaningful to you - without the internal drive to make a change, there's an uphill battle to fight. Do something that matters and make it something you can look forward to.
2. Create a Timeline of Small Goals That Can Be Achieved Towards Your Goals
It’s always been the joy of the journey, never the destination. Still, with lofty ambitions, it’s always nice to have checkpoints that let us know we are getting closer and closer to achieving our goal. That sense of satisfaction that you are improving creates a positive feedback loop in your mind that reenergizes your motivation and helps you push past any difficulty. Let’s go back to my weight loss goal: 15 pounds in 6 months is a long time, so a smaller goal could be to lose 2-3 pounds every month. How can I lose 2-3 pounds every month? Maybe I commit myself to tracking the calories I consume per day, or I push myself to get into the gym 3-4 times a week. As I accomplish these smaller milestones, ideally, they will be pushing me in the right direction. Then as each month goes by, seeing that I reached my incremental goal of losing 2-3 pounds keeps me inspired to work harder and achieve my overall goal.
3. Bring a Friend into It
You’re a product of the six closest people in your life, and bringing one of them into the fold will give you that added push to strive for greatness. That person will motivate you and keep you accountable, helping you push out that extra rep or even convincing you that you should get to the gym instead of lounging around. It is important to remember that it is not a competition between the two of you, and that you should be focused on whether you are inching closer to your goals. However, comparison between you and your partner is not always a bad thing. In my psychology class, we learned about how comparisons always occur and that finding someone slightly more advanced will give you an ideal version to strive for. I have a friend who is a body building enthusiast. He understands how to count macros, which exercises increase hypertrophy, and manages to do cardio twice a week. It will give me additional guidance on succeeding towards my goal, and I can always stop and think "let me become like Myles." Your friends are there to support and uplift you: take advantage of that this New Year.
4. Allow for Emergencies
Resolutions are a lifelong ambition, so there will be times when life happens, and our routine gets swept away. People believe that once there is a single slip up, everything goes down the drain. It discourages people and leads them away from their progress. Giving yourself the ability to have a "get-out-of-jail-free card" will alleviate the stress of always maintaining form. It makes the task less daunting knowing that it is not the end all be all. Rather, the idea is to continue to maintain consistency and to bounce back into your goals after a mishap. But if you keep pushing off your resolution, giving into older habits becomes a lot easier - that’s the danger zone. A key target would be the 2-day rule, emphasizing to never go more than 2 days without fulfilling your goals. It will help build pathways within your brain, reinforcing the positive habit in your life.
Anand Colaco is a 3rd Year student at the University of Virginia.