Stop beating yourself up and find out how to set resolutions that guarantee success.
We all have goals. There are small, everyday ones (like, "I'm going to run one more mile today"), and then there are bigger, yearlong goals that we lump under the intimidating label "resolution." When you outlined your 2016 resolutions, you may have thought that by now, 12 months later, you'd have dropped a size as a result of the weight you were supposed to lose or that you'd have finally nipped your chocolate cravings for good. Here we are on the brink of 2017, and maybe you're nowhere near where you thought you would be. Maybe it's taking longer than expected, or maybe you've realized it just isn't going to happen at all.
That's okay. "Sometimes resolutions just don't work out," says Gina Van Luven, a wellness speaker, author, and coach. Often when that happens, you beat yourself up. And that process, if you think about it, doesn't get you anywhere closer to reaching your goals. It just makes you feel bad. "Bashing yourself is completely self-defeating," Van Luven says.
A better solution: Find a way to move on. Erin Clifford, a holistic wellness coach, says it's like getting in a fight with your partner. You know it's not healthy to keep rehashing the same argument over and over, and that same attitude should apply when you come up short on your goals. "It doesn't help anybody to beat themselves up about what didn't happen before," she says.
You may be tempted to avoid the disappointment altogether by skipping resolutions this year. But there's value in the act of creating goals and working toward them, even if you don't meet them. "One of my favorite quotes is, 'It's about progress not perfection,'" Clifford says. (Related: 25 Experts Share Their Tips to Achieve Any Goal)
Let's say you kicked off the year with a goal to lose 10 pounds, and you only lost a couple. "Celebrate the 2 pounds that you lost!" Van Luven says. Your weight-loss goal probably helped you create some healthier habits. Maybe you now hit the gym on a regular basis or crave salad over cheeseburgers. Those are things to be proud of, no matter what the scale says. "There are good choices that are made in the process that make it a rewarding experience, so focus on those things," Van Luven says.
After reflecting on the things you've gotten right, think about why the goals didn't work out for you. "If you're constantly not meeting your goals, you need to ask why," Van Luven says. Was the goal too lofty or impossible to measure? Was it completely unrealistic? Were you subconsciously making it hard for yourself? "That's where the magic is: digging in and figuring out why you're making poor choices instead of healthy ones," Van Luven says.
Take those lessons and use 'em to shape your resolutions for 2017. Start by being as specific as possible. If you want to lose weight, dive into how much you want to lose and how you'll do it. "This is where a lot of people's resolutions and goals have failed in the past, if they don't have an actual plan," Clifford says. Will you join a gym or hire a trainer? Or skip your usual drive-through breakfast and make oatmeal instead? Set a realistic plan, and make sure it'll work well with your lifestyle. For example, if you're not a morning person, don't commit to working out before heading the office, Clifford says.
Ask yourself why that resolution is important to you. It could take some reflecting (Clifford recommends journaling to come up with your "why"), but identifying the reason behind the goal may help you stay motivated when times get tough. You can also stay on track by visualizing what your life will be like once you've reached the goal. Jot down some thoughts in that same journal or place motivational quotes or photos around your house or on your car visor where you can see them every day, Clifford says. Finally, recruit family members or friends who will check in with you and hold you accountable. "They're like your cheerleaders," Clifford says.
Don't think for another second about what didn't happen in 2016. It's a new year, and you're starting from scratch. "You're committed now," Clifford says. "You're starting now." And every day that you inch closer to whatever you've set out to accomplish is a win in and of itself.