3 Steps to Rethink Resolutions and Make Them Last

DT Washington Emotional Health Leave a Comment

Welcome, January! I can’t wait to sit down and reflect on my past year — the good, the bad, the ugly — and decide what lifestyle changes or resolutions to make, only to give up on them after a few days (weeks, if I’m lucky). Said no one ever.


As adults, we naturally resist being told what to do. And when we are super rigid with our resolutions, they quickly become an unwanted authority figure wagging a nagging finger. Our rebellious streak reacts and finds a way to sabotage even our best intentioned plans.


This doesn’t mean you should abandon the quest for betterment, be it your health, relationships, career, finances or other noble cause. But it does mean you should go about achieving your goals without the devil and angel sitting on your shoulder.


Here are three tips for setting resolutions you can actually keep:

  1. Pick the right resolution for you, by you.
    Spend a quiet moment with yourself and ask, “What’s the area of my life that, if improved, will bring me greater contentment?” Don’t choose 30 (or even 3) resolutions and don’t pick something because your spouse, boss, friend or celebrity idol thinks you should. This needs to be chosen by you, for you, consciously. And it needs to be realistic.Set a year-long vision for this change. It looks like, “I want to improve my health. By this time next year, I want to be 20 lbs lighter and have more energy.” Then, imagine what it will feel like in your body when you accomplish this goal — just to get the juices flowing.
  2. Select behavior(s) to support the resolution and set a plan to add them in throughout the year — not all at once.
    Don’t plan to do everything in January and don’t pick behaviors that are nebulous like “I’m gonna start working out more.” Instead, create a plan and add behaviors, as needed, in stages throughout the year. Habits take time to form and you may feel overwhelmed, or coerced, if you overload yourself. Start with one, get comfortable with it and then add another. Create calendar reminders now to stay on task later.Your action plan may look something like this:

    • January: Add a 30 minute jog on Friday mornings to my routine. That’s when I can fit it in right now. Once I get that down, I will look for another time in the week that I can add a workout session.
    • March: Have I stuck with my new jog? If yes, I’ll add another day. If not, I’ll continue working on that first jog.
    • April: Meet with a nutritionist to assess my current diet and decide where and how to make small changes.
    • June: Assess my progress and decide if I need to make changes or reinvigorate my commitment.
      August: Add a third workout day.
    • October: Meet with nutritionist to make a plan that allows me to enjoy myself throughout the holidays without ruining my progress.
    • December: Build on my progress with a new plan for 2019.
  3. Stay flexible and don’t lose sight of your overall goal by getting hung up on “shouldas.”
    Don’t let resolutions become chains. Instead, take them somewhat lightly. Yes, stick to them as much as possible, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself. You need to find the balance that works. After all, these changes are supposed to make your life better and not worse, right?

Following resolutions is kind of like following a recipe. Let’s say you don’t have an ingredient the recipe calls for and you can’t run out to get it. What do you do? Abandon the meal and starve through the night? No. You improvise. You get creative. You substitute another ingredient or go without it or make something that’s close enough. Do the same thing with your resolutions. Can’t jog this Friday? Fit it in another day. Or eat a healthier meal. Or drink one or two fewer beers. Or decide that exercise is not producing the results you want, and resolve (and make a plan) to eat better instead. Consciously abandoning a resolution that doesn’t work is not failure — it’s awareness.


Also, be sure to keep in mind the big picture. It’s not just about carbs, it’s about health. It’s not just about going on five dates, it’s about overcoming loneliness. It’s not just about getting a promotion, but feeling more fulfilled at work. Sometimes we beat ourselves up for not executing a task, but if we’re still working toward overall improvement, we’re still on track.


Remember: This is a year-long goal. You don’t have to succeed by January 31. If by June, you realize you’ve abandoned your Friday jog, you can decide whether or not to start it again. Or ask yourself why it didn’t work the first time and address that issue.


Point is, at the end of the day, there’s no hard and fast rules about resolutions. If you’re truly committed to improvement, you will find a way … January or not.


Need that extra boost to get started with your lifestyle changes? Contact us at Team Dabney to schedule a consultation.


To your emotional health,

Dr. Dabney

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