My 12 New Year's Resolutions
I've always loved reading the number of the upcoming year. In 2012, I loved reading "2013"; in 2011, I loved reading "2012"; and so on. 2014. What a beautiful number. It just feels so fresh! It's full of change, of progress, of improvements, of "I promise, I'll finally do [insert dream here]". It represents a brighter future!
Or does it?
According to time management firm FranklyCovey, 80% of people who make New Year’s resolutions will eventually break them. A third won’t even make it to the end of January. Richard Stallman, professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, estimates that in time, 88% of resolutions fail.
I, my friends, have a plan to escape resolutions failure. You see, there are three reasons why New Year's resolutions fail:
1. They are too vague
This one is a big deal. Saying "I will exercise more in 2014" or "I'll quit smoking" to your aunt at 11:54pm on December 31st simply won't cut it. You must be precise and prepare yourself.
Set goals, such as "I will run a 5K at [insert local event here], which is 6 months away, and will run it in less than 32 minutes". Now that is going to get you off the couch and motivate you. You may ask friends and family to hold you accountable, which will motivate you even more.
2. They are not exciting
It's all fun and games until real challenges come along and block your way to success. On the surface, New Year's resolutions may seem easy to achieve, even fun, while in reality, it's just a matter of hard work. No wonder why most of them fail.
That's why you have to turn the resolutions into something that's actually fun, like a challenge. Get your friends onboard: for example, the person who loses the most weight over a particular time span wins a prize, courtesy of the others. Or another example: the person who (really) reads the most books during the year to come (with supporting evidence) wins a library membership.
3. They don't directly improve our lives
Offering time to volunteer is a popular New Year's resolution. I'm also pretty sure it's one of those that gets left behind the most, because it doesn't really change something, concretely, in your very own personal life. However, volunteering just... feels good.
“When we do good deeds,” [bioethicist Stephen G.] Post says, “we’re rewarded by a dopamine pulse. Giving a donation or volunteering in a food bank tweaks the same source of pleasure that lights up when we eat or have sex. It’s clear that helping others, even at low thresholds of several hours of volunteerism a week, creates mood elevation.”
That's just one example. There are many many more, such as learning something new (who knows when you'll need to play the guitar at the bonfire?), getting organized (less clutter, less stress, more time), reading more... Just pick one!
Actually... how about picking many resolutions? How about 12? Yeah, twelve. That seems about right. Oh and look at that, there are twelve months in a year. How convenient!
By focusing on one resolution every month, it turns them into habits that will stick with you for the rest of your life. That, my friends, is how you'll actually stick to your resolutions: by turning them into habits.
My personal list
The following is a list of habits I decided to implement in my life. You may inspire yourself from this list or just downright steal it. It's up to you.
Exercising. I already bike to college every day of the week (strong glutes, yo!), so I'll focus on core and upper body exercises. With the doorway pull-up bar I received for my birthday, I'll follow a weekly schedule inspired from Nerd Fitness (brilliant health blog!) and make sure I don't strain the same muscles day after day.
“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”
— Stephen King
Reading. I used to read a lot in elementary school. 12-books series, collections and sure enough, lots and lots of comics. In high school, the number of books I read can be counted on only two hands. And they were all forced reads. February of 2014 will change that. I have already chosen a collection of books that seems interesting and I will make sure I have a list of individually curated books for which I'll set time apart to read. A comfy chair, silence... and a book.
Writing. I will write 500 words every day and publish them right here, on this blog, as part of my "Daily 500" challenge. 750 words is a tad too much for me, especially if I want to stick to the habit. I don't know what I will write about, nor the kind of content I'll create. Stay tuned for March 2014!
Learning Spanish. I've been learning Spanish since 2010 and continue growing my knowledge of the language with Duolingo, an awesome (and free!) online service on which you can learn French, Spanish, Italian, and German, to name a few. I want to reach and master the "Verbs: Past" skill, which is 10 skills away from where I am now. Join me on Duolingo!
Meditating. In the past year, I kept stumbling upon the many benefits of meditation everywhere and anywhere on the web. May is the perfect month for creating this calming habit since college finals are in the last weeks of this month. I'll need to calm my mind and keep stress levels low, I'm pretty sure. Planning is key. Bring it on, finals.
Journaling. Just like meditation, journaling has many well-known benefits. From efficient problem-solving to knowing yourself better to seeing the world differently to clarifying your thoughts, daily journaling is a very healthy habit to adopt.
I use a small (and very thin) cardboard Moleskine my mom had but never used. In June, I'll journal my goals, my daily thoughts, my aspirations, and in December, I will add another component.
Cold showers. Waking up and feeling groggy doesn't make for a terrific summer. Let's fix that with a cold morning shower, complete with drying under the sun. I'll feel refreshed and ready to begin my day.
Decluttering. Every day of August, I'll purge one item I own (or more). I'll have a cleaner room, a cleaner mind and less to worry about.
Drinking three liters of water a day. I already drink two liters of water everyday (although sometimes I only feel like one and a half). My habit goal for September will be to drink from two to three liters of water, every single day. Water brightens the skin, purifies the body and cleanses the kidneys, all while rehydrating you and keeping you alive. Thanks water.
Flossing. Ah, flossing. The only activity we all seem to forget, even after our dentist tells us to floss daily. Time to print a calendar, stick it on the bathroom cabinet door and check the days you flossed (this technique is also known as Jerry Seinfeld's "Don't Break The Chain").
Mindfulness. Awareness and attention are two prized resources that are constantly being drained by the distractions that surround us. For the eleventh month of 2014, I'll force myself to be mindful in everything I do. I'll wash my bowl. I'll chew slowly on food and appreciate it. I'll listen to my thoughts. I'll walk more slowly and enjoy what's around me.
Gratitude. Continuing June's journaling habit, I'll add gratitude in my journal. Every evening, after dinner most probably, I'll write the three things I'm most grateful for that day. Here's an example day: 1) I'm grateful for the reciprocated smile from that kind stranger on the street. 2) I'm grateful for the delicious dinner I had with my family. 3) I'm grateful for my eyes, which allow me to see the world.
I invite you to join me in this yearly life-improving challenge. The more, the merrier! Let's become better human beings in 2014... and beyond!
What are your New Year's resolutions for 2014? Did you ever succeed at a resolution? How do you cope with difficulties that come along and block your way?