Behavior Change in the New Year

Well it’s that time of year again where we all set those lofty New Year’s resolutions that we just can’t seem to follow through with no matter what our best intentions may be. Maybe this will be the year I can get more organized. Maybe this will be the year that I make more time to spend with my kids. Or maybe this will be the year I get to the gym!! But we can get so focused on setting the perfect goal and planning out how to perfectly achieve it that before we know it, it’s New Year’s Eve again and we are no closer meeting that goal than we were last year.

It can be easier than you think. Try not to get overwhelmed at the effort you think it might take to achieve your goal that you don’t actually end up getting there! It can also seem really easy to put the blame on external factors when we don’t reach our goals (“I didn’t have time to make lunch so I had to spend money eating out every day.”), but the simple fact is that change starts with you and how you arrange your daily environment to make that change happen (“I’m going to set aside 10 minutes before I go to bed to make my lunch for the next day.”).

Here are a few tips to help ease you into your new behavior change adventure! Just remember “If nothing changes, then nothing changes!”

  • Set small, daily goals: It may make us feel good to set goals that reflect what we want our ultimate end goal to be, but we know behavior change does not happen overnight! We need to set smaller, more manageable goals that we can achieve along the way to our larger goal. As you become successful, you can change or increase your goals to match your progress.
  • Identify obstacles and plan for them: Don’t sabotage yourself!! Figure out the settings or situations that may create a barrier between you and actually completing your goal. You want to make sure you don’t put yourself in situations that compete with your goal. For instance, if you want to spend more time with your kids, but have a tight budget, don’t plan to take them out to dinner and on fun trips to theme parks every weekend. Find creative and cost effective activities like a game or movie night at home. Hanging around old habits can also be an obstacle to reaching your goal. For example, if your goal is to decrease negativity, think of the people or places that have been associated with the most negativity recently and find ways to spend less time there or avoid it completely if possible.
  • Reward yourself: Who doesn’t love a little extra motivation to keep you moving in the right direction? For each small goal achieved each week, give yourself a small token of appreciation for a job well done. Think of things that really motivate you and that you don’t get very often, or if you do get it often, cut back so that it can be something special you earn for your hard work. So if your goal is to eat healthy homemade lunches at work 4 out of 5 days per week, if you meet that goal reward yourself with some small item or activity that you enjoy over the weekend.
  • Accountability is key! Keep track of your progress toward your goal on your calendar or in a notebook so you can see where you are at each week with
    accomplishing your goal and keep yourself on course. It can also be helpful to have someone you know help you monitor your progress and keep you on track. Designate a friend to check in with or someone to provide gentle reminders if they see you getting off track.