Everyone knows that resolutions are BS and New Year’s Day is an arbitrary date that everyone uses like a cosmic reset button. “Most people stick with resolutions until about January 15,” says Amy Morin, the psychotherapist who wrote 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do. But that doesn’t mean this can’t be the year you [INSERT HEALTHY/EFFICIENT/EFFECTIVE THING YOU USED TO DO BEFORE KIDS CONSUMED YOUR WORLD].
Instead of keeping “resolutions,” try shifting your perspective and you might actually see your goals through before 2017. Morin says it’s hard, but not that hard. You just have to set realistic expectations, plot out your steps, do away with deadlines, and get the family involved. Failing that, there’s always next year.
Listen To Yourself
“Notice your inner dialogue,” says Morin. “What’s motivating you to make this change? Is it internal, or pressure from friends and family? The best chance for sticking with change is within.”
Maybe you need to add another digit to your savings account, could stand to lose a few pounds, or want to spend more time with your kids. If Inner You is less concerned with dollars or love handles but needs more of that kid time, that’s where you should put your energy. Because your wife’s withering stare can’t spot burn fat.
Set Smaller Goals
Just like Mr. Miyagi tricked Daniel-san into detailing his car before he could start crane kicking, you also have to start with a tiny part of what you want to accomplish before having success with the big goal.
Say you want to get college savings squared away for your kid. Make dealing with the paperwork to open a 529 a goal, and then make setting up modest monthly auto-deposits a goal. Now, even if you can’t max out the annual contribution, you have a foundation to work with and a pattern of behavior that will keep you on track toward the larger goal of not having your kid in your basement until they’re 30.
Stop Feeling Sorry
Something mentally strong people don’t do: They don’t waste time feeling sorry for themselves. Morin says of mentally weak people, “Rather than problem-solving, they tend just to make things into catastrophes.” Note that you’ll want to broach this particular topic carefully when explaining it to your wife.
What Are You Prepared To Give Up?
“What’s the benefit and what is the cost,” says Morin. If you want to spend more time with your family on the weekends, you may have to be more realistic about staying late at work on the weekdays. Sure it sucks, but you’re a parent — sacrificing things is on Page One of the user manual.
Write It Down
One of Morin’s biggest tips is to get out a piece of paper and write what’s true and what isn’t true about your goal. For instance, it is true that you need to lose weight. It isn’t true that you need to run a marathon this year (unless that’s one of your goals). “One of my favorite things is when people write themselves a letter of why they should keep their goals,” says Morin. “On their steering wheel is the top 10 reasons to go to the gym. At least, when you read it, it’s a reminder why you should do it.” Go ahead and use an app instead of an actual pen and paper for this one if you want — you’ll just have to leave your phone taped to your steering wheel.
Your Kids Are Not An Excuse
The excuse “my kids need me” isn’t a good rationalization to get out of the things. If you plan on setting aside some time to be without your children, set the same amount to include them. It’s not neglectful to spend a fraction of your day to accomplish something that will make you a better person all your life. Although, it is neglectful to leave them for 6-to-8 months to compete in the World Series of Poker.
Your Family Is Your Sponsor
Communicate what you’re working on to your spouse and kids, and let them be in charge of holding you accountable. Put up some sort of chart to track progress and fill it out with them. Involve them in ways that make sense (e.g. hiking with a kid on your back is a hell of a workout) Or you can put a tiny drill instructor hat on your youngest and teach them to say, “What is your major malfunction?”
Stop Setting Deadlines
“Swimsuit season” is not only a terrible phrase, it highlights that there are a lot of times we kill ourselves to meet unrealistic deadlines. “Mentally strong people don’t expect immediate results,” says Morin. “People think that just because they’ve done all this stuff and their life hasn’t changed yet, it isn’t going to work.”
You may be failing your goal just because you set the bar too close. Instead of setting one deadline, set times to check in with yourself and assess your progress. If 6 Minute Abs isn’t giving you a washboard tummy (their words, not ours), slow it down with 7 Minutes Abs.
Sure it sucks, but you’re a parent — sacrificing things is on Page One of the user manual.
Reasons To Put Your Goal On Hold
There are times that unforeseen circumstances make you put everything on the back-burner: Family emergencies, financial trouble, fantasy football playoffs. Just because you had to defer doesn’t mean that you failed. Don’t try to power your goal through a bad situation, you may end up making it worse.
Results May Vary
“There’s no guarantee that changing your habits will make yourself happier,” says Morin. “But, ask yourself ‘What are the benefits?’ Sometimes you have to take that risk and move forward anyway.” Which is to say, if you think that trying is the first step towards failing, you might want to schedule some one-on-one time with Morin.