Run a marathon, stop drinking diet soda, start meditating, get some calf definition — these might be just a handful of goals you have for the new year. It’s totally normal to want to reboot your life (and revamp your bod) come January 1, but before you go crazy with your New Year’s resolutions list, you may want to consider what not to do.
Learn more about the most common New Year’s resolution mistakes — and how you can avoid making them.
Mistake 1: Your goal is too broad.
Goals like “getting fit,” “eating healthy,” and “losing weight” are too broad and ambiguous to be successful. To follow through with your goals, you need to define exactly what they are in clear terms. A good way to achieve this: Make sure your goal passes the SMART Goals test, meaning it should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.
Instead of committing to eat more greens — a goal that’s vague and tedious to measure — incorporate at least one different vegetable in at least two meals daily.
Mistake 2: You don’t hold yourself accountable.
If there are no repercussions surrounding your goal, you’re more likely to make excuses, fall behind, or just give up completely. To hold yourself accountable, you have to put yourself in situations that make it difficult to slack off.
If you thrive on encouragement or tough love, ask a friend or family member to check up on you regularly to make sure you’re on track with your goal. If you struggle to stay motivated on your own, participate in a team challenge, or set a non-negotiable exercise date with a friend so you can’t bail at the last minute.
If you work well under pressure, share your goal on social media, and set a deadline to achieve it. Post progress updates frequently, and ask your social network for encouragement on the hard days.
Mistake 3: You make too many resolutions at once.
If you want to add mixed martial arts five times a week and running three days a week, plus cut dairy, gluten, and sugar from your diet all at the same time, you might be setting yourself up for disappointment. Setting too many equally ambitious goals at the same time isn’t effective.
Instead of creating multiple resolutions, which can leave you feeling scattered and overwhelmed, focus on one or two goals. Strive to make the couple of resolutions you focus on ones that can be built on. Once you’ve successfully incorporated one goal into your life, you can gradually add other related mini goals to ensure you’re progressing.
For example, if you set a goal to run three days a week, make sure that you not only schedule those runs and treat them like unbreakable appointments (if an important scheduling conflict arises, move the run to another time that day or the next, but don’t bail on it), but that you also set realistic pace and duration goals for those runs. Don’t expect to run eight-minute miles for 5 miles if you haven’t run a step in months (or years). Once you settle into a running schedule, pace, and distance that’s working for you, up the ante slowly. Either pick up the pace for half a mile every other run, add an extra mile or two to one run a week, or add an additional short run to your weekly routine. Keep building on your original goal gradually throughout the year.
Mistake 4: You don’t develop a realistic plan for achieving your goal.
Setting a goal without creating a plan of action is like constructing a building without laying the foundation first — it’s totally unsustainable.
Before you take action, make a list of things you can do each day to achieve your goal, then include weekly and monthly milestones you want to hit. Breaking your goal down into several smaller short-term goals helps you stay focused and feel accomplished — even on the super tough days.
Mistake 5: Your resolution feels like a chore.
A good goal should be both challenging and exciting. It should push you outside your comfort zone, but still be approachable. If your goal feels too difficult, daunting, or boring to tackle, tweak it.
Instead of whipping up the same lackluster chicken and broccoli dish every night, try out a new recipe you found on Pinterest. Or, check out a service like Blue Apron that delivers all of the ingredients to you pre-measured and with easy-to-follow cooking instructions.
Or, if the idea of lifting weights at the gym four days a week doesn’t rev your engine, pick an activity that does — hike outdoors with a friend, take a dance class, or try some new yoga moves.
Mistake 6: You don’t celebrate your progress.
It’s tough to stay disciplined if you have nothing to look forward to. Instead of waiting to treat yourself or have fun until you hit your goal (which — let’s be real — can seem like a lifetime away), pause every now and then to acknowledge your hard work and progress. Celebrate the small victories; it will help you stay motivated and excited for more.
Pro tip: If your inclination is to celebrate with an edible treat, rethink your strategy. While occasional cheats and treats help keep us sane, they shouldn’t become a celebration default. Instead, treat yourself to new motivational or performance workout gear. Reward your discipline with a massage, pedicure, haircut, or spa day.
Easy, Effective New Year’s Resolution Ideas
Need some sample resolutions to get started? We’ve got you covered.
- Try a clean eating challenge, where you vow to avoid processed foods and eat real, whole foods instead. Try this for
30 consecutive days, and when you hit the one-month mark, commit to another 30 days. Repeat until this becomes the way you eat.
- Cut soda, even diet soda, and high-calorie drinks from your diet (bye bye, chocolate peppermint mocha). Get your fluids from good ol’ pure water, plain coffee, or tea (a splash of milk or non-dairy milk is OK), and nutrient-packed smoothies.
- Eat two extra servings of veggies every day for a month.
- Track your daily workouts.
- Cook clean, healthy recipes at home at least four nights a week. Also, try one new recipe a week.
- When you eat out, swap your carb-filled sides (such as fries or breakfast potatoes) with veggies or fruit.
- Do at least two different types of exercise every week to keep your body guessing.
- Do your daily workout early in the morning; you’ll be less likely to schedule something over your exercise time, or not do it because a last-minute meeting came up. You’ll have to fight the urge to snooze, though.
- Make a workout date with a friend at least once a week. Can’t get out of the house, or too cold and dark out? Invite your friend to your house and get your sweat on in your living room with a streaming fitness program.
- Bring your lunch to work four days out of five.
- Limit the amount of sweetener you put in your coffee or tea. To start, reduce it by half.
- Drink a glass of water every morning when you wake up.
The Keys to Successful New Year’s Resolutions, in a Nutshell
Pick one or two — but no more than three — specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely resolutions that are compatible with your current fitness level, and won’t require super drastic changes to your schedule or lifestyle. Start with small and specific goals that can be built on after they’re implemented and habitual. Make sure to factor in an action plan for executing your goals, and building on them once you hit milestones. Pause a few times to reassess whether your goals are working for you, and don’t forget to celebrate your progress!