How to Achieve Your New Year’s Resolution

My sister is infamous in our family for asking questions and making us answer, in turn, over dinner. Meals during this holiday season were no different: she asked and we groaned, rolling our eyes at the forced nature of the activity in lieu of organic conversation. What was your high and low of the day? If you could eat dinner with three people from history who would they be? Those sorts of questions. On New Year’s Eve, however, she asked a question to which we did not have easy, recycled answers. What do you want to take with you into 2018 and what do you want to leave behind?

It wasn’t the what’s-your-new-year’s-resolution question I was expecting. A grand, off-the-cuff resolution requires little thought: I want to exercise more. I want to become a morning person. I want to eat healthier. Framed instead as —what do I want to stop doing and what have I started doing that I want to keep up — the question felt more personal, demanding a measure of honest reflection rarely given to big, shiny new year’s goals.

A few years ago, time management firm Franklin Covey polled more than 15,000 customers about their new year’s resolutions and found that one-third don’t last through January. Why? 40 percent of people said they had too much else to do and 33 percent said they didn’t feel committed, in the end, to the resolutions they had set.

Resolutions that last are realistic, personal, and thoughtful. In other words, they can be attained, you already care enough to try and see them through, and you’ve earnestly considered specific means of achieving them. Want to eat healthier but love dining out? Commit to splitting your entree, suggests Franklin Covey. Want to feel well rested again? Spend time in the sun, says The NYT, bright light is important for healthy sleep.  

This January, especially if you’ve already announced and retracted a resolution, think of something you would like to stop (hitting snooze, buying fries in the cafeteria, waiting to study the day before a test) and make plan for weaning off. Often it’s easier to begin resisting something negative than to start something brand new.

Then consider all the positive things you did in 2017, the ways you’ve grown and the patterns you’re proud of. Did you start speaking up more in history class? Keep at it and push yourself to participate with the same gusto in other courses. Did you join a club that you’ve enjoyed more than you expected to? Stay involved and run for a leadership position at the end of spring. As you make aspirations for 2018 build on a foundation you’ve already laid. That hackneyed metaphor might not sound as exciting as “the new you” cliché, but your progress months down the road will be.

Need some inspiration to spur reflection? Here are a few links from around the web to make you laugh, make you think, and give you all the feels.

Health and wellness writer Jen A. Miller explains S.M.A.R.T. goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound), shares bad-habit cycles — I check Twitter too often. I feel isolated. I check Twitter. I feel connected. — and suggests behavior fixes.

The Atlantic curated 26 inspiring shots of people celebrating 2018 all over the world.

Daniel Pink’s new book When: The Scientific Secrets of Timing comes out today. In a recent profile the author shares his insight into the science of when. Turns out, some people are most productive in the morning, others late at night, and most teams don’t start working on a project until they hit the midpoint between assignment and deadline. Learn how to achieve peak productivity.

Check out this new year’s resolution cartoon and this one on making conversation during winter.

Johns Hopkins Medical School has 6 easy ways to have a happy and healthy 2018.

Feel like amping up your cultural savvy or creating art or music of your own this year? Here’s Rolling Stone’s list of the best 50 songs of 2017, The Washington Post’s take on the best in books, and Rotten Tomatoes’ best 100 movies of 2017.

Try out the Dear Sugars podcast, especially two-part episode “The Power of No” with guest star Oprah Winfrey. Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild, and writer Steve Almond give letter-writers advice on how empowering it can be to say no to some commitments and give your all to the things that matter to you most.

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