As published in the December 2021/January 2022 issue of Best Self Atlanta magazine
By Scott D. Miller, MD, MBA
As January arrives, the local gyms fill with the good-intentioned. By March, front row parking is readily available for those who want to save some steps before working out. “Exercise more” is usually at the top of most resolution checklists. Perhaps we are taking the wrong approach for our resolutions. Here are some tips for making New Year’s resolutions—in essence, a “checklist” for your “resolution checklist”:
- Avoid lofty goals—Losing 30 pounds may be your ambition. However, eliminating late-night snacks may be a more achievable goal that will contribute to your overall objective.
- Be specific—We all want to exercise more. A more specific approach would be taking a 30-minute walk every night after dinner.
- Shorten the list—It is very difficult to focus on more than one or two significant goals at the same time. For instance, if you have a long to-do list, you may never clear that list. However, if you commit to the most important task each day, you will accomplish 365 items in a year. This approach is much more achievable than “I will procrastinate less.”
- Tell a friend —Sharing your goals with others will increase your accountability and garner their support.
- Have a contingency plan—An exercise app on your mobile device can be a good alternative when traveling.
- Reward yourself—Having a piece of cake may not be the best reward for sticking to your diet, but having a meal out with friends may check another box on the list.
- Plan ahead—Take tomorrow’s exercise clothes out tonight. Plan lunches for the week on Sunday. Most importantly, don’t wait until New Year’s Eve to make your resolution checklist
- Set a schedule—Goals that live on a calendar are seldom forgotten. Goals without a deadline are seldom accomplished.
- Track your progress—Identify what is measurable about your goal. Often, it’s as easy as logging the number of successful days. This insight will motivate you to stay on course.
- Allow forgiveness—When hitting the bottom of that bag of chips, it’s easy to give up on healthy eating for the rest of the day (or week). Consider this misstep as a mere pitstop and jump back in the race. Most importantly, learn from these detours so that you can more easily recognize and avoid them in the future.
- Commit to 30 days—Behaviors often become habits when practiced for 30 days.
A well-designed resolution may also have a financial benefit. For instance, less procrastination can lead to fewer late fees. Spending less money on our habits also leaves a bigger budget for purchasing experiences rather than things. More importantly, resolutions can help protect our most precious commodities—time and good health.