For most people, New Year’s resolutions are a high-stakes gamble, and the deck is stacked against them.
It’s a new year and a new day so lose 20 pounds, be a better person, be happy, train for a marathon, unplug from social media, cut out sugar, quit smoking, be a better parent, spouse, friend … and the list goes on.
No wonder more than nine of 10 New Year’s resolutions fail. Changing an undesirable trait or behavior is the definition of a New Year’s resolution and most likely the definition of failure.
Resolutions in the new year are a famous tradition around the world. Why do they make failures of us, globally?
Most resolutions fail because they aim ridiculously high. Changing closely held personality traits or habits is pretty difficult to do — no — nearly impossible.
Here are some clever ways to be successful in the new year. Some are ways to trick yourself into good behavior, and some are small corrections toward solving a larger problem. Aim small for big results.
— Eating: Instead of resolving to lose weight, go small. Vow to cook at home two or three times a week. Pack a lunch once a week. Take a cooking class. Plant a tiny garden.
— Exercise: Instead of resolving to train for a marathon or joining an expensive gym, train to run a mile without stopping, or walk the dog every day, twice a day.
— Pets: No dog to walk? Get one. Pets help their humans in so many ways.
— Saving money: The number of Americans with virtually no savings is shocking. The key is to save automatically by using payroll or checking account deductions.
A rainy day fund is the first and most important savings account and may be accomplished through your bank or place of work.
For instance, Wells Fargo has an account called Way-to-Save. It saves a dollar for every time you use your debit card, and $100 per month if you choose. Summer vacation and Christmas shopping woes melt away.
Automatic deductions for retirement accounts are available through many employers. If you already have a 401k, IRA (Roth is best), your New Year’s resolution should be to increase the amount you deduct.
— Lists: One way to cut down on excessive consumption is to bring home less junk and processed food from the grocery store. Make a grocery list and stick to it.
Lists keep us on track, whether it’s grocery shopping or simple to-do lists. Stick one to the refrigerator.
— Health: Schedule regular checkups and be more honest with your doctor. Same goes for the dentist.
— Volunteer: Finding a volunteer opportunity that is right for you is not easy. But you’ll feel better about yourself when you do.
— Donate: People who are not rich may get even more satisfaction from giving. Give a small amount, but give. You’ll feel better about yourself.
— Read: “War and Peace” and “Moby Dick” are great books, but seriously, pick a book you will enjoy. Self-help books are popular, but so are mysteries, biographies, science fiction and romance novels. There is a book for every reader, and magazines, too.
Whatever you read will improve your mental sharpness and your relaxation. Sleepless? A book can stop your mind from spinning. You might even watch less TV or cut the cord.
— Sunscreen: If you spend time outdoors, use sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat. Sunscreen embodies the understanding that we will not always be young.
— Phone home: ET did it and so can you. Your parents, children or old friends would love to hear from you, in person. Social media is great for communicating, but nothing beats an in-person conversation.
— Hobby: Learning something new is good for our brains and self-esteem. Fishing, canoeing, golf, knitting, gardening, bird watching, painting, furniture making, astronomy, antiquing and more await you in the new year.
Hobbies are life sustaining activities. Pick up one that will carry you into retirement and old age. For any hobby you can think of, YouTube has videos on how to do it.
— Vacation: Cruises are nice, but a day trip to the zoo works too. Getting away from work and home routines is a good thing. Including children improves adults’ appreciation of everything, because we see it through new eyes.
Are you getting it yet? One author advised us to use more rubber bands, which sound silly. Think what rubber bands do — they hold us together.
So, aim small to improve something big, like health and mental health. Nothing succeeds like success, so why plan to fail in the new year? Little things can have major results.
Happy New Year!
Scott Bigelow can be reached at [email protected]