15 Popular New Year's Resolutions, If They Were Realistic
The start of a new year is a momentous occasion. Something about the chaos of the holidays and the clean pages of a new planner inspires us all to start fresh. A nice, shiny new year with no mistakes in it– Yet.
People tend to set themselves up for failure with a long list of overly ambitious resolutions. There's nothing wrong with setting goals, except when those goals rely on you waking up on January first and behaving like a completely different person. Those unrealistic expectations explain why only about 9% of Americans who make resolutions actually live up to them, with 80% quitting by the end of January.
This year, why not aim lower? Try these more realistic versions of classic resolutions and let us know how it goes.
Eat More Veggies
This one can be made more attainable simply by eliminating that last part. Eating more kale? Meh. Eating more in general? We can do that.
In fact, we already achieved that one last year. More cheese, more chocolate, more cake pops. Killin' it. That said, eating more veggies isn't the worst resolution.
The key to actually completing this one: Focus on small, sustainable dietary changes rather than totally overhauling your way of eating. Toss some of that dreaded kale into your favorite chili, or make a teriyaki stir fry with broccoli you'd usually skip. Small changes add up, and they're much easier to stick to in the long run.
Explore the World
It seems like everyone on Instagram is traveling abroad every other month, but influencers are the exception, not the rule. If exploring the long lost snacks at the back of the pantry or strolling down an aisle you've never walked through at Homegoods is as adventurous as you got last year, don't feel bad.
The key to actually completing this one: You don't have to go abroad to explore. Take a day trip in your own area. If trying a flaky chocolate croissant at the authentic French bakery the next town over is as close as you get to Paris this year, that's okay. It sure beats staying home, and while you're at the cafe, you can start brainstorming for your next real vacay.
Ah, perfect. Another resolution we're already succeeding at. Three for three.
The key to actually completing this one: For those of us who are just hoping to cut back because we can't drink like we did in college without totally sabotaging our workout efforts and waking up with a splitting headache, really: Focus on drinking more.
Not more alcohol, silly — more alternatives that you actually enjoy! Swap some of the wine with tasty mocktails that are actually good for you, and when you really want the real thing, let yourself enjoy a glass or two. Being hyper-restrictive is more likely to backfire.
Get a Six Pack
A six pack of beer, that is. Totally achievable. Or low-sugar yogurt, if healthy changes are the focus here.
The key to actually completing this one: We're going to level with you: Being in shape is a great goal, but having extreme muscle definition isn't a requirement for looking and, more importantly, feeling your best. The chiseled look of athletes and models on social media and the cover of Sports Illustrated is a combination of great genes, great lighting, intense exercise, and intense dietary restrictions. Oh, and photoshop.
Looking that shredded isn't easy or comfortable to maintain, even for people who do it for a living. It's also totally unnecessary. Instead of chasing an unattainable extreme, make exercise and a balanced diet a priority because it makes you feel good, not to look like an underwear model.
Give Up Junk Food
Give up. Seriously, give this one up.
The key to actually completing this one: We're not trying to be negative. Quite the opposite. Eating a more balanced diet is a goal we should all get behind, but balance is the key word. Ditch the all-or-nothing mentality. The more "bad" foods are demonized, the more likely you are to crave them and go overboard later on.
If there's a food you genuinely enjoy, enjoy it in moderation alongside other satiating, nutrient-rich foods. That way, you'll nourish your body and mind at the same time, without ever feeling deprived.
Try Something New
Just try. That's how low the bar is this year.
The key to actually completing this one: We're just messin' with you. Trying something new is a totally achievable resolution. We recommend picking one of two options:
1. Choose one new activity to get involved in on a regular basis, like taking a yoga class every week and practicing it for 15 minutes before bed each night.
2. Try something different every month. A paint and pour night, axe-throwing, rock climbing, karaoke night with friends, a new type of cuisine, whatever! One novel experience every month.
Either option is a great way to broaden your horizons, but the second option is great if you get bored easily or struggle to stick with commitments.
Improving your relationship is an excellent goal, but it's too vague to mean much. It also requires having a relationship to improve in the first place. Annoying details, amirite?
The key to actually completing this one: Whether you're longing to be in a relationship or frustrated with the one you're in, you're probably focusing your attention on the wrong relationship. Before you worry about romance, check in with your relationship with yourself. If you're secure, fulfilled, and happy on your own, you'll be much more likely to cultivate the kind of relationship you really want.
Sort Out Priorities
On second thought, we just tried to find a pair of scissors. Sorting out our priorities might be more realistic after all.
The key to actually completing this one: All jokes aside, specific resolutions are much more achievable than vague ones. Start by making a list of all your goals and responsibilities. Organize them into four categories:
1. Critical tasks that are urgent and high in value
2. High-priority tasks that are highly beneficial, but not urgent
3. Medium-priority tasks that are timely, but not super important
4. Low-priority tasks that aren't that important, and aren't that urgent either
Get in the habit of organizing your tasks like this every week. Check in with yourself monthly to assess if your system is working, or if it needs a few tweaks.
Stand Up to Boss
Looks like this one backfired. Awkward...
The key to actually completing this one: All jokes aside, if talking with your boss comes with enough apprehension to warrant an entire new year's resolution, looking for a new job that comes with a healthier work environment isn't the worst idea.
Your job takes up the majority of your waking hours, so the culture of your workplace can make a huge difference to your health an happiness. The phrase "better the devil you know than the devil you don't" is a good way to stay stuck in a job you hate for 20 years. If you're miserable at work, start brainstorming other options.
Worry less? In this economy?? Seems like a tall order.
The key to actually completing this one: If never being stressed out seems like an unrealistic goal, that's because it is. Instead, start practicing a new, healthier way of managing stressful moments. Practice deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, journaling, whatever floats your boat. Whatever you pick, try it out for at least a month to start. If it still doesn't help, try something else until you find a strategy that works for you.
Go to the Gym Weekly
Going to the gym regularly isn't a bad goal. Considering how few people stick with it, however, you may want to put more thought into it before signing up for an annual membership.
The key to actually completing this one: If you think paying hundreds of dollars will motivate you to suddenly transform into a gym rat, think again. Intrinsic motivation is way easier to sustain than extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is the kind that comes from enjoying the behavior itself, rather than getting some kind of external reward– like fitting in your high school jeans or making the most of the money you spent.
The best way to make exercise a sustainable part of your lifestyle is by choosing a form of movement you genuinely like. If taking daily walk with your dog or signing up for a pilates class with friends is more fun than going to the gym, it's more valuable than that pricy membership.
Build Healthy Habits
Drinking green juice every day is hard. Going to the Starbucks drive through on the way to work? We can totally build a habit out of that.
The key to actually completing this one: Fine, this one isn't that unrealistic. It all depends on how you define "healthy," however. Too often, we try to develop new habits that are a huge departure from how we currently live. Go for sustainable baby steps instead. If you're currently a couch potato, pledging to go on a run every day probably won't last long. Instead, start with a walk after work.
After a while, that habit will be automatic. That's the perfect time to pick up the pace. Start by jogging for short stretches along your usual route. Gradually increase the amount of jogging until one day, presto, you realize you're going on a daily jog without even thinking about it.
About 80% of people who lose a significant amount of weight gain at least some of it back within a year. If that's not enough to make you lose your mind a little, we're not sure what is.
The key to actually completing this one: Bear with us on this one. Stop focusing on the scale. Your weight is only one contributing factor to your health. A growing body of research is telling us that the torturous yo-yo dieting cycle is actually worse for your health than carrying a few extra pounds is to begin with. That's not to say that slimming down is impossible, but the number on the scale shouldn't be the main idea.
Focus first on building sustainable, healthy habits like we mentioned above. Pay attention to how different kinds of food and exercise impact how you feel, both mentally and physically. The more attuned you are with your body's natural hunger and fullness cues, the easier it is to manage your weight without relying on fad diets that are rarely more than a temporary fix.
Yell at Your Family Less
How'd that gentle parenting book end up in the trash? Looks like it caught on fire. Weird.
The key to actually completing this one: All jokes aside, gentle parenting is super helpful, but also pretty freaking difficult. Communication and empathy are key, and getting some guidance from a family therapist isn't the worst idea. If your insurance covers it, try it. There's no shame in getting some extra support and tools to work with. If it's not your cup of tea, you can always go back to yelling. (Hopefully, into your pillow and not at your spouse...)
Fix Toxic Thought Patterns
Fixing your psyche is pretty ambitious. Maybe aim lower. Fix that finicky turntable thing in the microwave, or that door in the garage that sticks. That seems reasonable.
The key to actually completing this one: Patience, young grasshopper. And, again, therapy isn't the worst idea. But mostly, patience. The biggest issue with new year's resolutions is that we try to reinvent ourselves overnight.
Becoming a different person doesn't magically happen when the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve. Most of us are either asleep on the couch at that point, or making regrettable decisions and gearing up for an impressive hangover. You're not going to wake up on the first feeling like a triathlete unless you already are one. If you stick with small, realistic changes long term, you have a good shot at achieving those loftier resolutions.