As we’re now over two months into 2023, you may be thinking about the resolutions, goals, or habit plans you made at the start of January. The New Year is synonymous with reflecting upon yourself and creating a list of things which you’re going to change, from exercise to productivity to getting up earlier. Things have to change on January 1, and if they don’t, we often feel crushed.
Dreams are big in the New Year, and when we don’t live up to our goals we can be left feeling like a failure. ‘Failing’ will, more often than not, set us back further than our starting position, as we beat ourselves up and lose hope in the promise of change and self-improvement.
So, just how can we positively make changes to our lifestyle and achieve the things we want to, even if the January productivity window has closed and we’ve not seen the changes we counted on?
Firstly, we need to unpack the well-known phrase ‘new year, new me’. The very notion of creating a ‘new me’ is problematic, as it sees you discard a version of your ‘old’ self as someone who was subpar or lacking in certain areas of life. Instead, try to embrace the same version of yourself, understanding your flaws in a way which is kind and won’t leave you disappointed when you inevitably fall back into old routines. Humans are creatures of habit, and you’re not going to move forward whilst ignoring your innate instinct to seek out what is comfortable and easy.
Of course, the end of a year provides us with an opportunity to reflect upon ourselves and the last 12 months, but positioning change around such an arbitrary date as January 1 may not be the most productive way to do things. January can often feel like a drag, with dark nights, cold days, and the post-Christmas comedown combining to make us feel sluggish and demotivated. You need to be kind to yourself in the New Year: January blues are real, and sometimes, doing nothing will be the most productive thing that you can do.
In addition, New Year’s Day doesn’t really mean much. Of course, the notion of starting afresh and turning over a new leaf is a nice way to look forward to the year ahead, yet you can turn over a new leaf at any time. There is no right time to do some self-reflection and life planning, even if the external pressures of the media, family, and friends may make you think that you need to have your life together by the time the first month of the year is through.
If you want to make a change, start now. There are many simple, easy steps which you can take.
Start habits small
There is much to be said for not focusing on grand changes. Instead, commit yourself to building small, positive habits into your daily routine. Using a habit tracker for things such as drinking more water, reading, exercising, or getting up early means that you can hold yourself accountable every day – the more specific the better. Science has shown that, even if you miss a day, as long as you don’t ignore a habit for more than two consecutive days, the routine should stick, so you also don’t need to be too harsh on yourself.
Creating routines is key, yet you don’t have to subscribe to the ‘new me’ notion to do so. Reflect on what makes you feel happy, productive, or fulfilled, and try to mindfully incorporate these activities into the day-to-day. You can make it fun, quick, and simple, and once you reach the 30-day mark you should be well on your way to solidifying any habit – and these 30 days don’t need to be in January.
Write it down
If you do have a larger goal in mind, writing it down alongside a step-by-step plan of how you’ll achieve it will make your dreams far more likely to become reality. We can often focus on the bigger picture and fail to see the details within it, yet nothing worth doing happens overnight. Try to embrace the challenge of having a goal, and really reflect on the route you can take to get there.
Writing down resolutions, whether in January or throughout the year, is also an important internal practice. When we let others in on our desired lifestyle changes or career plans, we invite in external pressure or judgement and often fail to achieve what we set out to do. Instead, know that you are the driving force behind your dreams, and commit to the practice of reflection, planning, and unpacking these goals.
Don’t beat yourself up
Remember to not be too hard on yourself. Many resolutions and goals are often linked to career, self-worth, or productivity, all things which take time to change and can really throw us off if we don’t achieve what we’ve set out to. Give yourself the credit for any wins big or small, and know that each step you take is a step closer to being where you want to be.
Also, remember to include rewards. If you’ve planned out your step-by-step plan, or set up a weekly habit tracker, then make sure to treat yourself once you reach the next step or fulfil a few days’ worth of habits. Change is often hard and scary, so committing to self-improvement in any way and at any time is something to be proud of.
In order to grow, we must accept ourselves, be kind to ourselves, and celebrate moving towards being not a ‘new me’, but the ‘same me’ improved.