By RONIC NGAMBWE
It’s only mid-January and some people are already done with this year. It’s already proven to be too difficult and too challenging. They’re over it. Some people may be on a roll: managing to work out at least three times a week, meditating every day for five minutes, and increasing their water intake.
However, there are also people who didn’t set goals for the year and are tired of discussions about resolutions, change, improvement. They just don’t want to hear it anymore, they’re ready to move on. I get it. I’ve been in all three positions. Regardless of where you stand, none of us can really escape that feeling the new year brings; that unspoken and inevitable need to reflect.
The question at this point in the year for those attempting to form new habits becomes, “how long am I going to keep this up?” and “am I actually going to go far with this?” I’ve noticed that we tend to be cautiously optimistic when it comes to goals. We set them but keep our commitment and dedication to them low, just in case we’re no longer able to keep up with them. I admire that, but I would like to encourage those who have set goals for the new year. Here are some ways to stay motivated and take it to the finish line:
Celebrate the small wins: give yourself small rewards along the way. No, I’m not talking about treating yourself to a sugar cookie or some ice cream because you exercised today. That, although well-intentioned, may not be meaningful enough to help you maintain a habit. Instead, reward yourself when you reach a small goal.
For example, if your goal was to lose 2 lbs this past week and you met it, reward yourself with an experience, an activity or an item from your wish list (something you’ve wanted to get or do for a very long time). Pick a reward that’s meaningful enough to make you want to achieve that mini goal and keep going.
Find an accountability partner: If your friend is also trying to work out more, make it a point to go together and hold each other accountable. Checking on one another and making sure you’re reaching your individual goals (in fitness or something else). The point is to find someone who will help you stick to your goals by holding you accountable while you do the same for them.
Make it a point no matter what: I didn’t start working out until I got to college. Because I knew that I wanted to make exercise a habit, I told myself that I would go no matter what: rain or shine, 53 degrees or 17, I was going to the gym. This helped me eliminate excuses. When it got hard, I reminded myself of the long-term benefits of this particular habit and that was usually enough to get me going. So think of any excuses that you might try to use to keep you from investing in this new habit consistently and decide what you’re going to do about it from the get-go.
Make it a convenience: Set your workout clothes out before bed, always workout at the same time, etc… The point is that you increase the likelihood of practicing the habit by making it convenient; easily accessible; removing potential obstacles.
Pairing: Pair the habit with a task you do often. Maybe you always get to your anatomy class 15 mins early. Use that time to write a paragraph if your goal is to do more writing for example. Pair the goal with an activity so that every time you do that activity, you remember to also practice that new habit.
Now, if you’re struggling to keep up with your goals in general, try asking yourself the following questions:
Are my goals realistic for where I am in life right now?
Have I broken them into small tangible steps?
Do the things on my to-do list (apart from school work) align with my goals?
What am I doing on the weekends? Could I use some of that time to practice my new habit/work towards achieving my goal?
Thinking through these questions will help you clarify and refine your goals as needed. Now, there are times when we no longer want to do something because we realize that we’re just struggling too much and aren’t enjoying it. It’s absolutely fine to let it go; to give up on a project. I think oftentimes we make goals and then unintentionally enslave ourselves to them. Just like we chose to do that one thing, in the same way, we can choose to let it go. Remind yourself that you always have the power of choice.