So I know a lot of people detest this annual tradition, but in the past I've had good luck with sticking to my resolutions. Plus the start of a new year is usually the kick in the pants I need to make a major change in my life. A few examples of things I've managed to change over the years include no longer biting my nails (a terrible stress-related habit I've had since I was 4 years old!) and learning to cook so that I can eat more healthily and save money at the same time.
From my own experience, there are a few important things to keep in mind if you want to make resolutions that you can stick to:
1. Set only a few (realistic) goals.
I think a common mistake for most people is that they set too many goals for one year. If you have 10-20 goals, it's impossible to achieve all of them. Worse yet, you may become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work and just give up on them altogether. My suggestion is to focus on only a handful (or even better, 2-3) and really apply yourself in those areas. Pick the ones that will have the greatest impact on your life, but also keep them realistic so that you don't set yourself up for failure and feel discouraged when you can't meet your own expectations.
2. Have a solid plan of attack as to how you can achieve those goals.
Try to break down your big-picture goal into a series of smaller tasks, and just focus on doing well at each small task. This way you feel like you're making progress step by step toward ultimately achieving your goal.
3. Keep track of your progress and constantly reward yourself.
Define your own milestones and metrics for success. As you meet each one, treat yourself to something nice. Maybe it's a dinner at your favorite restaurant or a new skirt or a massage. Any incentive for your continued good behavior.
4. Forgive yourself if (when) you fall off the bandwagon.
This is an issue that I personally struggle with a lot and still need to learn to cope with. Whenever I fall off the bandwagon, I get discouraged and have a hard time pressing on. But I need to remember that failure is a natural part of the learning process. The important thing isn't that you fell off, but that you picked yourself up again and got back on it.
For 2015, I have only two resolutions. Both focus on different aspects of health. The first deals with physical health and the second with mental health.
1. Exercise a minimum of 4 times a month.
This sounds like a laughably small amount of physical activity, but it's already a great improvement over last year's 0 times a month. Honestly I'm probably in terrible cardiovascular health. I sit all day in front of a computer at school, and when I get home, I continue to sit in front of a computer. That's the life of a grad student in engineering. But as I get older, I notice that I'm not as "fresh" as I used to be, and I have little niggling pains and aches (like how I've randomly pulled muscles in my neck/back several times this year from bad ergonomics). Four times a month is a bare minimum for me. I would love to work out 2-3 times a week, but from past experience, I know that goal is a little too ambitious right now. I think my current target is very doable, and also the flexibility of a monthly goal instead of a weekly goal is just much more manageable. So far I've already gone running twice this month!
2. Live more in the moment.
My grad school career hasn't been the smoothest, and as such, it's caused me a lot of existential stress over the past few years. When I started grad school, I didn't really have good stress management techniques, so I carried around a lot of anxiety, which worsened into a series of panic attacks. I found myself constantly worrying about my thesis topic, my career path after graduation, and the future in general. Because I'm a perfectionist by nature, I wanted to optimize every step so that I could end up exactly where I wanted. However, instead of working on my research, I felt paralyzed and couldn't move forward, because I was worried that whatever step I took next would cause me to "fail." Maybe my perfectionism helped me get this far, but now it's become more toxic than helpful. What I want to do going forward is to focus more on the tasks at hand and less on unlikely future eventualities.
What are your personal resolutions for 2015?