5 ways to recover from resolution mistakes

Most resolutions lose steam and fail by mid-March, according to research cited by behavioral scientist Katy Milkman, the James G. Dinan Professor at the Wharton School of the Univeristy of Pennsylvania, in a recent CNN article. Like many goals, they seem exciting at first and you feel motivated. A fresh year, a clean slate and a world that could be emerging from a pandemic may have had you pumped up.

Weeks later, the pandemic doesn’t seem to be ending quite yet, and what’s happened to those resolutions? If you’re feeling defeated, instead of throwing in the towel, how about you reboot? Here are five steps to help you reset and reach your goals this year.

1. Assess what went wrong

Many of my weight-loss clients set lofty goals. Goals that are unachievable or near impossible will almost always set us up for failure. When you’re focusing on weight loss, for example, losing weight slowly but steadily is much more sustainable and realistic than losing a large amount of weight at once. Breaking down your larger goal (to lose 20 pounds) into smaller goals (like losing 1 to 2 pounds a week) is a more manageable way to set your expectations and actually measure your progress.

Similarly, if you set too many goals, you can easily get overwhelmed. Instead of saying, “I’m going to eat healthy,” be specific. Exactly how will you eat healthy, when, and where? Planning out your meals in advance, committing to having a protein-packed breakfast, or focusing on eating five servings of fruit or vegetables per day are specific and concrete goals.

2. Course-correct or change course altogether

If you still want to focus on your original resolution, then break down your resolution into smaller goals. Set benchmarks for yourself. Write out your goals on a calendar. Make things more manageable.

Or, if you realized your resolution to lose weight is actually less important than feeling more energized or sleeping more, feel free to course-correct. Changing focus could be just what you need to get in alignment with your goals. Ways to measure improving your energy or sleep include journaling about how you feel every morning and night, eating energy-packed snacks that include protein (hard-boiled eggs, nuts, seeds, protein shakes and so on), and having a nighttime routine that consists of something relaxing, like yoga.

3. Redefine your goals

Now that you have decided to change course or stay the path, it’s time to redefine your goals. By attaching emotions to your objectives, you’ll be able to start feeling the way you want to feel once you’ve accomplished your goal. If having more energy is one of your resolutions, expand on it to include how you’ll feel once you have gained that extra energy. Is your aim to have more energy so that you can happily run around with your grandkids? Or is your goal to have more energy so that you can finally celebrate starting a new business? Attach a feeling to your goal and redefine it with emotion.

4. Give your big goals mini goals

If you’re aiming to exercise five days a week for 30 minutes each time, we can break down this goal into mini goals. For example, you could break up the 30 minutes into five-minute increments throughout the day. Or, you could map this out on a calendar to do a morning workout for 15 minutes and an evening workout for 15 minutes.

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At the end of every day that you complete your goal, have a mini celebration party for yourself. Pat yourself on the back, look yourself in the mirror and tell yourself you did a good job, or play your favorite song. Success breeds success, so celebrating your mini accomplishments will help keep the momentum going toward your bigger goals.

5. Track your progress

Whether you use an app to track your workouts or food intake, or you like writing out your progress in a journal, pick a tracking method to measure your progress. Being able to see the big picture (like last week or last month) as opposed to just the present moment provides more evidence and data to analyze. And if you’re having a bad day and feeling down, you can look back at the progress you’ve made and convince yourself to keep going.

Similarly, if you’re not seeing results, you can look back to see how much effort you’ve actually put into reaching your goals. Spending less than five minutes a day to track your progress can yield dividends toward reaching your resolution.

Remember that many of us are in the same boat, but now’s the time to redefine your resolution, reboot it, and recommit to it!

Stephanie Mansour, host of “Step It Up with Steph” on PBS, is a health and wellness journalist and a consultant and weight loss coach for women.

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