5 Mistakes to Avoid When Making New Year’s Resolutions

I’ve long been the type to over-romanticize the start of a New Year. I see it as a chance for a brand new start, a way to leave behind old habits, and take steps towards a better me. Unfortunately, it has taken years of making and breaking countless resolutions to realize I was making a few fundamental mistakes when I made resolutions each year. One year, I committed to an incredibly rigorous workout plan, five days a week while working full-time with a 1-year-old at home. By March 1, I was so burnt out and discouraged by my failure, I didn’t go to the gym again for more than a month.

Don’t waste your time or your energy on resolutions that are doomed to fail from the start. As the New Year rolls in, take a look at your goals for the next 12 months and determine their practicality. If you’re not sure what makes a resolution weak, take a look at these five mistakes to avoid when making New Year’s resolutions.

1. Making an all-or-nothing promise

Time and time again, I’ve embraced the New Year as a chance for a 180, a complete change of my lifestyle with no looking back. Two years back, I felt like I was spending too much time online so I gave up social media entirely. I can see now that I would have had more success if I had simply set some limits and focused on spending less time online. Making an all-or-nothing promise to change is a surefire way to bite off more than you can chew next year. Instead, focus on the baby steps that will lead you to your biggest goals.

2. Banking your happiness on your resolution

The prospect of becoming a new person by leaving old habits behind is certainly enticing, but it won’t give your the happiness you desire. If you aren’t content at this point in time, losing a few pounds or paying off a credit card certainly won’t make you happy, either. Don’t bank your happiness on keeping your resolution, instead resolve to begin from a place of self-acceptance and happiness with your current circumstances before you start making goals to change.

3. Expecting perfection

No matter how solid your plans are for the New Year, you should expect to make mistakes along the way. When you expect perfection, a slip-up or a bump in the road could completely throw you or discourage you from picking back up where you left off. Instead, make a plan for dealing with your mistakes. How will you get back on track? How will you stay positive when you are struggling to reach your goals?

4. Going at it alone

Resolutions can be deeply personal, even private, goals. Even so, setting off toward an ambitious goal without support is a sure way to set yourself up for discouragement and failure. Find someone close to you who will cheer you on as you create new habits. This year, for instance, I am working on cutting down on my unbudgeted spending, limiting myself to one latte a week, and waiting 48 hours before making an unplanned purchase. Knowing how much it helps me to have some accountability, I’ve shared my plans with my husband and asked him to help me reach this goal by checking in with me on a regular basis. And if someone in your life is sabotaging your New Year’s resolutions, it might be time to make a plan to put space between you and that person when you are feeling discouraged or vulnerable.

5. Ignoring the emotions behind bad habits

I have had some luck making small changes with persistence and discipline alone, but more often than not, I discover a bigger issue is to blame for a bad habit I want to change. Maybe this year you have resolved to eat healthier, but you haven’t thought about the stressors in your life that drive you to late-night, junk food snacking. Or perhaps you are resolving to make new friends but you haven’t talked with a trusted counselor about the anxiety you feel when you step outside of your comfort zone. If your New Year’s resolution is more than a simple habit change, think about finding a counselor or life coach who can offer you the support you need.

Originally published on December 28, 2017.

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Mary is a writer living in the Midwest with her young children and husband. She enjoys writing about parenting, personal growth and food.