We’re all set with the best of intentions come January, etching lofty goals into our journals to carry with us into spring, summer, fall, and winter. But let’s be honest with ourselves for a sec: the end of Resolution Season finds us loosening our wallets, dipping into the cookie jar, forgetting to say “thank you,” and foregoing the gym for just one more rerun of Friends on the couch. The idea of what our lives “should” look like and how our goals “should” play out gets us all tied up in knots we scramble to untangle come January 1st of the next New Year.
To avoid those tangles and kick this year off on the right foot, why not rethink the way we make our resolutions? All month long I’ll be diving in and digging deep on strategies to set your year ablaze – because no one success strategy works for everyone.
I once read that when adopting a new lifestyle change, it takes something like four weeks for you to feel a difference, eight for your friends to take notice…and twelve for acquaintance and strangers to start asking questions.
Okay, so maybe I read it on the ever-prestigious scientific journal that is Pinterest…but I love the picture it paints of slow and steady change, moment by moment. Sure, you can have an end result in mind. But most of the time, when we’re so tightly tied to one specific end result, we miss out on all the other great things that happen along the way.
This year, try adopting one new habit per month and just see where it takes you. If the Pinterest scientists are correct, you’ll start to feel a shift about a month into your journey. If it’s working for you, great! If it’s not, let it go – no guilt.
Your goals might seem simple or minute – how can making your bed every morning really contribute to the quality of your life?! – but each singular goal reached will inform the definition of what it means to live well for you, to be your best self twelve months out of the year.
Another bonus? Just one habit per month prevents you from getting too overwhelmed with tasks and to-dos – and helps you pay attention to what’s really going on as a result of the change you’ve vowed to make. I can sometimes (read: all the times) get overly excited about the idea of making big shifts all at once. It’s exciting. And distracting. One per month (or one habit + one tangible to-do item if you’re feeling ambitious) helps me focus my energy on that single thing instead of spreading myself thin in 12 different areas of my life.
Get out your notebooks, clear off your chalkboard, and start to outline one goal, big or small, for each month. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
12 GOALS, 1 YEAR: HOW TO CONQUER ONE NEW YEARS RESOLUTION A MONTH
JANUARY: WAKE UP (GO TO SLEEP) ONE HOUR EARLIER
Instead of making a goal to exercise five times a week or fit in breakfast, start from the ground up – literally. Waking up early, studies have shown, can super-charge your entire day and actually allow you the time to make healthy living seem more accessible. I get it, we all have the same 24 hours in the day, blah blah…but sometimes, even a smidge extra time can make a huge difference. What might seem like sixty measly extra minutes allows time for exercise, hobbies, meditation, strategic thinking, or just easing into your day at your own pace (sounds nice, huh?). Already wake up early? Try hitting the sack one hour earlier. Start with 15 minutes earlier during week one, increase to 30 during week two, 45 during week three – and by the end of the month, you’ll be logging an extra hour.
FEBRUARY: SHOW YOUR LOVE ONCE A DAY.
Whether it’s telling your significant other how much he or she means to you or simply asking the bank teller how their day is going, there are a zillion ways to express love. Pick up a piece of trash off the sidewalk. Let the car next to you into your lane in crowded traffic. Call your grandma. These gestures, both big and small, not only help others feel good or make the world be a nicer place to live – they contribute to your own self-confidence and sense of abundant love.
MARCH: MAKE YOUR BED EVERY MORNING
Spring cleaning season is here! Before you overhaul your closet or clean out that dresser drawer, set the stage for a tidy space from the second you get up. Making your bed every morning only takes a few extra minutes, but can set the stage for an orderly room, home, and mindset.
APRIL: PACK YOUR LUNCH
Taxes on your mind? Do double resolution duty this month by making healthier choices and making a dent in your savings. Even if you only pack a lunch two times a week, you’re still saving in the long run – plus, you’re connecting with what goes into your body and where it comes from.
MAY: DRINK YOUR GREENS FOR BREAKFAST
April showers bring May flowers…and greens! Whether you opt for smoothies or juice, getting in a good dose of greens first thing in the morning sets you up for a healthy day ahead. Even if you mindlessly or emotionally nosh later in the day or “accidentally” skip your afternoon spin class (been there, done that), the beauty of going green first thing in the A.M. is that you know you’ve given yourself a hefty dose of vitamins and nutrients no matter what the day has in store.
JUNE: TRAIN (AND SIGN UP!) FOR A RACE…
Most cities hold at least one 5K, 10K, half-marathon, or “fun run” throughout the summer months, which means June is the perfect time to start training! Warm (but not sweltering) temps allow for exercise outdoors if you’re into it – otherwise start your running routine at your local gym. Slowly increase your distance or speed goals with each workout, and alternate between long, moderate-paced running days and short, quick sprinting days. Not into organized races or the early wake-up call that goes with them? Set a date to run your own personal race: determine the day, time, location, and distance, then plan a fun reward for yourself after. Get a friend in on the action for extra motivation!
JULY: MAKE A NEW FRIEND
Summer months are all about playfulness and make us think of long days at summer camp and hobbies. As adults, we don’t have things like school and clubs to connect us or parents to schedule play dates. Community, however, is often the missing link when it comes to our day to day fulfillment – and it’s up to us to find the places . Whether it’s a yoga class or the comments section of a blog, make it a goal to frequent a place or space that you feel allows you to be completely yourself. You’ll find that just like in romantic relationships, the right people will seem to fall into your life when you’re simply busy with the interests you love – when you’re busy being you.
AUGUST: TRY ONE NEW FRUIT OR VEGETABLE A WEEK
Green cauliflower? Okra? Gooseberries? There’s a slew of seasonal produce available, year-round…yet most of us only skim the surface when it comes to variety. Visit your local farmer’s market, check out the selection, and find one fruit or vegetable you’ve never tried. Whether you choose to cook an elaborate dish or go raw, you’ll expand your palate, net more nutrients, and have at least a few new healthy options come August 31st. Check out One Part Plant for all the planty resources you’ll ever need.
SEPTEMBER: FIND THE YOGA CLASS THAT’S RIGHT FOR YOU
September is National Yoga Month, so use this time to get flowing. Ask around or call your local studios/gyms to help pick a practice that’s right for you (my friend Megan wrote an awesome guide here), and pop into a class nearby (many studios offer deals or specials during this month). Sure, this is an exercise-related goal and your overall fitness will probably improve – but more than anything, you’ll be building community, soothing stress, and giving yourself a fresh new perspective on the year. Yoga’s awesome like that.
OCTOBER: FACE YOUR FEARS ONCE EACH WEEK
October is about all things scary – but we’re not really into the whole haunted house, “trick or treat” thing. Take this spooky month in a new direction by vowing to conquer one (or a few!) of your fears at least once a week. The fears could be ones that affect your every-day life or are seemingly trivial. Terrified of public speaking? Add your voice to the mix in each of your weekly work meetings. Afraid of heights? Find a cool restaurant on a rooftop to visit. Whatever it is, commit to facing the fear once a week and watch your confidence skyrocket.
NOVEMBER: CLEAN UP, GIVE BACK
Spring cleaning is a thing of the past – but what about Fall Freedom? Clearing your space of what does not serve you, you don’t like, or you’ve simply outgrown is like telling the universe you’ve made room and are game for whatever it has in store. Instead of trashing your old goods or stuffing your worn clothes into the nearest dumpster, find an organization near you that donates 100% of its goods to those in need (or Google a cause close to your heart that might need your help). You’ll be doing good and feeling great – and making someone else feel the same.
DECEMBER: REFLECT, REVAMP, AND REFOCUS
What worked this year? What could be improved upon? Were there certain moments, people, events, or feelings that stuck with you? Create a conscious game plan for improvement and forward motion right now. No need to rush the process or make snap decisions. Use the entire month to take a look at your life as it is, right in that very second, and refocus your energy on making a positive shift towards the person you know you want to be. At the end of this year, make December your month of renewal instead of January, so that once the confetti bursts at midnight, you’ll already have hit the ground running.