Ryan Chartrand

With 365 days in the year, why should we choose Jan. 1 to start improving ourselves? My question to those that wonder this is why not Jan. 1? Although we have 365 chances to better ourselves and accomplish our tasks, the first day of the year serves as a clean slate for us to throw out the mistakes of last year and start fresh. Perhaps you didn’t get the best grades of your life last year, or maybe you would like to take better care of your body by eating healthier and working out more.

According to our good old friend Socrates, “we cannot live better, than in seeking to become better.” Well, why not start today? To help your progress, I have outlined a few tips for you on how to make your New Year’s resolution a successful one.

Choose a goal

When setting your goal, think “yearround” instead of the first couple of weeks. Choose something attainable that you think you can stick to throughout the year. It’s better to set goals that are realistic, achievable and well defined. Many people make resolutions that are either unrealistic or too vague. For example, if you set out to lose 20 pounds in one month and don’t reach your goal, you feel discouraged and give up after only a couple weeks.

Create a plan

After you have figured out an achievable goal, the next step is to create a plan. Setting a goal without devising a plan is simply wishful thinking. Making a clearly defined plan is very important for succeeding. You may strive to lose one to two pounds per week by exercising three to four times per week and holding off on seconds. Nothing big gets accomplished in one day. Resolutions are set in one day, but they are accomplished with a hundred tiny steps that happen throughout the year. New Year’s resolutions should be nothing more than a starting point.

Start now

It’s also important to create your plan IMMEDIATELY. If you are like most people, then you have a limited window of opportunity during the first few days of January to harness your motivation. After that, most people lose inspiration and forget their resolutions completely.

Write it down

Now is the time to write down your resolution. Seeing your resolution and planning it in writing makes it more concrete, holding you more accountable. Put it somewhere that you will see often, such as your closet or desk drawer. It doesn’t have to be on display to the whole world, just somewhere where you will be reminded of it every day. Whatever it is will serve as an inspiring message to you and will not come off as negative or nagging.

Brainstorm barriers

Next, think of the possible obstacles that could get in your way of meeting this goal. For example, if you want to drink less alcohol, what major temptations can you expect? How will you get around those people or situations that in that past have made you want to drink too much? Think ahead to an actual conversation that may transpire. Also, think of activities you would like to substitute for the times you would have usually gone out drinking. If you are armed with all the right tools, you will make yourself succeed at any goal you set out to do. If you find that you are not meeting your expectations, perhaps you need to modify your goal and try a different approach.

Be positive

Instead of obsessing over the foods you feel you should deprive yourself of, focus on the things you want to increase in your diet, such as fruits and vegetables. This puts your resolution in a positive light and makes you more likely to succeed. It is hard to maintain motivation for not doing things. It’s much more rewarding to focus on what we are going to do. If you don’t do well on your new plan one day, don’t beat yourself up; that won’t solve anything and you will only leave yourself feeling even more discouraged. Tomorrow is a new day full of possibilities to turn it around and make even more improvements.

To make a successful lifestyle change requires knowledge, time and commitment. Leaping into a change before doing the necessary preparation is another recipe for failure. Rather than expecting ourselves to make a change right away, we can instead learn about what we need to do to make a successful change. Whether your goal is to take a multivitamin daily, floss your teeth more, run a marathon, start weightlifting, stalk people less on Facebook, start eating breakfast, join a club on campus, or whatever your goal may be, the point is the more specific you are, the more likely you will stick with it. Good luck and have a happy, healthy new year!

Sarah Bailey is a nutrition senior, a Mustang Daily nutrition columnist and a member of PULSE. E-mail her your questions at slbailey@calpoly.edu.

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