Aside from the countless New Year’s Eve open bars across Buffalo, there are plenty of reasons to be excited for January 1st. As 2015 quickly approaches, millions of people will be setting goals that they hope to accomplish throughout the next 365 days. It’s a chance to start with a renewed approach to life.
Approximately half of Americans will make resolutions this year. According to USA.gov, the most popular resolutions include goals like losing weight, volunteering, quitting smoking, or managing debt. But as [personal] experience tells us, very few people ever actually stick with it until the end. Why is it so hard to make a New Year’s Resolution – or any goal for that matter – and see it through? Some social psychologists even dare to suggest that New Year’s Resolutions end up doing more harm than good. But still, we continue to be eternally optimistic and aim for a better year than the one previous.
Big life changes are admittedly hard to make. I’ve got my heart set on making a positive impact this year. I did some research to find out why I tend to give up on my resolutions [I know I’m not the only one], and what I can do to make it different for 2015. Here’s what I found:
How can you make your resolutions stick?
Aim low and narrow your focus
Sounds pessimistic? It is – but research has proven again and again that small, achievable goals are likely to last longer than one huge goal. If rewards seem too distant or out of reach, we are likely to quit. “Losing weight” is quite general, and you can achieve this by simply getting a haircut. Do you want to lose weight? Or do you want to lose 20 pounds? Set exact measurements for your goal: 12 books, 20 pounds, 3 cups of vegetables, etc. And then set a timeline. Do you want to read 12 books in one month or 12 books throughout the year?
Make it an action instead of a “goal”
Have you ever read The Power Of Habit? It’s a really great book to check out (Hey! Make it a New Year’s Resolution!). It’s written by New York Times reporter, Charles Duhigg. He notes that our habits can be to blame for up to 45% of the choices we make every day. That Kit Kat in the vending machine I choose to eat every day? It’s not a choice per se. It’s a bad habit. Duhigg says that rather than create a list of goals, you have to circumvent the “habit” center of the brain and turn your goal into an action.
Instead of “I will work out three times per week”, you have to say “I will wake up at 6:30 on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays in order to go running for 30 minutes”. The specificity of the action makes it much harder to be flexible with yourself.
Tell yourself “I think I can!”
Like The Little Engine That Could, you have to have something called “self-efficacy”; meaning you really do believe you can affect and create change within yourself. Someone who half-heartedly creates a goal without fully committing to it will most likely not sustain change.
Build a team
Have a buddy who is on board with you to complete your mission – someone that holds you accountable for your goals and encourages you when you feel like quitting. Those who talked about their resolutions and had a supportive group of friends and family to back them up were more likely to reach their goals.
Sometimes things come up. Don’t let missteps hold you back from achieving your goals. Achievements are a process and should be looked at like one. Winston Churchill once said “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” If you ask me, he was on to something there.
If you haven’t already set yourself up with some New Year’s Resolutions for 2015, here are some things you can do to make Buffalo a better place:
There are SO many wonderful local businesses that you can invest in. Get your start by checking out the Buffalo City Life directory. Did you know that for every $100 you spend at an independent business, $68 of that will return back to the local economy? Compare that to the $48 that return from Big Box stores, and it’s a no-brainer. Plus you’re saving tons of carbon emissions from entering the environment. I could go on…
Even if you don’t have the budget to shop locally 100% of the time, you can still invest your time locally. Volunteering is one of the most rewarding experiences, plus you can make tons of great contacts and expand your business network. At the very least, maybe you’ll make some new friends. It’s a win-win! Check out VolunteerWNY to get some ideas.
Ride your bike
Understandably this resolution might have to wait a bit until the snow melts. Did you know that Buffalo was voted one of the most bicycle friendly cities? Thanks to tons of support, Buffalo adds new bike paths every year. Mayor Byron Brown has committed to install at least 10 miles of new bike path every year. Get out and explore them! Check out this bike path map for the Buffalo area.
So what are doing in 2015? I’ll be reading 12 new books, hitting up Bikeorbar regularly, volunteering locally (maybe at the International Institute), and I’m going to drink more water! Now you can all help to hold me accountable.