Have you made your New Year's resolutions yet? Right around the end of the year (or the beginning of a new year), people create their lists of vows to stop bad habits and start positive ones. Individuals have long embarked on the quest for self-improvement at the beginning of each new year to varying degrees of success. You may have even set some for yourself in years past. From dieting and fitness to relationships and finances, before you pen this year's list of New Year's resolutions, keep reading to learn how to avoid setting yourself up for potential failure and instead set realistic, attainable goals.
1. Fixating on a Number on the Scale
Don't get caught up in the numbers game. Setting your sights on a do-or-die weight can create problems. Not only do you risk feeling discouraged if you don't hit your ideal weight as quickly as you'd like, but if you've also started an exercise program, you're likely losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time. "As you are building lean muscle and reducing your overall body fat, you may notice the number on the scale staying static or actually increasing," says Ashley Yandle, fitness expert and owner of Ashley Lane Fitness. Instead of focusing on reaching that magic number, create resolutions that center around inches lost or fitting into a certain (realistic) size of jeans or dress.
Read more: 7 Common Weight-Loss Myths Debunked
2. Vague Resolutions to “Be Better”
Becoming "better" is a resolution that sounds great in theory but can set you up for failure. Betsy Sobiech, personal growth and development expert and founding partner of Tiara International, LLC, warns goal makers to be careful of the "er" trap. "Get healthier. Be better. Work harder. These are potential traps because they can never be accomplished," she says. "You won't know when you have accomplished enough or have reached your milestone." Instead, craft a goal that will clearly demonstrate that this area of life is important. For example, you could replace a resolution like "be a better friend" with "send handmade birthday cards" or "plan a girls' weekend away."
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3. Resolutions to Get Married
If your partner has been dragging his or her feet about getting married, resolving to give them an ultimatum to ensure that your year includes a walk down the aisle could backfire. Personal growth expert Betsy Sobiech warns that while you might think you're just being clear and strong about your goals when you give an ultimatum, it could do more harm than good. "Ultimatums generally put people on the defensive," she says. "The choices people make under this kind of pressure are typically not in line with the overall best decision." A more productive resolution could be to work with your partner this year to determine if your values and goals are ultimately in line with each other's.
4. Resolving to Eliminate Carbs or Fats
Some of today's popular diet trends instruct you to eliminate carbohydrates or fats from your diet. Fitness expert Ashley Yandle doesn't recommend taking it to this extreme. "We need carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats to build a lean and healthy body," she says. "By eliminating carbohydrates, you can starve your body of energy it needs to function." Instead of cutting carbs out altogether, incorporate healthy ones like sweet potatoes, oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice and low-sodium rice cakes to fuel your body and build muscle. The same goes with fats. Don't cut fats out of your diet; instead, choose foods with healthy fats like olive oil, avocados and nuts to help you feel satisfied and full.
5. Resolving to Get Everything Organized
Sure, this one sounds good on the surface. Organization is a positive attribute, after all. But this goal is vague and vast. Committing to organizing your entire life is pretty ambitious. "Consider the continuum of your life," says Jean Costa-McCutcheon, psychotherapist, life coach and owner of Potentia Counseling and Coaching. "Think about how you might make smaller, more 'chunked down' changes." Instead of a blanket commitment to organizing all aspects of your life, decide that you'll clean one cabinet at home or one desk drawer at work a week. The trick is to make the goal specific and achievable enough that you don't get discouraged and give up altogether.
6. Resolutions to Join a Gym (If You Hate the Gym)
Some New Year's goal-setters may think that just belonging to a gym will inspire them to work out constantly, even if they hate the gym. However, Michelle Babb, nutritionist and owner of Eat.Play.Be. warns that a consistent exercise schedule can be difficult enough without trying to drag yourself to the gym if you just don't like being there. "Find some type of physical activity that helps you feel strong and confident in your body," says Babb. "You'll be much more likely to exercise regularly." Recall activities you've enjoyed in the past and focus on those. Go ice skating, bicycling, roller blading, hiking or take a dance or swim class.
7. Setting an Unrealistic Deadline for Weight-Loss Goals
Date-specific resolutions may seem less vague, but focusing on an unrealistic end date for reaching a perfect weight could put stress and pressure on you and backfire if you don't meet your goal by that day. Instead, consider revising your goal to focus on sustainable behaviors that will help you lose weight and get healthy. Examples of these types of goals are aiming to work out at least three times a week or increasing the number of servings of fruits and vegetables in your diet by three each day. Look at the big picture and cut it down into smaller resolutions that support the end goal. To keep you accountable and to track your progress, start logging your food and exercise using a tool, like LIVESTRONG.COM's MyPlate app.
8. Committing to Training Goals Beyond Your Current Abilities
When it comes to setting training goals for yourself, consider your current physical condition, says personal trainer, nutrition coach and owner of MissFIT, Kayla Pevehouse. For example, if you can barely walk a mile, don't resolve to run a marathon. Start small and work your way up to more lofty goals. For the non-runner who wants to start running, Pevehouse recommends a "couch to 5k" program, and then progressing from there. "If you jump right into an intense training program without the proper conditioning beforehand, you are not only setting yourself up for failure on your resolution but also potentially for a major injury," she says.
9. Recycling Old Resolutions
Perhaps you have a list of unchecked goals from last year. Be cautious about recycling those for this year. Personal growth expert Betsy Sobiech encourages people to ask themselves if it's really going to happen or if you're setting yourself up for failure again. This is even more significant if the goal has made the list for several years in a row. Sobiech says you might want to consider giving yourself a break and focusing on something else instead. "If you really want this to be the year, make sure you have done the internal work on your motivation and mindset to truly go for it," she says.
10. Outlawing Splurges
It's hard to make the "nice" list all the time. Allow yourself to be "naughty" every so often. Deprivation could set you up for a binge later. Fitness expert Ashley Yandle suggests following an 80/20 rule when it comes to eating healthy. Eat clean 80 percent of the time and permit yourself to have two or three cheat meals a week. Allow yourself to have that glass of wine or cheeseburger here and there, and then get right back on your diet-friendly meal plan. "You need your healthy lifestyle to work with your life," says Yandle. "It doesn't matter how amazing a meal plan and workout regime may be -- if you can't stick with it -- it doesn't do you any good."
Read more: How to Drink, Have Fun AND Lose Weight
11. Vowing to Meditate for an Hour Every Day
Meditating can be seriously life changing, but it's new to you, committing to it for a generous amount of time every day might not be the best approach. When you commit to a daily goal, it often doesn't take long before the business of life knocks you off track. You miss one day, and you're already behind and may feel that you've failed yourself. "This type of goal often subconsciously reinforces a feeling of disappointment in ourselves and failure to make progress," says personal growth expert Betsy Sobiech. Start by committing to meditate just five minutes a day, a few days a week. Once you've made that a habit, increase the time and frequency.
Read more: 8 Easy Mindful-Meditation Techniques
12. Going on a Trendy Crash Diet
The grapefruit diet, the raw food diet and any other one-ingredient diets are all unhealthy trends that involve eating an abundance of the same type of food. Not only do you run the risk of getting bored with this approach, but you'll also miss out on a number of nutrients you get from a well-rounded diet. Personal trainer Kayla Pevehouse recommends thinking of food as fuel. Learn to understand the foods and portions that will help you reach your specific health goals. "Resolve to eat a well-balanced, whole-foods-based diet and add color to your meals," says Pevehouse. "Mix it up instead of eating the same things all the time. Avoid processed foods and sugars but don't avoid specific macronutrients."
13. Negative Resolutions
Stop drinking coffee. Don't watch television. Avoid eating desserts. Sometimes it's all in the wording. Positioning your resolution negatively can make it harder to achieve. "It's ineffective to word a resolution negatively," says personal growth expert Betsy Sobiech. "It's a self-punishing way to word our goals." When you word your goals negatively, you're focusing all of your attention and energy on the activity you are trying to avoid, which doesn't provide direction or motivation. Instead, Sobiech recommends crafting positive goals such as, "Be healthy enough to run a 5K," or "Start each day with a glass of water." This focuses your attention on moving forward.
14. Resolving to Get a New Job
Resolutions that are absolute and lack focus won't set you up for success. Obtaining a new job is a great goal, but this goal is out of your hands to some degree. Sure, you can apply and interview all that you want, but it doesn't guarantee you'll be hired. The job market fluctuates as does the timing of hiring surges. Putting pressure on yourself to get a new job -- or else -- with no milestones or plan can be overwhelming. Set more manageable, realistic goals. Jean Costa-McCutcheon, professional psychotherapist and life coach, suggests setting a more attainable goal such as networking with one new person or exploring one new career path each week.
Create Resolutions That Work
Setting goals that improve your mind, body and soul can be empowering. The key is to set attainable goals so you don't set yourself up for failure and end up beating yourself up if you don't achieve them. "Small changes done successfully over time can produce more significant positive change than starting something big and not being able to keep it up or maintain it over time," says psychotherapist Jean Costa-McCutcheon. Think in terms of what you want, not what you don't want.
What Do YOU Think?
Have you ever set New Year's resolutions before? What were they? Did you achieve them? What do you think went right (or wrong)? Are you going to set any this year? What do you think they'll be? Are any of them on the list? How do you plan to achieve it? Will you revise your yearly goals now? What other resolutions do you think are bad ideas? Share your thoughts, stories and suggestions in the comments section!