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How to Keep New Year’s Resolutions

Dec 26th, 2019

New Year Resolutions are around the corner, yet again, and these last few days of December are always filled with hopeful goals for the New Year. Some of the most common New Year's resolutions are losing weight, saving money, drinking more water or quitting smoking.  As we consider how our lifestyles could change for the better, the new year presents a perfect opportunity to set up some greener goals for the next chapter of life. 

Before you go and start making massive changes and creating grand expectations for yourself, it’s important to know how to create resolutions that you can actually stick to. Most of the time, people give up on New Year's resolutions because they aren’t defined well, they aren’t planned or they just aren’t realistic at all. Follow these tips for keeping your resolutions so that your green goals stay evergreen all year long.

A pink notepad saying

Keeping New Year's Resolutions

The trick to keeping your goals is to be SMART about how you plan and execute these goals of yours. The acronym SMART is just a tool used to set and keep track of goals, and it’s used by professionals and management teams all the time. Here’s what it means.

S - Specific

Be specific about your goals. Know why you want to achieve your goal and know exactly what it will take to get there. What do you want to achieve? Who is involved in your goal? Why do you want to do it? Knowing the answers to these questions will help you establish your goal in your mind and will motivate you to incorporate it into your schedule.

For example, your New Year’s resolution could be to be more healthy. Okay, it’s a great goal, but you’re going to need a purpose behind it if you want to be motivated enough to complete it. 

Your more specific goal could be “I want to incorporate healthy activities into my everyday lifestyle so that I can run a marathon and boost my overall happiness about my body.” That’s much more specific, and it gives you a motivation statement to look back on when you need a little pick-me-up. 

M - Measurable

If you don’t make your goals measurable, then there’s no way to know if you have reached it. It’s like running a race with no specified distance and no way to tell how far you’ve already gone, which is incredibly discouraging. If your goal is to recycle more than you throw away, then find a way to measure it. For example, you could say that you want to fill up the recycling bin three times a week and the trash bin only once. That way, you can measure and keep track of where you are in your goals and where you might need to improve. 

If your goal is to hydrate more each day, then don’t make your goal be to “drink more.” That’s hard to keep track of, since there isn’t a number to follow, and it’s also hard to stay accountable to it. Make your goal more specific by saying “drink 2 liters of water per day” instead of just “drink more.”

A - Achievable

Nosce te ipsum, as the ancients say: “know thyself.” The phrase has been floating around the world since ancient times, so it’s obviously good advice. In the context of goal-setting, it’s imperative to know yourself and your limits, otherwise your goals will not come to fruition. 

You need to know whether you can achieve your goals before you set them, otherwise you will fail and become discouraged. Perhaps you decide that you want to donate $1,000 to The Ocean Cleanup and their efforts to clean the ocean. That’s a great goal, but you need to know: 1) how you can accomplish such a goal, and 2) whether you have the means to do it. Be realistic when setting your goals, otherwise they will not succeed. 

If your goals depend on someone else, such as “convince my mother to buy solar panels for her outdoor pool,” then that’s a whole other ballgame. Your goal’s achievement depends on someone else, which you have no control over. Make your goals realistic and achievable, and know yourself enough to be honest about what you want to accomplish.

R - Relevant

Your goals will not take precedence if they don’t align with your life. Maybe your resolution is to travel to five different countries this year. However, if you have a newborn, a new super-awesome luxury apartment to furnish and some extensive job training on the horizon, your travel goals may not fit in with your other life goals. Your lifestyle should be full of goals that support each other, otherwise you will feel as though you’re being pulled in a hundred directions. 

Ask yourself these questions: 

  • Is the time right to set this goal?
  • Do I (or my family/partner) have goals that conflict with this one?
  • Is it worth it?

If you answered yes, then go ahead! If you realized that your goal conflicts with another, then maybe it’s time to reevaluate.

T - Time-bound

You need to have a deadline for your goal. Let’s face it, we all love to make grand goals and then leave them in the corner of our mind to gather cobwebs. I bought a shelf when I first moved into my apartment, and I had it sitting on the ground for three months before I finally took the 10 minutes to put it up. 

It happens to all of us. Don’t worry.

Your goals should have a final deadline and multiple “check-in” deadlines along the way to keep you on track. If you don’t, then achieving your goals will be much harder, or even impossible. Procrastination is not your friend anymore, and setting time goals will make your life so much easier in the long run, too. 

Close up of an alarm clock showing the time 2:

Practice Keeping Your New Year's Resolutions

Let’s try out the SMART method and set up a simple eco-friendly goal for 2020. 

Specific: “I want to stop using plastic straws completely so that I reduce my own use of plastic.”

Measurable: The number of plastic straws you will use this next year is measurable: it’s zero. If you want to know some more numbers, it might be interesting to know that the U.S. uses 500 million straws every day.

Achievable: Know yourself. If you use a straw in a beverage multiple times per day, then you need to realize how much extra attention you will have to pay to your actions in order to keep your goal. Can you do it? The answer, of course, is yes (we believe in you).

You also know that there are other options for straws, such as stainless steel straws and bamboo straws, so your goal isn’t unrealistic at all.

Relevant: Does this goal match your other goals? Your other goal is to use paper bags instead of plastic, so it seems like your ambitions are aligned well! Go you!

Time-bound: Your goal is to not use straws for a year. That’s a pretty easy date to set. For more reminders to keep you on track, write reminders on a sticky note and place it on your bathroom mirror so that you see it every time you brush your teeth or comb your hair. Set a daily reminder on your phone or try out one of Buzzfeed’s fun ways to remind yourself to do stuff. Also, check out these apps that make goal-setting and goal-achieving so much easier.

So there you go! That’s an easy goal that makes a big difference and is one hundred percent achievable. 

Asparagus, avocado, tomato and garlic on a wooden table

Here are some more New Year’s resolutions to make 2020 the greenest year yet!

  1. Use reusable shopping bags and ditch plastic and paper bags for good!
  2. Switch to using natural cosmetics that don’t harm you or the environment.
  3. Start composting! It’s a great way to return nutrients to the planet and keep rotten veggies from producing methane in landfills.
  4. Switch up your transportation methods. Can you take a bus to work or ride a bike to the store? Find out how to make the transition to a more eco-friendly option here..
  5. Get rid of all toxic cleaning chemicals in your home and switch to these ultra-easy eco-friendly cleaning supplies.
  6. Go vegan. According to researchers at the University of Oxford, the biggest way to reduce your environmental impact is to avoid meat and dairy, as those industries use massive amounts of water, land and resources. If veganism is not for you (know thyself), then check out our guide for sustainable eating to still make a positive impact on the planet!

We believe in your ability to set and keep these goals for 2020. Not only will you be proud of whatever you accomplish, but hopefully the planet will be better off because of it, too.

Good luck, and happy New Year!

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Featured photo courtesy Pixabay/geralt

Second photo courtesy Pixabay/gabrielle_cc

Third photo courtesy Pixabay/Free-Photos

Fourth photo courtesy Pixabay/JillWellington

Author of Article

Colleen Ford is a South African who now lives in Spokane, Washington. She loves to travel, camp (in warm weather) and bake.

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