So, the elves have returned to Santa in the North Pole, the decorations are still up, but at this point they are taunting me because it is time to return to real life and get out of holiday mode, and I’m afraid to stand on the scale because my workout and healthy eating regime has been on vacation for a bit too long. Sound familiar? It’s the post-holiday blahs. It doesn’t help that it is also freezing out because winter decided to arrive after all.

The New Year’s Resolution is a way that many people combat post-holiday blahs. It’s a way to look at things with a fresh perspective, set goals, get inspired, or maybe it’s just a way to set yourself up for failure. I’m not a fan of the New Year’s Resolution because by February I feel like I need a do over. Like many of you, though, it does seem like a good time to set a goal, it’s the sticking to it that I need to work on. Take the gym for instance: In January memberships are up, classes are full, the locker room is overflowing, and the determination in the weight room is palpable, by March, not so much. So, how are your resolutions going to be different? For me it helps to call them goals and not resolutions. I’m not sure why the pressure of a resolution seems greater to me, but it does. Goals are something that I think people should always have. Big goals, small goals, even a daily goal can be helpful.

Whatever it is that you are trying to accomplish, it’s important to look at it as a marathon and not a sprint. Expect that you will have setbacks, but don’t beat yourself up for them. Determination is not perfect every day; however, it’s the overall progress that you need to keep in mind. It helps me to write things down. If you really want something, write it down and keep it somewhere visible. I’ve known people to tape goals to their bathroom mirror or their fridge. It’s important to remind yourself of this very important goal even when you get off track, if it is in fact, important.

Some people use the SMART goal acronym, meaning set a goal that is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Many of you have probably heard of SMART goals. If this helps you think of how to set a goal, then by all means use it, but goals are really about searching within yourself for what you actually want, and what you are actually willing to do to get it.

I’m a list maker. When I feel disorganized, or off track, I write things down. I might write down a SMART goal and also make a list of things I need to do to get closer to the goal. But then I make a to do list and put dates by everything. These lists usually represent a day or a week, but not much longer than that. Being honest with yourself is probably the most important thing to do. For example, it’s great to say that I want to lose ten pounds, but if I’m not prepared to really examine my diet, it becomes more of a dream than a goal. This is where determination and persistence play a role. It’s important to check in with yourself and take an honest look at your actions and whether or not they support progress. All too often we sabotage ourselves because we aren’t really willing to make the necessary changes to achieve our goals. Hey, I never said it was easy.

The way that I steer away from resolutions at New Year’s is to make sure that I always have a goal. Once I accomplish one, I set a new one. While I inevitably fall into slumps where I beat myself up for all of the things I do wrong, I also try to celebrate successes. There are lots of times that we fail to recognize the things that we did right.

This weekend my goal is to get the Christmas decorations off the lawn and into the house. Next week I can organize them and put them away. Baby steps. Figure out a goal that works for you. Maybe the start of the year is a good time to mark change, but you can set a goal, revisit a goal, or abandon a goal at any time. It’s not something you need to feel bad about either. Our needs and desires change, therefore, our goals should also change. Just be honest with yourself and don’t be afraid to celebrate small achievements. I think we spend too much time beating ourselves up for the things we don’t do.

How many of you actually breathed a sigh of relief after your holiday, and thought, wow, I did a great job? I suspect it was more a case of fretting that the gifts weren’t right and the food wasn’t right, and Santa actually misheard what the kids wanted. And before we recover from this kind of holiday stress, we are expected to come up with a life changing New Year’s Resolution. I say don’t do it. Instead, set a goal, a small one at first, a SMART one if that works for you, and then just unleash your determination a little bit at a time. Remember, you are in a marathon, so don’t waste all of your energy sprinting.

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