Checking in With Old Goals for the New Year

It’s time to make those New Year's resolutions. But before you start scribbling a list to stick to the fridge, I thought it would be a good idea to check in on last year’s goals. I’ve chosen eight of the most popular that you’ve inevitably broken by now to offer my advice on how to give it another go in 2013 — and actually follow through. Good luck, and Happy New Year! (See also: 4 Tips for Making Resolutions Stick in the New Year)

1. Eat Healthier

We all want to eat healthier, but it can be almost impossible if you don’t have a plan. Rising food costs can be prohibitive, for sure, but I find that it’s mostly my own busy-ness (and laziness, at times) that contributes to my poor eating habits.

In order to stick to a regime of healthy food consumption more often than not, I started creating a monthly meal calendar using recipes I found online or in magazines. For each day of the workweek, I listed a main course and one or two healthy side dishes. I left the weekends open just in case a weeknight meal was skipped due to an event or other obligation that popped up, and I included one maybe-not-so-good-for-me meal on the list as a reward for sticking to the plan. With this new outlook on healthy eating, I find myself not only making better-for-my-body meals, but I often have healthy leftovers for lunch, and I’m saving more money with a rigid grocery list of ingredients than I did without the plan in place. I definitely plan to keep this in place in the New Year, and I encourage you to try this out as well.

2. Quit Smoking

This has been my resolution for many years — and it will be one of my resolutions again in 2013. In my defense, I’m getting closer to completely kicking the habit, I think, because I’ve decided to enlist the help of smoking cessation aids like an e-cig and medication. I certainly don’t want to replace one habit with another, but if these devices can assist my efforts to quit, I’m all for it.

If you’re in the same position, don’t beat yourself up about it. You’ll quit when you’re ready, but there’s no harm in trying again on Jan. 1. To get ready, mark your calendar with the date you plan to quit so you can mentally prepare. When that day comes, use whatever you need to use to stay away from the cigarettes — whether it’s a doctor-prescribed medicine, an electronic cigarette, or a support group (or maybe all three). You’ll get there soon enough — just stick with the program.

3. Workout More

One of the ways I was able to stay on track with a workout routine was to shake it up. Early last year, I canceled my gym membership and started buying one- to three-month short-term memberships to local gyms via daily-deal services like Groupon and LivingSocial. It worked. I went to the gym much more often than the previous year, in part because of the urgency of the deals (they expire, after all) and because of the constant change of scenery. The other plus side to my new way of working out is that I save about $40 a month on the short-term memberships than I did paying for the membership for which I was being billed every month.

4. Drink Less

What can I say? I love my vices. It seems that many of us do, in fact, since this is a perennial resolution. I still drink, but I did cut my drinking down in 2012 by limiting the situations that focused on drinking (fewer parties and after-work happy hours) and adding more active-living activities (more time in the gym, concentrating on projects, or cooking and baking) to reduce my desire and available time to pop into my neighborhood watering hole. I also refrained from bringing booze into the house on a regular basis, only picking up wine or beer for a special occasion. Even though I cut back this year, I’d like to cut back a little more next year, perhaps setting a goal of only one bottle of wine per week. Fingers crossed.

5. Get Out of Debt/Save Money

Unless money is not a concern of yours, paying down your debt and boosting your savings is probably on your list of resolutions. But to complete a goal, you have to make an achievable one opposed to a lofty one built on a board concept. For instance, my goal this year is to put $500 a month into savings. After I pay all my normal living expenses, this won’t always be easy — which means that I’ll have to cut back in some areas — but it’s achievable given my personal income and budget. The trick that I’m employing here is in assigning a real number to what I’d like to save per month. Just saying that I want to “save money” makes the goal vulnerable to being broken. Rather, I’ll have this number in my head every month so I’m more apt to hold myself accountable — if only so I don’t make myself feel guilty for unnecessarily failing because I didn’t try hard enough.

6. Learn Something New

This is one of the easiest resolutions you can make — and it’s totally easy to keep, too — you have all year to accomplish it after all. My goal in this area isn’t really learning something new but rather being better at something I already know — speaking Spanish. I studied the language for 11 years (it was my minor in college), and I’m decent at it, but I’m nowhere near the fluent speaker I’d like to be. In 2013, I plan to pick up language learning software and brush up on my skills. Perhaps I’ll even reward myself at the end of next year with a trip to a Spanish-speaking country. Now that’s incentive!

7. Spend More Time With Family

Another easy resolution, I think, if you can put an achievable plan in place. First, however, think about why you feel like you’re not spending enough time with your family. Are there obstacles in the way? Are you working too much? Are they too far away? Focus on fixing those problems first, then put a plan in place — say, allotting one Saturday per month to giving your family your undivided attention or participating in an outside activity with them.

8. Enjoy Life More

To achieve any of your new goals, it’s important that you’re happy with the quality of your life; if there are issues and obstacles preventing you from being happy, work toward removing or remedying these situations. When the worry and frustration is removed, you’ll find that you’ll have an easier time enjoying life. Of course, that may mean concentrating harder on the other resolutions on your list and seeing them through, but nobody said it would be easy.

What were some of your resolutions for 2012? Were they a success? How did you achieve them? If you didn’t meet your goals, why do you think you failed and how will you approach your new resolutions in 2013? Let me know in the comments below.

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