With the holidays coming to a close, it’s time to get serious and set some New Year’s resolutions for 2018. Unfortunately, keeping those resolutions is often easier said than done.
In the spirit of setting achievable goals, we asked therapists to weigh in on six of the most common resolutions and grade them on a scale of 1-5 (with 1 being “very attainable” and 5 being “very difficult”). See what they had to say below.
“Losing weight requires a fairly good understanding of nutrition and calorie intake. It also requires, rather uncomfortably, changing your diet and exercise ― two of your three most basic behavioral patterns (the other being sleep) ― and then maintaining those changes indefinitely. Before I was a psychologist, I worked as a personal trainer: You have to have structured goals and set attainable goal posts. Without structured goals, it’s my experience that people do well for two or three months, lose some weight, but then revert back to their previous lifestyle and gain the weight back throughout the year. Grade: 3/5.”—Ryan Kelly, a psychologist in Charlotte, North Carolina
“This is very achievable if you start small. Most people want to go from not taking any action to immediate results, which is unrealistic. Good habits are best built upon one another in small, easily achievable steps. If you want to get more organized, choose one tiny organizational skill you can do for five minutes a day until you’ve mastered it. For example, make it a goal to pick up your clothes from the floor each night before bed. It can be as simple as that. Grade: 1/5.”―Amanda Stemen, a therapist in Los Angeles, California
“Setting boundaries with others means understanding how to change patterns of people-pleasing. People often learn to say ‘yes’ when they’d rather not do something because in our culture, we’re rewarded for taking direction well in family and in work. Luckily, the pendulum is swinging where people are learning to practice taking care of their own needs. I recommend trusting your intuition when something feels right to you, and learning to stay grounded in your experience while still responding to the needs of others. If you’re bogged down at work before a vacation, say: ‘I hear that you need this work done by the deadline, but I also have time off scheduled and I’ll only get the most urgent things ready for the client before then. When I’m back, I’ll finish it.’ Grade: 3/5.”―Kari Carroll, a marriage and family therapist in Portland, Oregon
“Traveling is super easy to experience, and you don’t need a fancy trip to Indonesia like your friends on Instagram to escape the pressures of life and enjoy nature. Get creative and pay attention when others you know take excursions around your area. You can easily take day trips on the cheap to check out nearby towns, hikes, lakes, a resort pool or an obscure museum. Sometimes getting in the car and driving until you find something cool can be an adventure in and of itself. Grade: 1/5.”―Carroll
“Post-holidays, you may have had more than enough of some people in your life. But if we’re not intentional about getting together, it will only happen when forced upon us by holidays or others. This one is very doable with some planning and intentionality to follow through. Get started by picking one person a month to reach out to, then be the one who initiates and plans the get together. Grade: 2/5.”―Kurt Smith, a therapist who specializes in counseling for men
“As long as you’re not a perfectionist about this one, it’s achievable. I would phrase the goal as ‘time spent on a new hobby’ so it doesn’t feel like you haven’t made progress when you’ve practice tennis an hour a week and still miss the ball half the time months into it. I also think that trying new hobbies and skills is good because you may learn that you don’t actually enjoy the thing you thought you would. In that case, it’s better to switch and move onto something else. Grade: 3/5.”―Marie Land, a psychologist in Washington, D.C.