I used to think resolutions were absolutely useless. If you want to start a habit, start today, don’t wait for the calendar to change. Now, I’ve softened that stance because I’ve realized a few things about New Year’s Resolutions, including what makes this one of a handful of good times to establish new habits. In this episode, we’ll discuss why and how to establish some resolutions that you can actually stick to (if you even want to at all!). Ones that don’t involve trying to become a whole new person in 3 weeks and then crashing.
In this episode, I mention my Strong As A Mother: Live program, which is starting a new phase this week, making it a great time to apply for the program. Head to kellybryantwellness.com/strong-as-a-mother-live/ to learn more!
Welcome back to the not your mama podcast, this is your host Kelly Bryant. And this week we are talking about new year’s resolutions. Now, I may have a little bit of a different take on new year’s resolutions than you are used to hearing from a lot of coaches and trainers. And that’s I think with good reason.
So, there’s a lot of pushback against resolutions and that’s largely, I think because a lot of us coaches see people come into the new year, like, I’m going to change everything about myself. And inevitably we see that we can’t become a new person overnight. And so, you know, people, if it’s, for example, like weight loss or eating differently, people go so hard, so fast, that they, revert right back to their old habits and actually end up in a worse position than they started.
And so there’s been this sort of reaction, at least among the coaches who I know of saying, you know, there’s nothing special about the new year. You don’t need to do anything different, you know, don’t make resolutions, all of that. And I’ve been part of that, you know, vocal group myself as well. But, you know, I’ve looked at some research, seen some other experts talk about it, and I’ve kind of revised my position a little bit because the idea that there’s nothing special about January 1st isn’t exactly true.
While, yes, you can start a new habit any time. As humans, we like what are called temporal landmarks. Points in time that make it easier for us to say that’s who I used to be, and this is who I am now. When we are creating behavior change, there’s a lot of cognitive dissonance. We are acting in ways that are different than we always have, and it’s very difficult for our brain to reconcile. So it can actually be really helpful to have a temporal landmark where we can say actually, who I am now is different than who I was before.
And that means that I make different choices. I follow different behaviors. So, temporal landmarks are not a bad thing. We actually can use them. Harness them. In our favor, the first of the year is not the only one by any means, right? Monday. Every Monday is a temporal landmark. We often, you know, think like this is the week I’m going to behave differently.
Changes in season first of the month, maybe for you it’s your birthday. Right? So when, when we have that, like those external factors that allow us to feel like, okay, like I can be different after this point in time, it actually makes it a lot easier to behave differently. So all that to say, if you don’t want to make new year’s resolutions, no problem. Like you do not need to change just because it’s the first of the year. But if you’re feeling that sort of calling to want to create some new behaviors or maybe change some behaviors from the past, it’s very normal to feel that way at the beginning of a new year. And we can take that. Temporal landmark and take advantage of it. So I want to talk about how we do that, and I’m going to share my own goals for 2023, as an example, as a sort of roadmap for how you might build yours.
So the way that I like to start is with a little bit of reflection and creating for myself, an intention or a word for the year. So a word of the year is like a very common, a newer version of a resolution. So rather than saying, like, I’m gonna lose 20 pounds and I’m going to stop smoking and I’m going to work out five days a week, and whatever else people might set as very common, new year’s resolutions.
A word for the year is a little bit of like a looser guideline that allows you to say, when faced with the decision, this is the guiding principle that I’m going to decide based on. And I like for that word to be not drastically different than how I’ve behaved in the past. A fine tuning, if you will, of my previous identity and my previous priorities. So I would never, you know, like go into the new year and be like, my 2 023 word is power. Like that’s not me. It’s not who I am. I don’t think anybody really goes into the new year is like power, but it’s best example I’ve got right now. I’m not trying to become a brand new person. I’m trying to take who I’ve been and tweak. Right. Notice the things that have been maybe off for me. That’s the case. My 2023 word is routine.
And that word comes from the fact that I’ve just had a year of being pregnant, having a baby and having an infant. And so routine is out the window. I’ve had routines in the past. And so this isn’t like a oh new year, new me. I’m going to be a different person. It’s just, Hey, it would feel really good to get back to having more of a solid routine.
And that feels really good to me. So, you can choose any kind of word that you like. A couple others that are considered were rest and recreate my word for last year for obvious reasons based on where I am in life was calm. Everything. Every time I was faced with a decision I focused on how do I choose the thing that allows me to be more calm. And a mantra that I had around that was let it be easy. Let it be easy. So this year it’s routine. So take a second. If you want to do this with me, take a second and choose your word. And I encourage, you know, there’s lots of ways that you can reflect on this. I actually shared with my email newsletter a a list of nine journal prompts for the new year. If you feel like you would really like to see those prompts, shoot me a message on Instagram or my business page on Facebook. And I will send those right over to you. And of course sign up for the email newsletter so you can get all of the future things that I send out.
But now that you’ve got a routine, every time you’re faced with a decision you have that guiding principle that says is this in service of the idea of, for me, routine. So an example is there’s a conference that’s in Texas in February. So right around my, my son’s first birthday and I really wanted to go.
Looking at it, the speakers are really great. Like I love travel. So just the idea of being able to get away. And I looked at all of the things it would take in my life to facilitate me going. Not that it’s not possible. I very supportive family. So we would’ve figured it out. Right. We would have figured out how to have someone watching my son. I would have pumped like Bob.
It would’ve been very complicated though, and it would not have been routine. So I stepped back and said, would this conference be great? Yes. In a different year. Do I want to go? Yes. This year, that is not in service of my bigger picture goals and the person who I want to be this year. So, no, it’s a no for me.
So given that larger intention, you can start to think about all the ways that might show up in your life. Yes, obviously you can use that intention to make specific concrete decisions, but as it pertains to setting goals or quote unquote resolutions for the new year, We want to ideate a little bit on what are the ways that routine in my case, or maybe it’s creativity or maybe it’s rest, whatever show up in your life. What aspects of your life do they show up in?
So for example, I know that I would love to have a more regular and predictable exercise routine. I do work out. Fairly frequently, but it’s very random when I can get it in and so forth. And I’ve shared before that that’s actually an adherence tactic for me. But going into this new year, I want that exercise routine to be more routine.
So that’s one another is I want routines around cleaning and laundry things around my house. I keep my house running. I want more of those routines. I want self care routines. So, you know, times that I can do things by myself, time away from the kids times that I can. I meet up with my friends times that I can have regular date nights with my husband. So that’s a type of routine, a big one is that I want to travel more regularly. So setting up a routine of a quarterly weekend getaway is one version of routine.
So routine and whatever word you choose can be very broad. And we want to get a little bit more discreet about how it might show up in your life. We’re not going to change every aspect of your life is at once. Right? So if I said, okay, January 1st, I’m going to start this new cleaning routine around the house.
I’m going to work out at XYZ time. You know, all of these things that we’re going to be different about myself, by the way, this is, this is my toxic trait, is that I’m like, I can do all the things at once. So we don’t want to do that. Choose one aspect of your life that you want to play with.
So, what I decided is for me, it’s going to be my work routine, my work hours, the way that I, I don’t want to say conduct myself at work for sure. The way that I conduct myself, you know, when I come to sit down at this desk, the routines that show up there. And that one aspect of the reason I chose that is that I know in my own experience, when those routines get out of sync, the dominoes cascade, right.
Would I really like for my house to be more immaculate more regularly? Yes. I would love for that routine to be the first thing I tweak. However, I know that if my house is more clean, that’s not going to affect any of those other behaviors. So I want to choose the most impactful thing right now. And I know that my routines around work are the most impactful for all of the other routines that I want to adjust down the line.
I also know that, for me, they’re not the hardest, they’re challenging, but they are doable. I can change that. So, if you’re doing this along with me, you’ve got a word. You’ve then chosen, you know, you’ve looked at all the different aspects, all the different ways that that word shows up in your life. And you’ve chosen one that you’re going to focus on for the first month. And maybe for you, you need a quarter or you need six weeks, whatever. It doesn’t matter. Choose a frame, a timeframe.
You’ve chosen that aspect. And then this is where we actually get down to like resolutions or writing down goals, writing down actual things that we were going to change and do differently. And this is where we tend to get messed up. We go straight to what are all the things I’m going to change instead of looking first at.
What are my guiding principles? What are my values, so that I can make sure that each of the things that I’m changing is actually meaningful. For who I want to be in this coming year. So I’ll share what mine are for accountability. Mine are, I will get ready for bed at 9:00 PM and be in bed by nine 30 so that I can get up at 6:00 AM five days a week.
So far we’re one work week into the year. I’ve been successful with that. But that is a, that is a huge impact. Huge impact. And it’s not. Quote, unquote hard in the sense of like, you know, going and doing a workout is hard. Not spending more time on my phone is a challenging behavior to change, but it’s not actually a hard thing to do if that makes sense.
So that’s one big one. The other one is I will either work out before 7:00 AM or else I will not work out. Now. This is important to me that I have that flexibility built in. I want to work out more regularly. I want that to be part of my routine. But I also recognize that I still have a 10 month old baby who is not fully sleep trained. It’s a story for another day.
So, I’m not going to wake up every single morning at 6:00 AM and be ready to, you know, hit the gym. I want to wake up at 6:00 AM. And if I feel tired, take a morning to putter around, drink my coffee and walk the dog. Right. I don’t have to do a workout five days a week. My, my workout program is actually built so that I do four, just like I do in strong as a mother, which is my, my.
Postpartum my, my more advanced postpartum training program is strong as a mother live. So I like four days a week. That gives me just enough flexibility that I have to work out regularly, but I don’t have to work out every single day. And I have that flexibility that I can do whatever in the morning is actually appropriate for where I’m at for how much I’ve slept and so forth. So I’ll work out before 7:00 AM or else I won’t. And what that allows me to do is it says the rest of my day, where normally I might be like, oh, I really want to get this workout done today. I’ll push it back to noon. I’ll push back to two, I’ll push it back to four. I’ll push it back to six. Right. And that just creates all of this kind of chaos in my day of like, when am I going to do this? And what other things are gonna change?
So, that’s the intention. There is like, I’ll do it by seven. If I don’t do it by seven, I’m not going to let the rest of my day get discombobulated. Next thing I will be at my desk. Eight to five, Monday to Friday, unless I finished all of my work. That is a big one. I personally, and this is where it comes down to knowing yourself. I know myself and that for me.
I’m very good at telling myself you deserve a break. You earned a break or you’ll get this done later, or it’s not going to take as long as you think, just take an extra 15 minutes or you really need this nap in order to finish everything else you’ve got going on. This is an experiment. I don’t fully know how this is going to go. I know how the first week of the month went, but in order to feel like I really know where I’m starting from. I wanted to create this, these constraints around my time. So that I could create routine and therefore iterate on that routine. It’s very hard to iterate when you don’t really know where you’re starting from. And then the last thing is I’ll check my work messages for the last time each day, immediately after the kids go to bed. And then I’m off my phone, the rest of the day.
That’s like I said before. This list of things is not hard in the sense of like actually being a lot of effort to do the things. But the behavior changes are challenging. I think it’s really important that we make sure that if we are changing behavior, We’re not changing behavior with something that’s also going to be a lot of effort.
We do have a limited amount of energy that we can put out on any given day. So if I’m going to say, oh, I’m going to wake up at 6:00 AM every single day. I’m going to go to the gym for an hour. I’m going to do this particular workout program. That’s five days a week, and then I’m going to eat you know, Egg white omelet. And then, you know, like all of these things that actually individually require a lot of effort. I’m much less likely to be successful. So I hope that that helps you sort of frame. How might I look at the actual behaviors that I need to adjust to drive. This kind of overarching theme that I have for this month or this quarter, or this six week period. Some things I want to really highlight here. One, there are four behaviors here. Two is enough. One is enough. Three is enough. Four is really like maxed out. And the only reason I chose four is because they are very connected to one another, right? Like get up at 6:00 AM and then work out by 7:00 AM or don’t work out. Those are fairly connected to one another. So they, they build on one another. There’s not four completely distinct things. If you’re choosing like very separate behaviors I would say two to three behaviors, max. You do not want to be adjusting behaviors at every single point of of your day, mine are very stacked and that’s behavior. Stacking is a thing that you can utilize. So if you already have one behavior anchored, you can stack other behaviors on, and that makes it a lot easier to be successful.
The other thing I want to point out. Is that. Each of these behaviors is phrased as an actual distinct. Decision, an actual distinct thing that I can do. Every single day. It is very clear. Am I doing this or am I not doing this? Right. So. Eat healthy. Work out more. Those are not good resolutions because they do not. They’re not asking are you successful or not. It’s very hard to tell if you were being successful.
Within the actual behavior. So each one of these, I can say, check the box. Yes or no. Did I do that? It’s very clear, very succinct, and it’s very. Micro. Right? So it’s, what is the actual behavior that I need to do this day in this moment? Very clear. So. That’s not where we stop. We don’t just say like, cool. These are new behaviors I’m going to do. It has all, there’s a last step that’s really important, and that is that you choose a set amount of time that you’re going to follow these new behaviors and then assess how it’s going.
So for me, that’s the month of January. I’m going to take the whole month of January and I’m going to be committed to these things. I’m going to touch on what that means in a moment, but I’m going to commit to these behaviors. I’m not going to change the goals. I’m not going to increase or decrease them. These are my behaviors for January and at the end of the month, I’m going to go through and say, Are these doable? And do they drive the change that I want? And then you get to actually adjust them. This is really important that we don’t just blindly continue following these cycles. I mean, they’re arbitrary, right? Essentially. You’re just making your best guess. You’re throwing a dart at the wall and saying like, I think that this is going to be possible for me to do and drive the change that I want, but we don’t know for sure. So to blindly follow that as what we call all or nothing thinking. You don’t have to follow it no matter what you can say. Okay. It’s been a month. I now have learned some things. I’ve got all these data points coming in and I can see that maybe this doesn’t drive the change that I thought it would drive. Right.
I’m going to bed at night and I’m getting up at six and still not being super effective within my Workday. So let’s forget that rule or, you know, I’m, I’m getting off my phone at the end of the Workday, but I’m still finding that I want to stay up really late. So that, that behavior doesn’t really matter.
You can also say actually that was too easy, right? Like. I actually could, you know, Make this more challenging for myself and in some way or easier, right? So you can change either the, the actual behavior, because it’s not driving the change. You thought it would drive where you can say. I’m not there yet. This is too hard for where I am right now.
That’s okay. I’m going to take an easier version of it so that I can be successful. I can start to see change and then maybe in a month, I’ll increase the intensity again. So. You take those behaviors, you assess how they’re doing. You adjust as needed. You can drop them. You can add them, you can adjust them.
All good. Once you’ve got the succinct set of behaviors. It’s important that we recognize the goal is not to be perfect. So just because there were three days in the month that you messed up does not mean that that goal is not possible and not worthy. And you should just throw it out. It also doesn’t mean that if you screw up, once you get rid of it, you stop doing it completely on the spot. No, you actually want to screw up early and often so that you can practice how you talk to yourself and how you continue on the next day. So we want to make sure that you’re getting some exposure to discomfort. You’re getting some practice, some reps on how you talk to yourself and how you act when you do fail, because we all inevitably fail eventually. So don’t worry about getting some perfect streak and, you know, making sure that you, you continue every single day because you, you have to like hold onto it with this white knuckle death grip that if you screw up once, then it’s all wasted because we know that’s not true.
We know that if you do it, Four days out of five, you’re still doing way better than you did before. Right? You’re doing it four times more than you maybe would have before. So it’s important that we don’t have that all or nothing thinking it’s important that you give yourself grace to screw up and you know that you’re going to come back and do it the next day. Anyway, you’re going to try again the next day. That’s why we set this like one month or six weeks or whatever you want. This ex expectation of this is how long I’m going to try before I say this is too hard, or this isn’t the, the choice that I need to make. So that is kind of the last step is making sure that you’re okay with messing up. You’re prepared to mess up. You have this failure tolerance built-in, this failure expectation that you know, you’re not going to be perfect and you’re going to do it the next day again.
Anyway. I will tell you I have screwed up in the first, the first week I worked late several days in the first week of the month. I’m going to try to do better the next week. It is what it is. That’s okay. I’m learning, I’m learning things about myself and that’s all this is about, of course you do this for a month, then you say, okay, it’s been a month.
I love these behaviors. I really like all of these things. They feel automatic. Or it feels like it’s still taking a lot of work and those behaviors aren’t ingrained yet. And then you decide, okay, I’m going to give it another month. I’m gonna take all of February to keep practicing until it is automatic. When it’s automatic, then you go back to your list of different aspects of your life and decide, okay, I’ve got this system worked out, I’m following XYZ, perfectly.
I’m going to add on this other component and start to change another behavior. If you do this, if you iterate on your behaviors in this way for an entire year, you will not recognize who you are at the other end of the year. And I can’t wait to come back and reflect with you guys. At the end of this year.
Thanks for joining me.