3 Small Ways To Make Big Personal Changes in 2018

3 Small Ways To Make Big Personal Changes in 2018

3 Small Ways To Make Big Personal Changes in 2018

Was 2017 a little rough? Are you looking forward to 2018? A lot of people take the time at the end of every year to look back on what they have and have not accomplished and try to set some self-improvement goals for the coming year.

Well, not to cast a pall over your good intentions, but 80% of people will abandon their New Year’s resolutions by February. It’s usually not for lack of interest or lack of effort, either. Instead, it comes down to not knowing how to set attainable goals in the first place and retraining your brain to handle the temporary discomfort of change.

Psychologists say that attainable goal setting is all about self-discipline and changing your patterns of thinking. You essentially have to convince your brain that what you say you’re going to do is not only something you can do but something that you will do.

Because the real challenge is in altering your way of thinking, setting small goals that you can keep is more important than setting big goals. Big goals feel overwhelming. They can also inadvertently reinforce the subconscious idea that you might as well give up — that you’ve aimed for something that’s too high or too hard to reach.

Ultimately, you want to become the best version of you that you can be, not change who you are entirely. With that mind, here are some suggestions for attainable resolutions you can start at any time of the year:

Give Yourself a 30-Day Challenge

Keeping in mind that people generally tolerate discomfort best when they know that it will end, start all your goals out as 30-day challenges. If you can’t adjust past the discomfort of the changes in that period of time, you may be trying to make a change that really isn’t right for you.

What sort of goals can you reach in 30 days?

Try one or two of these:

Wake up earlier.

Several studies have associated waking up early with increased productivity, more “quiet time” for self-reflection, higher organizational skills, and stronger willpower.

Eat breakfast.

If you habitually consider coffee with cream and sugar to be “breakfast,” you’re depriving your brain of essential nutrients, lowering your energy levels throughout the day, and making it harder on yourself to lose weight.

Meditate for 20 minutes before bed.

Meditation has been shown to improve concentration, encourage a healthier lifestyle, reduce stress and even help you age more gracefully. Plus, unlike walking or jogging, the weather doesn’t matter — while one really cold or wet day can totally derail a commitment to take an after-dinner walk.

Give up one unhealthy item.

Notice that we said “item,” not an entire habit. If your ultimate goal is to stop smoking, give up your first smoke break of the day or cut your morning cigarettes down from three to two. Keep at it and you’ll be smoking a dozen fewer cigarettes a day at the end of the year — even if you haven’t totally kicked the habit.

Disconnect from everyone for a little while each day.

Spend a half hour at lunch just holed up in your car instead of the break room or an hour locked in your office at home. These moments of solitude can help you better understand yourself and others. It also increases your ability to concentrate and allows you to be more productive. 

Set Aside One Day a Month For Yourself

You can’t keep going at work if you don’t make time to recharge. Physical and mental rest are essential to keeping a positive work-life balance — but it’s easy to feel like you’re wasting time if you aren’t being productive. You may be working more, but getting less done because you aren’t taking good care of yourself.

Similar to the idea of setting 30-day goals, setting a goal of one “Me Day” per month is easier than promising yourself “me time” every day or even every week. However, this only works if you treat it like you do anything else that’s important:

  • Get out your calendar and schedule your Me Day — in pen (not pencil). That makes it feel more real and gives it importance.
  • Schedule around your Me Day just like you’d schedule around any other pre-existing appointment. You don’t have to tell people why you aren’t available that day, just say you have a prior commitment. If you absolutely have to schedule something over your designated Me Day (it happens), immediately reschedule your Me Day.
  • Disconnect. Your Me Day is bound to flop if you end up on Facebook for hours. Send out a message that you’ll be unavailable that day and you’ll check in with everyone the next.
  • Figure out in advance how you plan to spend your Me Day. Want to spend it lying on the couch reading a book all day and eating delivery for dinner? Perfect! Want to binge-watch Stranger Things on Netflix? We’re not here to judge. In fact, nobody is — so let go of the guilt that’s kept you from enjoying yourself before.

Set Daily Micro-Goals

Micro-goals are small, single tasks that can be easily accomplished in a short period of time. They’re also a way of breaking down big, scary goals into manageable pieces.

One example most people are familiar with is the idea of getting into an exercise routine. If you’re out of shape, having a goal of spending an hour on the treadmill each day is admirable. It’s also probably going to fail if that’s where you start. After that first hour, you may be too stiff and sore to approach the treadmill for a week. Then, the power of negative thinking takes back over and you go back to convincing yourself that the goal is unattainable.

Instead of aiming for an hour, set a goal for five minutes on the treadmill. Once your body adjusts to that five minutes, you can push yourself to ten. Once ten minutes seems easy, go for fifteen. The trick is not to overwhelm yourself so much at the beginning that you give up on the war before the battle is even begun.

There are plenty of worthy micro goals around you:

  • Dust one room
  • Clean out your purse or wallet
  • Purchase the domain name for the blog you want to start
  • Write one page of your novel

The idea is that you’ll get a positive emotional charge from getting some forward momentum going. Over time — those micro-goals will eventually take some of the bigger goals off your list.

The journey toward self-improvement is really never-ending. Sometimes, something will temporarily — or even permanently — put a goal out of reach. If that happens, find a new goal to fill the void. However, always look on the old one an experiment — not a failure.

Maggie Black
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Maggie Black is a freelance writer, biographer, editor and mixed-media artist. She absolutely loves what she does for a living and occasionally gets out of her pajamas (for public appearances only).