Setting a New Year’s Resolution You Can Actually Keep

Many people start off the year with a New Year's resolution about changing their drinking behaviors – whether that be cutting back or quitting altogether. Unfortunately, this New Year’s resolution can be notoriously hard to keep after the novelty of a new year fades. But why? Oftentimes, New Year’s resolutions are comprised of broad, sweeping changes expected to happen instantaneously. When it comes to setting long-term resolutions about changing your relationship to alcohol, there’s a lot you can do differently this year to set yourself up for success.

If you take only one thing from the tips below, remember: Simplicity is key.

The key to setting yourself up for a successful resolution is to choose something that you can break down into “mini-goals” that will keep you motivated throughout the year.

Sticking to the principle of “SMART” goals is a great, time-tested way to start. What does “SMART” stand for? Specific. Measurable. Attainable. Realistic. Timely. Here’s what that means in practice:

Specific

There are many types of resolutions you can make, so be sure you’re clear what exactly you’re working towards. Once you identify your resolution, in order to achieve this long-term goal (your resolution) you have to get even more specific about what steps you’re going to take to get there.  

For example, if your resolution is to work toward a healthier relationship to alcohol in 2018, rather than go all-out for “Dry January,” you could start by reducing the number of days you have a drink in a each week.

Measurable  

You’ll need to be able to track your successes in order to know that you’re making progress. Be able to answer the question: Did I achieve my drinking goal, yes or no? If you cannot answer this question, your goal is likely too broad. A goal “to drink less” is tough to measure, but a goal to “drink two less drinks today than I did yesterday” is quantifiable.

Use a personal calendar or journal to track your goals and successes as the year goes on. It will be rewarding to look back on how your relationship to alcohol has changed throughout the year.

Attainable

When setting the mini-goals that ladder up to your overall resolution for 2018, ask yourself: “Is this something I can accomplish?” The most important thing when setting a New Year’s resolution is that you feel highly confident you can achieve it. Starting “small,” or achievable, sets you up for success because it will help you build confidence and keep you moving in the right direction all year long. Think about it this way: small successes add up to big wins.

When deciding on a resolution related to drinking, consider all the things that might get in your way. Whether that’s people, places, or situations, you will want to identify your triggers and barriers and make a plan to overcome them.

Realistic

If you find that you’re not having as much success sticking to your New Year’s resolution as you hoped, rather than give up, adjust your resolution so it is more realistic. That’s perfectly okay! For example, if your New Year’s resolution of giving up wine on weekdays isn’t working out, try cutting back one or two nights a week first. Setting effective goals truly is a continuous process and you have the power to make changes when you need to.  

Timely

Remember – you have a full year ahead of you. Achieving your 2018 New Year’s resolution is a marathon, not a sprint! Making bite-sized goals that are time-bound will help make sure success is within your reach. For example: instead of, “I’m going to do more alcohol-free activities this year,” add some time-bound parameters such as, “I will find two alcohol-free events to attend next month.” That sounds like something you can do, right?

In order to achieve truly lasting change, make sure this year’s resolution passes the SMART test. If it does, you’ll be well on your way to a healthier and happier 2018. And check back in the coming weeks and months for tips from Annum about staying on track with your resolution!

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