Start Small and Prioritize: Resolutions You Really Can Keep


January 12, 2021

40-60% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions but only 8-9% keep them. One psychologist claims that self-discipline is the reason people don’t keep their resolutions. Self-discipline is not usually the reason for family caregivers.

Fatigue, anxiety and depression, time management, financial strain, and for some, work/life balance, result in so many conflicting priorities that family caregivers are overwhelmed.

As a caregiver for a loved one, you may be tempted to not make resolutions this year. After all, why add more to your already substantial to-do list, including more guilt if you do not follow through with them?

Achieving a few realistic New Year’s resolutions can become better habits all year. From the list below, prioritize what you need. Even if you only manage one or two, you can reduce the chronic stress and proven health risks of caregiving. Achieving some success might help you be a better caregiver as well as a happier person.

New Year’s Resolutions You Can Really Achieve

  1. Think small
    “People often set goals that are too big and get frustrated with the slow progress and then give up,” says Jennice Vilhauer, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University. She says it’s important to have a “big picture goal,” but to reach it, you need to set small goals along the way. “Progress is what you should be after, not a big win,” says Johnnie L. Perry, a personal trainer in Atlanta, who works with a lot of clients who set fitness resolutions. “Before you say you’ll go to the gym five times a week, go once a week. If you want to lose 25 pounds, start with losing the first pound.” Celebrate those little wins, Vilhauer says. “Reward yourself or give yourself a pat on the back and recognize it as an important achievement toward your bigger goals.”
  2. Be specific
    Sweeping resolutions don’t cut it. Vilhauer suggests doing some research to find out exactly what you’ll need to do to reach a goal. So, let’s say your resolution is to “Save enough money to go to Italy.” Figure out how much the trip will cost and how much you’ll need to save per week to pay for the trip. Then decide what you will need to cut from your budget to make room for the Italy fund. You’ll end up with a goal like “Take lunch to work one day a week and save the $20 I didn’t spend in a restaurant to pay for a trip to Italy.”
  3. Be realistic
    If walking your dog around the block a couple of nights a week is all the exercise you get, don’t resolve to run a half-marathon in July. Can you really get in good enough shape in six months to run 13 miles? Ask a trainer or a pal who’s a long distance runner. You may find that a 2K race is a better goal. And if you really, really hate running, don’t set a goal to run a race. “Pick a resolution you truly want for yourself,” Vilhauer says. “Trying to force yourself to do something you really don’t want to do almost always leads to failure.”
  4. Have a plan for dealing with obstacles
    Think about what might keep you from making your goal and figure out how to get around it, Vilhauer says. “The biggest obstacle is always the status quo,” she says. If your resolution is to go to the gym after work, but your habit has been to come home and crash on the sofa in front of the TV, you need a way to avoid the pull of your old routine. Take your workout clothes to the office and go straight to the gym, Vilhauer says, avoiding the temptation of that comfy couch. So, get to the gym, skip the sugary lattes and watch only two episodes at a time of The Crown. Reward yourself for that small step toward a big goal. Then do it again tomorrow. And the next day. And the next day.

Examples of HOW to achieve your New Year’s resolutions that could last all year

  • Read more.
    • Better: Read 40 pages of a book, three nights a week.
  • Eat healthier.
    • Better: Add one serving of vegetables to one meal a day.
  • Get more exercise.
    • Better: Take the stairs to the office instead of the elevator. Or walk one mile, three times a week, after work.
  • Lose 20 pounds.
    • Better: Lose 1 pound a week. Or make the goal even more micro and say you’re going to lose .14 pounds a day.
  • Save more money.
    • Better: Increase your 401(k) contribution by 2 percent.
  • Spend less time on Facebook.
    • Better: Spend no more than 30 minutes a day on Facebook.
  • Stop spending hours binge-watching shows.
    • Better: Watch no more than two episodes of your favorite show per week.
  • Spend more time with friends.
    • Better: Invite a friend out for lunch once a week.

Edited by Zanda Hilger, From the AARP article New Year’s Resolutions You’ll Actually Be Able to Keep

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