We’re creeping ever closer to 2019, which can only mean one thing: It’s New Year’s resolution time. Though most of us start off the new year with the best of intentions — be it to get healthy, put our finances in order, or finally learn how to play the guitar — most of our resolutions end up being massive failures. In fact, a whopping 80 percent of resolutions fail by the second week of February. But, there are ways to make your resolutions work. We’ve rounded up 10 common resolutions people make that may be setting them up for failure — along with the 10 you should be focusing on instead.
Additional reporting by Chris Mohr, Ph.D., R.D.
THE COMMON RESOLUTION: “I’m going to take control of my health.”
THE SMARTER RESOLUTION: “I’m going to make an appointment with my doctor.”
Why it works: Getting your health in fighting shape requires different things for different people: One guy may need to ramp up his physical activity, while quitting smoking might be the smartest step for another guy.
But you need a pro to guide you in the right direction, and nearly 1 in 4 guys haven’t seen a physician in over a year, a report from the National Center for Health Statistics found. Visiting your doctor helps you catch conditions like prediabetes or high blood pressure early on, which can prevent them from turning into bigger issues like diabetes or heart disease. And that’s how you really take control of your health.
An annual checkup is just one hour of time out of your entire year, says Jamin Brahmbhatt, M.D., a men’s health activist and urology surgeon at the PUR Clinic in Orlando. So call your doctor and schedule an appointment.
And no, your busy schedule is no excuse to put it off: Many doctors now offer extended hours in the evenings or on weekends. If yours doesn’t, call around to find a practice that can accommodate you, Dr. Brahmbhatt says. Don’t have a primary care doctor? Here’s how to find the doctor of your dreams.
THE COMMON RESOLUTION: “I’m going to eat healthier.”
THE SMARTER RESOLUTION: “I’m going to have at least two pieces of fruit a day and eat a salad before every dinner.”
Why it works: Picking one or two things to focus on is much more realistic than changing your entire diet—and telling yourself when you’re going to incorporate these changes during your day makes it more attainable, says Gans. Plus, focusing on what you should be eating helps you avoid a restrictive “I can’t eat that” mindset, which often just leads to a junk food binge, she says.
Fruit’s a good choice, since most guys don’t eat enough of it anyway. Plus, having something naturally sweet as a dessert will help eliminate your not-so-healthy sugar cravings over time, says Gans. (All fruit is healthy, but these 10 might just be the healthiest fruits you can add to your diet.) Your diet’s probably lacking vegetables, too, so start every single dinner with a salad. Just hold the creamy dressing, or ask for it on the side, to avoid turning it into a calorie bomb. Vegetables and mixed greens are packed with filling fiber, says Gans, which prevents you from loading up on extra calories during your main meal—ultimately leading to better portion control.
THE COMMON RESOLUTION: “I’m going to work out every day.”
THE SMARTER RESOLUTION: “I’m going to exercise 2 to 3 days a week.”
Why it works: Going from zero to 100 just isn’t realistic, says obesity specialist Spencer Nadolsky, D.O. If fitness isn’t a part of your daily routine, and then you make a pact to hit the gym daily, you’re going to burn yourself out and quit after a month.
The smarter approach? Start hitting the gym a few days a week that actually work with your schedule—say, squeezing in a quick run during lunch, or maybe you hit the gym while your kids are at basketball practice. It’ll make you more likely to commit and stick with your new routine, Dr. Nadolsky says. Once you know you can commit to twice a week, you can gradually bump your days up. For a full 14-day plan that starts you off with the basics, check out where to start when you want to get back in shape.
(Looking for a workout you can do in your own living room? Check out the Anarchy Abs Workout from Men’s Health. It’s designed to help you burn major fat while helping you lean muscle.)
THE COMMON RESOLUTION: “I’m going to lose 20 pounds.”
THE SMARTER RESOLUTION: “I’m going to focus on what I can control, like changing my diet and exercise routine, rather than the number on the scale.”
Why it works: You can’t necessarily control the result, but you can control the behaviors that bring you closer to your weight loss goal, says Dr. Nadolsky. Focus on what you need to do to make it happen. That might mean committing to the gym two or three days a week, and fitting in vegetables and lean protein at every meal, he says.
Having a plan lets you keep closer track of your progress, too. When you hit a weight loss plateau, you can go back and assess the behaviors you’re supposed to be doing. If you realize you’re slacking on them, that’ll explain why you’re struggling to lose weight—what you need to work on to get there, says Dr. Nadolsky. Start with these 7 tiny changes you can make that will help you lose 10 pounds.
THE COMMON RESOLUTION: “I’m going to build muscle.”
THE SMARTER RESOLUTION: “I’m going to eat more protein and strength train 3 times a week.”
Why it works: Hitting the gym regularly isn’t going to make you stronger if all you’re doing is sticking to your cardio routine, says Dr. Nadolsky. You need to pump iron: Exercise creates microtears in your muscles—and the harder your work out, the more tears there will be. When those tears are repaired, your muscles grow bigger and stronger.
But lifting weights alone won’t help you hit your strength goal—you need to make sure you’re eating enough when you’re trying to gain muscle, says Dr. Nadolsky. Focusing on increasing your lean protein intake is a good start.
That’s because protein aids in repairing these tiny tears in your muscles, which helps them recover—and grow bigger—faster. Shoot for 25 to 35 grams of protein four or more times a day, suggests Men’s Health nutrition advisor Alan Aragon, M.S. Aim to eat one of these meals within one to two hours pre- and post- workout if you want to bulk up. If you need a great beginner’s guide on how to make the gains you’re looking for, here is the simplest way to build more muscle.
THE COMMON RESOLUTION: “I will land my dream job.”
THE SMARTER RESOLUTION: “I will expand my professional network.”
Why it works: Opportunities are found through people, says career expert Nicole Williams, the former connection director for LinkedIn and author of Earn What You’re Worth. “Sending your resume out to a black hole job portal won’t get you the job,” she says. “Having someone who can vouch for you will.”
Identify three or four people who are steps ahead of you in their careers and reach out to them, suggests Williams. There’s no one perfect way to do it, but do some research on LinkedIn. You can also tap into your existing network to see if someone is connected to a person at a certain position or organization you are interested in.
Then send them a thoughtful email. Mention you admire their work, and say that they’re doing something you’d like to do, too. Once you’re connected, try to meet up for coffee, says Williams. The best connections and opportunities arise from real relationships, meaning your relationship has to an authentic one if you want to benefit from it.
THE COMMON RESOLUTION: “I will be a better boyfriend/husband.”
THE SMARTER RESOLUTION: “I’m going to make an effort to apologize when I should.”
Why it works: Generalized promises to be better and make your partner happier don’t normally help you achieve the intimacy you’re after, says marriage and family therapist, Paul Hokemeyer, Ph.D.
Instead, you become more intimate with your partner when you deliver your promises through actions—and “apologizing is a concrete action that deepens trust, respect and intimacy,” Hokemeyer says. Plus, apologizing lets your partner know that you see and hear them, which is important for any type of meaningful connection, he says.
Admitting you’re not perfect also shows your vulnerability, which can make your partner feel safe in your relationship. It’s not just about saying “I was wrong,” either. Simply just acknowledging you heard what your partner said and that you understand—or are at least trying to understand—how they feel is a good first step, Hokemeyer says. That shows empathy, which is important because it shows your partner that you actually care and respect them enough to put the energy into your relationship, says Hokemeyer.
THE COMMON RESOLUTION: “I will meet the girl of my dreams this year.”
THE SMARTER RESOLUTION: “I’m going to be more present in social situations.”
Why it works: Focusing on what’s going on in the moment can create more opportunities for connection, says relationships researcher Justin Lavner, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at the University of Georgia.
If you’re in a social environment, put your phone away if you’re using it as a “space-filler.” Doing so can hamper the opportunity to engage with whoever is around you. If you’re on a date, just enjoy the date for what it is. Devote yourself to the person in front of you and the conversation that you’re having, says Lavner.
Once you meet someone new (perhaps at one of the surprising places to meet cool women), avoid immediately thinking about what the future could hold. Just enjoy the fact that you’re having a new conversation with a new person—and if that leads to something great, then so be it. Suddenly, there’s less weight on meeting the “perfect girl,” and more weight on enjoying that moment with another person.
THE COMMON RESOLUTION: “I’m going to save money.”
THE SMARTER RESOLUTION: “I will create and maintain a budget.”
Why it works: Creating and sticking to a budget gives you the tools to help you save more, says Ted Braun, a certified financial planner at Hoover Financial Advisors in Pennsylvania.
“If you make $50K a year, roughly $42k after taxes, and if your total fixed expenses are $2,500 month, you should have $12k in the bank at the end of the year—and if you don’t, you need to evaluate your discretionary spending,” Braun says.
There is no right or wrong way to create a budget, Braun says, but you want to make it as simple as possible so you stick with it. Google around or use a budget worksheet (like this one) or just create your own Excel spreadsheet.
Start with your monthly net income, then subtract your fixed expenses, like car payments. Lastly, subtract your discretionary expenses. Try to use the same credit card all month for all your personal spending, which will make it super easy to track, suggests Braun. At the end of the two months of tracking your purchases, reevaluate your budget to see if you can make any positive changes to your spending habits, like reallocating extra personal spending into an extra $50 savings or cutting back on restaurant meals.
THE COMMON RESOLUTION: “I will be less stressed by my job this year.”
THE SMARTER RESOLUTION: “I will decrease my workload in the office.”
Why it works: Parts of your job will probably always cause you some kind of stress, but eliminating unnecessary stressors of it can play a big role in calming you down, says Jeffrey Nevid, Ph.D., professor of psychology at St. John’s University in New York.
The best way to do this? Meet with your boss to see what can be taken off your plate and delegated to someone else, suggests Nevid. If you’re genuinely overloaded, make a case to your boss that it’s in the company’s best long-term interests to reassess your workload, suggests Alison Green, the career expert behind the blog Ask a Manager.
“In those cases, you can point out what’s not getting done for lack of time, or what’s getting done, but with less care and attention that would be ideal,” she says. Then, you can move on to possibly moving stuff off of your plate entirely. (Here are 6 more ways to beat job stress.)
Just make sure you’re truly swamped and stressed before you do this, Green advises. “If you aren’t really all that overloaded, going to your boss and asking to do less will come across as tone-deaf at best and slacker-ish at worst,” she says. “So you really need to have a good sense of how reasonable your workload is overall.”
Additional reporting by Chris Mohr, Ph.D., R.D.
THE COMMON RESOLUTION: “I’m going to quit smoking.”
THE SMARTER RESOLUTION: “I’m going to make a plan to quit smoking.”
Why it works: According to The Truth Initiative, 70 percent of smokers say they want to quit. but only 7.4 percent actually achieve this resolution each year. And, a study from the United Kingdom’s Royal Society of Public Health found that just 4 percent of those who attempt to quit smoking remain smoke-free one year later. That’s because many smokers attempt to quit without a plan.
“Evidence-based smoking-cessation methods can help people quit smoking. However, it isn’t easy. Most smokers can increase their odds of success by using evidence-based methods and seeking professional help,” Andrea King, PhD, professor of psychiatry and co-leader of the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Cancer Prevention and Control program, shared with the University of Chicago Medicine.
According to King, the best way to quit smoking is to prepare by expecting setbacks and occasional lapses. Be “prepared to start over, but commit to keep trying,” she said. And, if the goal of quitting smoking completely seems too daunting, King suggested starting by setting a goal of reducing your smoking habit. A 50 percent reduction in cigarettes per day, King explained, is a great way to start on the road to kicking the habit.
Need some more inspiration? Check out our story on how three real guys quit smoking for good.
Getty ImagesYuki Cheung / EyeEm
THE COMMON RESOLUTION: “I’m going to get more sleep.”
THE SMARTER RESOLUTION: “I’m going to shut off the TV and turn off my computer one hour before bed.”
Why it works: If you’re a parent you know a thing or two about sleep schedules with your kid. But, just because you’re a grownup doesn’t mean you shouldn’t live by the same rules.
Getting into a consistent bedtime routine is a must when it comes to improving both the quality and quantity of your sleep. And, according to the National Sleep Foundation, having a sleep ritual may be the best thing for you. Start by deciding what your actual bedtime will be. Then, plan to use the 30 minutes to one hour prior to this time to prepare each night. Maybe you put down your computer and read a book instead. Perhaps you relax in a bath, enjoy a cup of tea, start a new meditation routine, or listen to some soothing ASMR videos. Any of these things will do and will all help you start counting sheep even sooner.
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