A new year can bring with it some pressures that are difficult to avoid when self-improvement is the flavour of the month. While some idealize the month of January as a 31 day, alcohol-free, goal driven utopia heading into it, it’s important to remember that a new year isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.

Having fallen short of new resolutions many times in the past, this year I’ve decided to ditch them all together and keep my head up, focus on positives and take a sunny outlook with me into the new year and beyond.

Whether or not you made resolutions this year, and whether or not you’ve been fully succeeding at them so far, there are a few things to consider when trying to make a change in your life. Remember, this month is just the first chapter in a twelve-part book. And that book is your story, not anyone else’s. So take it slow and make sure the changes you’re trying to implement are what you want.

Take the new year one step at a time

It’s very easy to fall into a trap of wanting too many things too soon in January, whether it’s going to the gym every day or starting a brand new habit on January 1st. But making changes takes time, and the slower and steadier you are, the better chance you have at being successful in the long run. Plus, if you can’t picture yourself keeping up a resolution for the remainder of the year, is it worth setting yourself up for early failure and disappointment?

Personally, I’m a fan of bite-sized, achievable New Year’s resolutions that help foster new, positive habits because sometimes seemingly insignificant goals can have a ripple effect into other areas of your life. For example, one year my brother made his New Year’s resolution ‘always wear matching socks,’ which may sound aimless, but it forced him to be more organized with laundry and generally try and think two-steps ahead of his routine - and it eventually worked.

See your goals as things to do, not things to avoid

Instead of getting hung up on the things you don’t like about yourself - your exercise and eating habits, your motivation, your tendency to binge Netflix a little too much - sometimes it helps to look at the things you do enjoy about yourself and focus on expanding those when making a change.

You may want to see results right away, but ultimately taking things one step at a time and being patient with yourself and the process will help you achieve long-term success.

Rather than planning to watch less TV or spend less time online, I like to set myself a reading challenge to ensure I’m diverting my attention into something more productive. On top of this, I’m also trying to read more non-fiction and books by female writers after having a look at my 2018 reading list and working out which types of books I enjoyed the most.

I love connecting with people, but I know that being in the moment all the time is difficult, so this year, I’m also trying to ask people more questions about themselves and take more photos with my family and friends.

Outside of resolutions, a new year can also provide a good push to plan longer-term goals you may have to provide direction and give you some things to look forward to. For example, I like to start mentally planning a savings goal or an upcoming overseas trip. Plus, sometimes a fun new habit or skill can come out of this - like learning a new language, brushing up on bike riding, or doing some research into another country’s history and customs.

Remember, self-care shouldn’t take a backseat to self-improvement

The new year can also bring with it an added sense of pressure and scrutiny, particularly after a holiday period where a lot of us put our feet up and let ourselves really relax. So it’s important to keep self-care in mind during January, and if you’re creating New Year’s resolutions, remember to keep them kind.

While the ‘hit the gym’ and ‘eat less junk food’ usually invade New Year promises, no one knows you and your limits better than you. Be sure to slow down and check in on your personal limits before you commit to huge changes.

More than anything, use the year as an opportunity to take more time for yourself, learn new things, and enjoy new experiences. Look back on your achievements of the past year and try to extend yourself a little further and shine a little brighter without setting yourself up for a burn out.

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