THE BLOG
01/28/2016 04:27 pm ET Updated Jan 28, 2017

The New Year With Your Old Self: Making It Stick

By this time of the year, many of us have settled into the proclamation that we made at or just after 12 midnight on December 31st. Somehow, that 60-second changeover to the new year truly feels like a new beginning. It feels like we can reset the clock and start anew. Many of us begin with that resolution that, in our mind's eye, will set the stage for the rest of the year. We decide that this year, things are going to be different, and that this will be the year that we get thinner, fitter, or become the best that we can be.

Does this sound like you? Have you resolved that this year will be different than all the other years, better and more effective and successful? Do you imagine this completely different, new person, sashaying down the street, calm, cool, collected, thinner, stronger, smarter, and richer? (Maybe with a much cleaner house?) Do you envision a less hectic life, starting the day off with a green drink and ending the day with meditation? Do you turn into the most Zen woman in the world, in your mind, knowing that change is inevitable this year because everything is different? Many of us hold onto this image tightly, grasping at it, until about now. Towards the end of January and the beginning of February, as winter wears on and everything seems dreary and, well...exactly the same as always, many of us see those dreams of total and complete transformation slipping away.

Although romanticizing the New Year is part of what new year's resolutions are about, and that's not all bad, I suggest a slightly different approach. Instead of vowing to become a whole new version of yourself, with tendency and traits and habits and likes and dislikes that you, as a real person right here right now, simply don't have, consider this: What if you vowed to increase the already great parts of yourself, and neglect the parts you don't like so much until they fall away naturally? Doesn't that sound easier? Maybe you love to walk, but you are too stressed by obligations you don't enjoy and you don't think you have time. Instead, do what you love: walk. Let go of what you can and what isn't necessary and you will make space for what makes you happy. Voila: You're doing what you love, and you are healthier for it.

Increase your best qualities--your penchant for organization, your love of reading or writing, your fondness for big juicy salads, a hobby that feeds your soul. Neglect your worst qualities--your tendency to binge on sugar, or not put your clothes away, or complain too much. What you focus on grows. What you neglect shrinks. But the bottom line is: It's still you, not some imaginary perfect version of yourself that never existed.

Let this be the moment, not that you give up on your good intentions, but that you face the truth. Now that vacation time is over and you've settled in, who are you, really? And how can you tweak that beautiful self to be even happier, healthier, and more content?

Every single one of us possesses qualities that allow us to thrive. Maybe it's your friendliness, your ability to multitask, or your honesty. Maybe it's your compassion or your creativity, your positive energy or your strength or your ability to love. Take some time today to think about what makes you special. Take those parts of yourself and make the changes you need to in order to get where you want to go. Don't lose the momentum. Grab onto all that your have inside yourself and this year, "Do You."

Here is my best prescription for you, as 2016 is underway:

1) Clearly define your goals for your year. The more specific, the better. Instead of saying something broad like you will find success, direct your intention to what it is you want. "I will ask for a raise." "I will cut out diet soda from my life." "I will give up X so I have time to do more Y."

2) Make sure that your goals are realistic. Those that are not will set you up for failure, and you will feel like you are on a hamster wheel of impending doom. It is not fair to you or your inner superwoman to set yourself up for disappointment. Your goals need to be accessible and within your control. Instead of saying that you will lose 30 pounds this year, outline your new and healthier diet and exercise plan and set a plan for monthly health metrics, but don't get too attached to a number. Maybe the scale doesn't budge, but does your waistline decrease in inches? Do you have more energy? Can you run a mile now, when last year you couldn't even run 2 blocks? Are you in a better mood? Did your cholesterol go down? Those are all successes.

3) Find success in the everyday. When you set your goals, have some daily ones, so you can give yourself a gold star when you do something to work towards them. If you are trying to eat more greens and less fried foods, then every time you choose quinoa and broccoli over fried chicken, give yourself a pat on the back and praise yourself for your success! If you love to meditate but you just don't have time, bask in your success with every single 10 or 20 minutes you are able to take for yourself to sit and calm your mind. When you don't get it done, don't put energy into regret and self-doubt. Move forward and don't look back.

4) Know that, no matter what mistakes you make or what happen to you, you always have the potential for personal growth. You have a superwoman inside you, with all the qualities necessary to bring her out. But in order to do this, you must be honest with yourself and make an accurate assessment of which qualities of yours will help you thrive, and which ones are sabotaging you. Armed with that information, you can accomplish just about anything.

5) Don't judge yourself too harshly. When things don't work out as planned, put your inner critic to the side. Remember that what you focus on increases, so don't focus on the mistakes. It's bad enough that your added negative input does not make it better, or help you get out of a dark place. Know that tomorrow is another chance to do better, and that each day presents a new possibility. Focus on what you are good at, what you love. Move on from those things you want to lose.

6) Most importantly, value each and every day, because there is nothing more precious than living with health. You are alive, and that in itself is a gift. Now it's time to make the most of it.

On a personal note, this year, I made the decision that sleep is going to be a greater priority for me. I feel better when I get enough sleep, and I know sleep is good for me, so I am focusing on increasing that in my life. The first week after the new year, I stuck to my goal, but recently I began to feel the sleep initiative slipping away. Then I reminded myself: Focus on what I want, not on what I don't want. I have started making a note in my calendar reminding myself of how horrible I feel without sleep in the morning when I wake up. Last night, instead of getting lost in writing this blog, I put it down and went to bed. And look at that... it got done anyway.
If I can do this, so can you. Let's do it together!