We're over a month into 2015, and those grand plans are feeling a little, well, grand. Gym memberships used once, raw kale and apples left uneaten, closets halfway cleaned out — sound familiar? It happens every year, but instead of waiting until next January to try again, we're vowing to make new resolutions that we can, without question, achieve.
Wondering how? It's all about having experts help us set and follow through on our goals. So, we teamed up with Weight Watchers and tapped career, health, and relationship pros with tried-and-true tips for making lasting, impactful changes. Who says you can't start fresh a month into the new year? We heard February's the new January, anyway.
Up Your Salary If your annual cost-of-living increase just didn’t cut it, start by chatting with mentors and colleagues to find out how they’ve successfully negotiated salary increases. Then, make sure your achievements are in line with your manager’s and company’s top priorities. "Hard work doesn’t necessarily merit a raise — results do," says Lindsey Pollak, author of Becoming the Boss: New Rules for the Next Generation of Leaders. After you've identified your accomplishments, quantify them in relevant, easy-to-understand metrics. How much money did you save the company? How much revenue did you help bring in? "Once you're well-armed, practice negotiating with a mentor or friend, and be clear about exactly what you are asking for," Pollak says. "Then, set up a meeting with your boss during which you lay out why you deserve a raise and make your ask. After that, stop talking. People start to negotiate against themselves before allowing their boss a chance to talk. Stay calm, and be prepared with more data if she pushes back."
Take It One Step At A Time The biggest reason resolutions go by the wayside? "People set very big goals (Get a promotion! Write a book! Join a nonprofit board!) but fail to realize they’re actually composed of many smaller steps," says Pollak. "Achieving them is much more likely when you break things down." So, vow to ask a colleague how she worked her way into a higher position, write the first page of the novel, or research causes that resonate with you. Then, schedule time into your calendar to actually accomplish those tasks. A few of Pollak’s tried-and-true strategies for staying the course: Celebrate your progress (we suggest a girls' night). Find a friend, coworker, mentor, or coach to check in with on the regular. And, take a few minutes to stop and think about how great it will feel when you reach your goal.
Set Up A Support System No matter what you're trying to change, it's crucial to tap an accountability partner who knows what you're going through. That's why Weight Watchers certified coach Catherine Gunia is a fan of the company's 24/7 expert chat feature, an app-based support service. "Let's say you're going out for pizza with your significant other, and you plan to order one slice and a salad. My husband never struggled with [making healthy choices], so he's not the best person to rely on. A coach's [support] can help ensure you listen to your mind and body. To have that anchor on your phone all the time is huge."
Keep Alternatives In Mind If there is a kink in getting something done, you'll thank yourself for having a plan B. Say you've resolved to walk around your neighborhood for 15 minutes a day, but it’s essentially monsooning. What's the alternative? "All-or-nothing thinkers will say, 'I couldn't go on my walk, so I’m just going to wait until next year to try this routine,'" explains Gunia. Instead, give yourself the option of doing a yoga DVD, jogging on the treadmill, or walking for 30 minutes the next day — and enlist a friend to make it more fun.
Get In Touch With You People tend to sabotage relationships out of fear, at least that's what sex therapist and relationship counselor Vanessa Marin has found. "They're afraid — on a deep and usually unconscious level — of truly being vulnerable." For those who are single and looking, it's vital to explore that before starting a new relationship. "Try to identify your own saboteur," says Marin. "When does she surface? What does she try to make you do? When you notice yourself acting out, ask, 'Is this really me taking action or is it that scared little part of myself trying to take control?'" Being able to recognize the difference will make conflicts infinitely healthier and more productive.
Carve Out Couple Time Between work, friends, and hobbies, it's sometimes a wonder we find time to brush our teeth. When that happens, it's easy to go into cruise control in your relationship — especially if you've been together for a while. But, healthy relationships require constant effort. Marin recommends scheduling date nights, surprising each other with little gifts, and having regular conversations about how to be a better partner. Her number-one, quick-fix tip? "Commit to spending 10 minutes alone with your partner every day. No matter how busy you are, you can spare that time." It will make a huge difference in how connected you feel.
Plan With Intent You don't have to give up on mindfulness just because you're not into lotus poses and savasana. Instead, commit to designing your day every morning. "That is a meditation," says Laurie Gerber, co-president of The Handel Group. "Writing down a plan and sending it to somebody is a way of programming your personal energetic GPS. It’s using your imagination and feelings to set your day in motion. It’s not just about what you want to accomplish, but how you want to feel." At the beginning of the day, write down your intentions as if you've already accomplished them. For example, "Today, I had a satisfying workout, I interacted intentionally with my friends, and I gave 100% at work." Gerber equates this with "telling the universe what your day was and then going out and living it. And, at the end of the day, recap how you did."
Dig Deeper To improve your mindset, you must first understand the roots of your feelings. To do that, Gerber recommends tracking your thoughts three times a day for five minutes over the course of two weeks. This strategy builds awareness of what's getting you down, allows you to spot patterns, and makes finding solutions feel more manageable. Once you've identified the problems, you're better equipped to deal with them. "To reduce stress and anxiety, you have to face the truth of what your mind is doing," she says. That means recognizing when certain thoughts arise, reminding yourself that they are unhealthy, and releasing them. Yes, it's easier said than done, but as soon as you're aware of the issues, you're well on your way.