As we end one year and turn the calendar to January, many people take advantage of the fresh start to pledge new life changes. Recent statistics show that almost two-thirds of Americans regularly or sometimes make New Years Resolutions.
Some of the most common ones involve health, including the following; lose weight, exercise more, eat healthy, drink less alcohol, and quit smoking
Despite their obvious benefits, resolutions also bring challenges, which result in many good-intentioned individuals ultimately abandoning them. But they don’t have to be an annual recipe for failure. Following certain strategies and tips can help foster success at the start and all the way to end of the year.
Tips for Making New Year’s Resolutions
- CHOOSE WISELY. Don’t simply specify a resolution if it isn’t a priority for you, if you’re only doing it because your spouse is or if you don’t think you can succeed.
- THINK HARD. Consider what is important to you and what you can realistically accomplish. Don’t just pick “lose weight” because it is a popular choice. Resolutions, by nature, should be personal and deal with something you want to change. Here are a few more tips to help pick your New Years Resolutions.
- MAKE IT PERSONAL. It’s unlikely that you will diligently apply yourself toward something that isn’t a priority for you personally. So don’t set yourself up for failure by forcing yourself into someone else’s goals for you. If your sister wants you to learn a new language but you to learn gourmet cooking, pick what motivates you. You have to want to quit smoking for yourself – not for your spouse – in order to succeed.
- BE SPECIFIC. Saying things like “exercise more” or “volunteer” need specifics to make them tangible and more likely to be achieved. Aim for “exercise 3-4 times per week,” or “volunteer once per quarter” to provide a specific, measurable target. If you don’t meet your exact specification, that doesn’t mean you failed, but still have made progress. If you have a vague goal of “enjoy life to the fullest,” however, how do you know what that looks like and if you have achieved it?
- LIMIT YOURSELF. Sure, we all have areas of our lives that we could improve, but don’t set 10 resolutions, unless they are very small. You may think that the more resolutions you have, the more likely you are to meet at least some of them; but realistically, you’re better off with one or just a few focused resolutions to which you can apply all your efforts. With a lot of resolutions, it becomes difficult to determine where and how best to divide your energy.
- AIM HIGH – BUT BE REALISTIC. Resolutions are aspirational, otherwise we’d all succeed in them all the time. The key is to make your goal challenging but not insurmountable. So perhaps you aim for something between eating only fruits and vegetables exclusively for every meal and eating one fruit or vegetable a week. Or aim to lose 5 pounds a month versus 5 pounds per week. Find a balance that is motivating – somewhere between formidable and a no-brainer.
When thinking of resolutions, one common theme is failure or abandonment. It’s true that many people end up quitting after even just a few months, feeling frustrated by a slow progress or lacking the motivation to endure through challenges. But it doesn’t have to be all bad news. Here are some ways to stick with your resolutions over time.
Tips to Stick to New Years Resoultions
- BE ACCOUNTABLE: Tell someone about your resolution/s and ask them to check in on your progress. This can help keep you on track and give you a support system when the going gets tough. Your accountability partner isn’t meant to shame or scold you, but to offer encouragement, motivation and a listening ear. Or you might join a group, such as Weight Watchers, or take a financial planning class, for instance, to benefit from the education and experience of others.
- BREAK UP GOALS: Instead of saying you will lose 25 pounds this year, create smaller objectives, such as reducing intake of sweets and fried foods, adding workouts three times each week and walking the dog three days a week. This gives you a plan to follow, with specific steps all taking you toward your ultimate resolution.
- TRACK YOUR PROGRESS: How will you know how much you’ve achieved unless you keep track by writing down or recording money saved, social encounters with friends, volunteer events, new vegetables you tried and more? Write your resolutions somewhere where you will see them often as reminders – even in your smartphone – and list your progress. Review your notes when you get discouraged.
- SOMETHING IS BETTER THAN NOTHING: If you can’t save $100 this month like you set out to, then try $50, or $35, or something. If you can’t make the girls’ weekend, then meet a friend for coffee or a workout instead. Every little bit counts and adds up. Progress is a marathon, not a sprint.
- CELEBRATE SUCCESS: You don’t have to wait until the end of the year to congratulate yourself on achieving your goal. Most of us need some reinforcement along the way – whether that is a new workout outfit, a massage or attending a concert. Keep yourself motivated by recognizing and rewarding your accomplishments over time.
Approximately 64% of individuals who make resolutions comply with them within the first month, but this drops to 46% after six months. And statistics show that ultimately, only 8% of those who make resolutions are successful in achieving them, which means that many of us don’t accomplish our goals.
Reasons for this high failure rate include resolutions that are not specific, not realistic and not intrinsically motivated. And life’s complications can derail even the most committed people over time, including illness or injury, fatigue, job loss, financial crisis, travel or a move, low self-efficacy and more.
Whatever the resolution, all typically seek to improve quality of life and enhance the former year’s performance with an established goal on which to focus. Resolutions are great, because they encourage us to identify areas that we would like to change, and then serve as reminders that we should make efforts to achieve progress. They require us to be introspective and intentional, with the ultimate goal of self-improvement and growth.