With the holiday season often comes reflection on the past year, along with setting goals and making plans for the upcoming 12 months. At its core, the process of making New Year’s resolutions is a good one. Establishing goals is a great way to compel us to change our habits, behavior, lifestyle and more for the better. In fact, as many as 66 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, often focused on their health, such as lose weight, exercise more and eat more healthfully. Other common ones include reducing stress and saving money.
Although resolutions are a good thing, they unfortunately have become scoffed at because they seem to be automatically synonymous with failure. Because behavior and lifestyle changes typically are challenging, many people end up abandoning their resolutions before achieving their original intentions. In fact, one shocking statistic is that as many as 92 percent of people give up on their resolutions.
With these statistics, it may seem worthless to even make resolutions for next year. Keep in mind, however, that having nothing to aim for virtually guarantees that progress, if any, may simply be incidental or accidental. There are ways to help you keep your resolutions, despite setbacks, so that you can make valuable changes. Don’t simply quit before you’ve started because the change process is difficult and there is a likelihood that you will struggle.
Read on for more insight into how to make and stick to your New Year’s resolutions, one day at a time, all year long. Good luck!
Think First – Sounds silly, but resolutions should be well thought-out, and not just off the top of your head. They must be personal, or it’s highly unlikely that you will see them achieved. For instance, don’t suddenly agree over beers with your best friend that you will join her and quit drinking alcohol altogether in 2018 – unless that really is a personal objective. It’s one thing to support a friend with his/her goal, but another entirely to say you will actually do it with him/her.
- Decide for yourself. Don’t make New Year’s resolutions simply because everyone else does or because you feel like you must. If you don’t really want to change, then a resolution won’t automatically bring about the desired result. Carefully consider your life, and determine what, if any, areas you want to change. Make a list that you can review. At this stage, write down anything, even if it seems like it will be tough to accomplish. And if you decide that you don’t want to make any resolutions this year, give yourself freedom to opt out.
- Don’t set yourself up for failure. It’s great to aim high, but don’t be unrealistic, like pledging that you’ll never eat chocolate again the rest of your life. Perhaps that really might work for you, but for most of us, that’s pretty drastic. Set goals that inspire success, maybe in smaller increments. This could be pledging to reduce your chocolate intake to 3-4 times weekly instead of daily. Instead of saying you’ll lose 10 pounds per month, aim for 1-2 pounds lost per week.
The problem with being too aspirational is that you’re more likely to fail – early and often, which can end up derailing even the most committed individuals over time. Start small, and adjust the goal if necessary as you succeed. At the same time, don’t take on 10 resolutions in hopes that you’ll conquer one or two. Pick one or two priorities, and devote your efforts fully to those.
- Be specific. We’ve all heard this before when it comes to goal-setting, yet some people still simply say they will lose weight or reduce stress, with no real plan on how to get there. To encourage success, evaluate what those goals look like to you and plan how you will get there.
Change “lose weight” to “reduce calorie intake by replacing processed foods with fruits and veggies,” or “pack lunch 3-4 times per week to decrease eating out.” Or to better manage stress, choose to “learn meditation,” “try yoga,” or “eliminate one ongoing commitment.” Being specific gives you something tangible, and ideally realistic, to aim for. That way, even if you have some setbacks, you don’t have to write off the goal as a total failure, but instead can experience evidence of progress.
Persevere – Setting resolutions is the easy part. The high failure rates, or your own personal experience, shows that getting after these changes, and sticking with them, is often harder than we originally anticipated. But that doesn’t mean that resolutions must result in quitting. Stay the course with these recommendations:
- Keep goals top-of-mind. Write down your resolutions and post them where you will see them daily. That might be a sticky note on the bathroom mirror, on the fridge, or in your car. Or post notes on your calendar, in your phone or on your laptop. Remind yourself often what you are striving for.
- Tell someone. It’s much easier to quit when no one but you knows what you were going for in the first place. So put yourself out there right from the start. Ask a friend or family member to make you accountable and periodically check on your progress. Join a group – in person or online – that provides a support system with others working alongside you to make changes. Or hire a trainer and discuss what success looks like for you.
- Plan for success. If you need to invest in some workout shoes, a food scale, or a health club membership, set yourself up for achievement immediately. Don’t wait until January 30 to decide you need to research some fitness apps, diet plans or volunteer opportunities. Get going now and take advantage of your resolve to gain momentum.
- Track progress. Maybe a no-brainer, depending on your resolution, but make sure you find ways to monitor how you are doing – whether that means stepping on the scale once a week, logging your gym visits, counting calories or tracking deposits in your savings account. Celebrate your success. Expect setbacks, and even frustration or disappointment, but don’t let these completely knock you off track. Don’t just beat yourself up and quit altogether. Acknowledge what happened, evaluate how you can improve and then get right back to pursuing your resolution. Commitment and resilience are critical, and even in small steps, progress counts!
- Think positive. Start by expecting success. Remind yourself why you are pursuing this goal, and be confident that you can achieve what you want. Each day is a new opportunity to start again, if necessary. Be patient and diligent, and don’t get into “woe is me” or “I’ll never do this” thinking. Change is hard, but you are stronger. Resolve to keep trying, and don’t beat yourself up in the process. Choose to push yourself, but be kind to yourself as well.
- Adjust as necessary. Resolutions are goals, but life may get in the way of consistent progress. An illness, job change, or family crisis can add more pressure to your efforts. So be flexible. Rather than abandoning the goal, modify it so that you can continue. That’s not failure – just redirection.
Keep focused on your New Year’s resolutions to stay fueled!