How to Keep Your New Year's Resolutions
Whether it’s getting in shape, learning a new skill, or cultivating better habits, setting goals for a new year is a tradition that dates back thousands of years. However, studies show that only a fraction of these resolutions are successfully kept.
The Challenge of Keeping Resolutions
While making New Year’s resolutions is a time-honored tradition, statistics on success can be disheartening. According to research conducted by the University of Scranton, just 8% of people successfully achieve their New Year’s resolutions. This raises the question: What can we do to improve our odds of success?
Setting the Stage for Success
Be sure that your goals are realistic and achievable, and don’t require a complete transformation of your current lifestyle all at once. “That may look like embracing totally attainable goals that don’t focus so much on an overhaul of your current life,” says Good Housekeeping magazine, but slowly adapting new routines and habits.”
Ask Yourself Some Questions
- Is your goal truly your own? Or is it someone else’s?
- Is it just for show? Make sure your goal is real and attainable.
- Do you have too many goals? Don’t try to change everything all at once. Put all of your energy into one or two things.
- Are your goals negative? For example, according to Mind Tools, instead of saying you want to “lose weight,” which emphasizes what you wish to get rid of – your weight, you could say you want to “improve your health.” Or a goal to “stop staying late at work,” could be reframed to “increase family time.”
- How long will it take? Even if it feels like you’re moving slowly, you’re likely still getting somewhere. Michael Jordan talks about the importance of setting small goals in his book “I Can’t Accept Not Trying: Michael Jordan on the Pursuit of Excellence.”
Accept the Process
- Choose Realistic Goals: According to psychologist Dr. John Norcross, it’s best to begin with small, achievable goals. These initial wins create a positive feedback loop, boosting motivation and confidence. “Success breeds success,” says Norcross. So, start small and watch your accomplishments pave the way to more significant achievements.
- Be Specific: Ambiguous resolutions such as “I want to be healthier” or “I want to save more money” often set us up for challenges in achieving our goals. The key to success lies in being precise about what you want to accomplish. Instead of vague statements like “I want to lose weight,” it’s far more effective to define your objectives clearly according to self-help expert Tony Robbins. Using losing weight as an example, you can create a specific plan of action that includes activities like weekly meal preparation and regular exercise. This level of detail transforms your resolution from an abstract idea into a practical, achievable goal.
- Plan Ahead: “A goal without a plan is just a wish,” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote. It’s essential to develop a well-structured strategy. Consider a resolution of running a marathon by year-end. Without a clear plan, it probably won’t happen. Break your resolution into actionable steps and create a timeline. This means defining when you’ll start training, setting weekly mileage goals, and signing up for shorter races.
How to Stay the Course
Your plan should be adaptable. Life is unpredictable, so account for setbacks. A plan offers direction, helps measure progress, sustains motivation, and fosters accountability.
- Stay Accountable. Research from the American Society of Training and Development confirms that sharing goals with someone else makes you 65% more likely to achieve them. Sharing your resolutions and involving friends, family, or an accountability partner significantly boosts your chances of success. When you share your goals, they become more tangible and real, shifting from vague ideas to concrete commitments. Accountability partners take this a step further by actively supporting your goals and holding you responsible for your progress.
- Track Your Progress. Checking your progress regularly is vital to keep you motivated and on track with your New Year’s resolutions. As management consultant Peter Drucker said, “What gets measured gets improved.” For example, say you’ve set a goal to become more physically active. Without keeping tabs on your workouts, it’s hard to see your progress and stay motivated. Using tools like journals, apps, or calendars to record your achievements makes a big difference. Or, if you want to save money and track your expenses, you might see that you’re spending too much on dining out. This awareness can prompt you to make necessary adjustments. You can review your approach and make necessary tweaks. This flexibility helps you adjust and stay on course.
- Embrace Failure. Lean into it and don’t be discouraged—failure is a natural part of the journey. Obstacles often serve as valuable learning opportunities; ask yourself what you can learn from them. Dr. Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist and author of the book “The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It”, says, “The science of willpower shows that getting derailed is not a sign of failure; it’s a sign that you need to plan better.” Going back to the resolution of adopting a healthier diet as an example, at first you may find it challenging to resist unhealthy snacks or to stick to a strict eating regimen. These early challenges are not signs of defeat but opportunities to reevaluate your approach. What specific situations trigger your cravings? Are there strategies or alternatives you can employ to make healthier choices more appealing and convenient? Overcoming obstacles strengthens your determination and builds your capacity for self-control.
Being intentional means making deliberate and purposeful choices, according to the blog BetterUp. This means thinking ahead and making decisions based on your goals, rather than doing things on a whim.
As Michael Jordan said, take it step-by-step. Work out the small, day-to-day goals you need to accomplish to keep the process ticking over. The goal is just the starting point. You’d think it to be the ending too, but as you grow, so do your goals.
So as we enter another new year, take time to reflect on what you want, and set meaningful resolutions. Increase your chances of achieving your New Year’s resolutions by choosing realistic goals, planning ahead, staying committed, and drawing inspiration from others.
Poet T.S. Eliot once wrote, “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language, and next year’s words await another voice.” Let this year be the voice of positive change and personal growth in your life.
by Carrie Phelps-Campbell