In two weeks, millions of people across the globe will made resolutions to change/add/subtract something from their lives.
In three weeks, the majority of those resolutions will have already have been broken.
The lifespan of New Year’s resolutions is often less than two months while there are plenty that never even make it a month, much less a entire year.
According to one study of 3000 people conducted in 2007, 88 percent of New Year’s resolutions end in failure. Another study places the success rate at 20 percent with a third of the attempts failing by the end of the month of January.
So what can you do to try to make sure you are in the minority and actually keep your New Year’s resolutions this upcoming year?
1. Theme – Rather than trying to put together a couple of vague resolutions like “lose weight” or “be in better shape,” focus the New Year by making it the “Year of ____.” Choose a theme that your resolutions, whether you have one or five fit into. Make it the Year of Health, the Year of the New Puppy, the Year of Running, the Year of Vegetables, the Year of Volunteering or whatever works for you.
This year, I had five resolutions that all fell under the “Year of Transformation” banner. I wanted to transform multiple things, including my body and my bank account, so each of my resolutions was related to the idea of transformation. Putting an overarching emphasis that is attached to you makes it more meaningful because it’s personalized. It can also make it more fun.
2. Be Realistic – If you actually want to maintain and accomplish the goals you set for yourself, be realistic. This can be tough. You have to know yourself and what your limits are, but you also need to push yourself to get something out of the resolutions. Find the balance between over-extending yourself and underestimating yourself.
3. Get Specific – Set individualized goals. Having a specific, attainable goal puts a much more concentrated emphasis on the tasks at hand. Rather than saying you want to be in better health, set a specific cholesterol level or weight you want to reach. Don’t say you want to help the environment or others more…set a goal with a specific number of volunteer hours you want to accumulate.
And define how you are going to accomplish your goals. How are you going to lose weight? How are you going to read more? By breaking down how you will accomplish your goals, you set yourself up with a plan of action. A plan of action makes the likelihood of you following through grow exponentially.
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Break It Up – Just because it’s called a New Year’s resolution, doesn’t mean the end goal has to be 365 days away. If you are setting a measurable long-term goal, set smaller goals that will lead you to the end goal. For example, if you are trying to lose 20 pounds this year, set a goal of losing 5 pounds by the end of February and another 10 by the end of June. You’ll already be three-fourths of the way to your goal and still have six months.
5. Write It Down – Whether it’s on a sheet of paper that you hang on the back of the front door, a whiteboard hanging in your room, your computer background or just with a dry erase marker on your fridge, write down your resolutions and put them where you will come across them regularly.
Seeing your resolutions every day will provide extra reinforcement as you attempt to stay on task. If you have to, change your computer passwords to a goal reminder. You’ll have to remember it every time you sign in…which is especially useful if you’re wanting to spend less time with electronics or more time outdoors.
6. Distract Yourself – In a study that has been performed on multiple occasions, but first by Walter Mischel in the 1960s, children are offered a marshmallow with the promise they will receive a second mallow if they can wait 15 minutes. They are then left in a room by themselves.
Some of the kids ate the marshmallow immediately. Others waited and gave into temptation while less than one-third of those that attempted to wait, made it the 15-minute period. Studies found that those that were able to resist the immediate satisfaction performed better later in life. This is an oversimplification of the results, but the future outcome of the kids isn’t as important as how the kids were able to accomplish waiting for the better treat — they distracted themselves. Some of the kids kicked the desk while other pretended the marshmallow was a fluffy cloud or animal.
If you are able to distract yourself from eating that bag of chips, going to Facebook (unless it’s to recycler’s FB Cars and Pets pages) while at work or turning the TV on as soon as you walk into the door, you will help yourself keep your resolutions. Try to replace one bad habit that you want to overcome with a more positive habit.
Keep a healthy alternative sitting next to the bag of chips. Store your chips in the fridge beside a bag of carrots, if you need to. Remove Facebook from your bookmark bar at the top of your web browser. Replace it with a website that also has a blue icon (such as Dictionary.com’s Word of the Day). Take the batteries out of your TV remote, so that you have to manually change the channels with the buttons built into the TV.
7. Support System – One of the most important steps is to find a support system. New Year’s resolutions are easy to make, easy to break, but difficult to maintain. Why not enlist some assistance? It doesn’t have to be professional psychiatric help, but it most certainly can be. If you’re wanting to quit drinking, try out an Alcoholics Anonymous group. You may not be an alcoholic, but you can learn why others have the issue and what they do to abstain.
But don’t think you have to look outside of your family and friends. Find someone with a similar goal and become accountability partners. By checking in on a regular basis, you can keep each other in line and communicate about issues you may be having. You can track your progress and results while also scheduling regular times to participate in activities related to your goals.