The arrival of a New Year often comes with mixed feelings. We want our lives to improve through making promises to ourselves to do better, but every year we face the fact that we’ve failed to keep our past New Year’s resolutions. Frankly, most people just give up and don’t even practice this annual commitment anymore.
Statistics provided by the University of Scranton tell us that only 8% of people successfully achieve their resolutions. Yet for those who desire to press on to a healthier lifestyle, there is actually hope that we can make our resolutions stick. It’s just a matter of understanding the ‘tricks’ that will enable us to make them stick. Consider these top 15 approaches to resolutions that make it more realistic to make them stick.
1. Start out with one.
According to an article by Darlene Lancer which was published on Psychcentral.com, much of the failure in keeping resolutions is that people make too many of them. Do you want to develop a history of keeping resolutions? Then begin with one that is most important and make it something achievable. Lancer states, “For change to last, make sure your motive expresses your true self and fosters your highest good. Your goal must be congruent with your core beliefs. Resolutions to make changes for someone else’s approval, for monetary gain, or because you think you ‘should’ are hard to sustain.”
In this regard, consider character traits that you want to change. Perhaps things like: stop complaining, show more kindness to others, or simply even committing to take a walk twice a week are much more attainable than to lose 80 pounds when you already have a long history of losing the battle. Get some success behind you and it will be more likely that larger goals will be attainable in the future.
2. Set short-term goals for long-term results.
On Huffingtonpost.com, writer Jeanette Pavini adds this valuable tip: “People who break their resolutions into small, manageable chunks typically have more success. Say your goal is to save money. Rather than making a resolution to save $5,000 this year, try to save $100 a week. It’s almost the same amount of money (a little more actually), yet the goal is easier to keep. You’re able to measure your progress along the way and all you have to think about is that $100 each week, not that insurmountable $5,000.”
If you’re on a tighter budget, make a commitment to save $20 a week. Whatever seems reasonably attainable, go for it!
3. Many people make a resolution to quit smoking.
We all know it’s an unhealthy habit, but it is one of the hardest to kick. Fortunately, there is an increasing supply of products to help, including e-cigs. Yet, if you’re one of those who has had this resolution year after year, it would be wise to take the simpler approach, by quitting one cigarette at a time.
There is a new media campaign encouraging this practice. However, one must take into consideration how much they smoke. One cigarette a day might work, but for some it may not. Explore your own reality as to how much you smoke and what is a realistic goal. It may be one cigarette a day, but it could also mean one a week, or one a month. Don’t stress yourself out over this but make it a realistic goal and track it. It may take the entire year to get down to 5 cigarettes a day, but it will be worth the journey and the self-reward afforded at the end of the process will be encouraging.
4. Schedule time for your resolution.
Obviously this depends on what your resolution is, but if it is as simple as walking outdoors twice a week, you’ll need to put it on a calendar and make sure you stick to it. According to aboutwalking.com, “The fundamental health benefits of exercise are many. Metabolically, it helps control weight, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels. A brisk walk can burn up to 100 calories per mile or 300 calories per hour. Walking is the perfect complement to a sensible diet to lose weight and keep it off.”
Their website confirms that walking will reduce cholesterol, improve cardiovascular fitness, improve blood circulation, reduce heart attack risk and reduce high blood pressure. Too many Americans work in offices and cubicles and have little exposure to the outdoors. Many professionals get their exercise within a gym. This is no comparison to getting outdoors, which also provides needed Vitamin D from the sun and lifts the spirit.
5. If possible, employ the buddy system.
Although this is not always workable, it is a way in which to stay accountable with someone who has the same health goals as you and will nudge you towards keeping your commitment. This could even come into play if one of your goals is to start saving money on groceries. Pavini on Huffington Post adds, “Challenge a friend. Plan meals around store ads, clip coupons and then compare receipts and see who saved the highest percentage.”
6. Write it down.
”Write down the goal and visualize it regularly. Writing and visualizing are effective tools for fulfilling a goal because they fix it firmly in the subconscious,” says Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. And if you write down your goals, put them in a prominent place where you’ll view them frequently, such as on the fridge or on your desk. One good idea is to keep them as a screen saver on your computer, that way you will have a constant reminder.
7. Reassess your resolutions.
According to Pavini of the Huffington Post, “If something is not working, then it’s OK to go back and modify your resolution. Resolutions are all about becoming a better version of yourself, not a perfect version of yourself. If you’re not able to save $100 a week, oh well! Knock it down to $75 and keep trying. That’s still $3,900 saved by the end of the year and that’s something to be proud of.”
8. Forgiving yourself.
Bankrate.com tells readers, “Forgive yourself. If you fall off the wagon, jump back on. Many people fall into the trap of believing that if they stumble, they should give up. The truth is you don’t have to wait for next year or for some magic moment to try again. Instead, realize that slipping is part of the process.
9. Make time for a cheat day.
According to Treye Green on ibtimes.com, “It’s important to take a day for a breather from the process. Give yourself a designated cheat day. Replace your normal social media binge with an entertaining book instead. There are numerous ways to keep your journey engaging while remaining dedicated to making positive changes to your life.” Just don’t take too many of these!
10. Break it up.
On Webmd.com Sarah Mahoney gives us wisdom for the long haul. Mahoney states, “Since your supply of self-control is finite, make resolutions that require small acts of will, not weeks of vigilance. Losing 10 pounds sounds specific, but it’s less likely to work than behavioral goals like saying, “this week I’ll try to go to the gym three times, take the stairs at work at least twice, and bring a healthy lunch every day.” You’ll feel good when you accomplish each goal, and your success will help bolster your resolve. The better you are at making small changes, the easier it will be for you to keep going.”
11. Define SMART goals.
This acronym is provided by Ashley Williams on USA Today: Specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-specific. Don’t overextend yourself. Stay within the SMART model.
To read more about setting SMART goals, read this article.
12. Lift your spirit.
Sarah Mahoney from Webmd.com encourages people to lift their spirits within the task of following through on New Year’s resolutions. “Watching funny movies — or doing just about anything that puts you in a good mood — also helps when willpower starts wearing down.
In a particularly sneaky study, researchers asked a group of 30 hungry students to sit in a room that smelled like freshly baked cookies. Although a plate of M&Ms and still-warm cookies was placed within reach, participants were told to snack on a bowl of radishes. Then they were left alone for 10 to 12 minutes in order to exhaust their self-restraint. Next, some of the students watched a film clip of Robin Williams doing stand-up, while another group viewed a film about dolphins. When, in the last part of the experiment, they were asked to perform a complex tracing project that called for lots of self-control, students who’d seen the funny film stuck with the trying task for about 13 minutes. The Flipper crowd hung in for only nine.” In other words, it’s important to keep your sense of humor.
13. Encourage yourself.
Darlene Lancer on Psychcentral.com explains that “Discouragement is normal. Become a positive coach, and continually give yourself positive feedback, praise, and recognition. Look for small signs of progress and celebrate them. If you have low-self-esteem, you may talk yourself out of your desires and think you lack the skill, worth, or ability to achieve them. Underlying depression does the same thing. Self-doubt and negative self-talk paralyze you in a past expression of yourself. They sap energy and motivation, and can easily persuade you to give up. If you aren’t making progress or if you slip into old habits, don’t dwell on your ‘mistake.’ Rather than stay stuck in self-judgment and guilt, admit what you did or didn’t do, and quickly get back on track. Stay solution-oriented. Ask yourself, ‘What am I going to do about it?’ Self-forgiveness improves both self-esteem and future behavior.”
14. Heighten self-awareness.
Another great tip from Lancer is to heighten your self-awareness. She states, “People often seek therapy to raise their self-esteem or overcome addictions and codependency. If your resolution is to change your habits, self-awareness and vigilance are needed in order to interrupt old patterns. Daily meditation and journaling are potent and helpful tools in monitoring and changing your thoughts, feelings, and behavior.”
15. Be sensitive to your breaking point.
On Webmd.com, Sarah Mahoney points out the fact that being aware of your personal breaking point is a necessary part of finding success in your goals. She states that, “The same way a sprinter can tell when she doesn’t have another 100 yards in her, it’s important to know when your resistance is tapped out. Stress will wear you down. So will being hungry or tired.” Her advice for those times: Get away from whatever is tempting you until you’ve eaten and rested, which will give your willpower a fighting chance.”