What a year it’s been, extraordinary, unprecedented, and challenging in the extreme. I bet many of you can look back and think well if I survived that, I can survive anything! Extended periods of lockdown or uncertainty around whether we would shut down, presented new challenges many of us have never had to deal with physically, mentally and spiritually.
The New Year is typically a time where we sit back and reflect on the year that was. Thank goodness you might be thinking that one is behind us. It is also a time of year where we look ahead to the next 12 months on the calendar and it’s a blank canvas. We have an opportunity to right all the bad stuff that we didn’t do last year. We feel buoyed by the possibilities a new year presents, the opportunities are endless, and the excitement knows no limits. And yet … not far into the new year often our motivation, resolve and resolutions all go by the wayside. It is believed in one study that only around 12% of people who make New Year’s resolutions are successful in achieving their goals. Some of the most common resolutions include losing weight, sticking to a healthier diet, exercising regularly, making better financial choices, quitting smoking, and spending more time with family.
Why do millions of people resolve to change at the beginning of every year?
The new year feels like a new beginning, which is why so many people often set lofty resolutions during these times. While this practice can sometimes lead people to bite off more than they can chew, going after resolutions can also present great opportunities to overcome struggles with resilience, determination, and ingenuity.
So, what can you do to make it more likely that you will keep your next resolution? The following tips may just help you beat the odds, this year.
1. Choose a Specific Goal
Every year, millions of adults resolve to lose weight, be more productive, or get in shape during the next year. Instead of selecting such an ambiguous goal, focus on something more concrete that you can realistically set your sights on. In other words, choose a SMART goal. A very specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and tangible goal. For example, you might commit to losing 10 kilograms, making daily to-do lists or sticking to a weekly plan, or running a half-marathon. Be sure to make your goal realistic rather than drastic. Choosing a concrete, achievable goal also gives you the opportunity to plan exactly how you are going to accomplish (and stick to) your goal over the course of the year! Easier said than done I know.
2. Limit Your Resolutions
While you might have a long list of potential New Year’s resolutions, pick just one major one and focus your energies on it rather than spreading yourself too thin among a number of different objectives. Taking on too much all at once can be daunting. It can be particularly difficult because establishing new behavioural patterns takes time and sustained effort. Focusing yourself on one specific goal makes keeping a resolution much more achievable.
3. Put Time Into Planning
Don’t wait until the last minute to choose your goal. Picking your resolution wisely and putting in extensive planning are essential parts of achieving any goal. Experts suggest that you brainstorm how you will tackle a major behaviour change, including the steps you will take, why you want to do it, and ways you can keep yourself on track. If you start working toward a goal without any type of plan in place, you may quickly find yourself giving up when faced with any sort of obstacle, setback, or resistance. For example, if your goal is to run three times per week, what will you do if you’ve missed four days in a row, and how will you proceed if you need to take time off for an illness or injury? You can start by writing down your goal, making a list of things you might do to achieve that goal, and noting any obstacles that might stand in your way. By knowing exactly what you want to accomplish and the difficulties you might face, you’ll be better prepared to stick to your resolution and overcome anything that might sidetrack you.
4. Start With Small Steps
Taking on too much too quickly is a common reason why so many New Year’s resolutions fail. Starting an unsustainably restrictive diet, overdoing it at the gym, or radically altering your normal behaviour are sure-fire ways to derail your plans. Instead, focus on taking tiny steps that will ultimately help you reach your larger goal. While it may seem like a slow start, these small incremental changes make it easier to stick to your new healthy habits and increase the likelihood of long-term success
5. Avoid Repeating Past Failures
Another strategy for keeping your New Year’s resolution is to not make the exact same resolution year after year. If people think they can do it, they probably can, but if they’ve already tried and failed, their self-belief will be low. If you do choose to reach for the same goals you’ve tried for in the past, spend some time evaluating your previous results. Which strategies were the most effective? Which were the least effective? What has prevented you from keeping your resolution in past years? Consider altering your resolution slightly to make it more feasible. By changing your approach, you will be more likely to see real results this year.
6. Remember That Change Is a Process
Those unhealthy or undesired habits that you are trying to change probably took years to develop, so how can you expect to change them in just a matter of days, weeks, or months? Be patient with yourself. Understand that working toward your resolution is a process. Even if you make a misstep or two, you can restart and continue on your journey towards your goal. It may take longer than you would like to achieve your goals but remember that this is not a race to the finish. Once you have made the commitment to changing a behaviour, it may be something that you continue to work on for the rest of your life.
7. Get Support
Yes, you’ve probably heard this advice a million times, but that is because the buddy system actually works. Having a solid support system can help you stay motivated and accountable. Camaraderie makes sticking to your resolution more fun, too. So, ideally, find a like-minded partner in crime or a loved one to join you in your goal.
8. Renew Your Motivation
During the first days of a New Year’s resolution, you will probably feel confident and highly motivated to reach your goal. Because you haven’t really faced any discomfort or temptation associated with changing your behaviour, making this change might seem all too easy. But, after dealing with the reality of dragging yourself to the gym at 6 am, or gritting your teeth through headaches brought on by nicotine withdrawal, or finding a substitute to a glass of wine after you get through witching hour with the kids, your motivation to keep your New Year’s resolution may start to dwindle. When you face such moments, remind yourself exactly why you are doing this. Think about (or write a list to keep handy) what do you have to gain by achieving your goal. Finding sources of inspiration can keep you going when times get tough.
9. Keep Working on Your Goals
By March, many people have lost that initial spark of motivation that they had in January. Keep that inspiration alive by continuing to work on your goals, even after facing setbacks. If your current approach is not working, re-evaluate your strategies, and develop a new plan. Being flexible with your plan, and even your end goal, will help you be successful. By sticking with it and working on your goal all year long, you can be one of the few able to say that you really did keep your New Year’s resolution, and if you’re writing down your progress and strategies, you’ll have ready proof of your efforts if you ever feel like giving up.
10. Learn and Adapt
Encountering a setback is one of the most common reasons why people give up on their New Year’s resolutions. If you suddenly relapse into a bad habit, don’t view it as a failure. The path toward your goal is not always a straight one, and there will often be challenges along the way. Instead, view relapses as learning opportunities. If you are keeping a resolution journal, write down important information about when the relapse occurred, what might have triggered it, and what you might do differently next time. By understanding the challenges, you face, you will be better prepared to deal with them in the future.
The yearly ritual of resolution setting doesn’t have to be an annual disappointment. It’s not just the end goal that matters—it’s the journey along the way. The difference between success and failure can be as simple as choosing the right goal and the process you use along the way. Most importantly, remember to be kind and encouraging with yourself and to celebrate any and all progress along the way.