Tips For Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions
2020 was a very disruptive year for many people, and as we enter 2021, you may find yourself reflecting on past New Year’s Resolutions. Were you able to meet, or even exceed your goals last year? If so, fantastic! If not, don’t despair because you’re far from alone.
According to U.S. News & World Report, 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail by the second week of February, with less than 10% of people ever achieving their annual goals.
Why do New Year’s Resolutions fail?
The main reasons people abandon their resolutions are:
- Goals aren’t specific enough
- Unrealistic or unachievable expectations
- Poor planning
- Not ready to change
How can you make lasting resolutions?
In a blog post for Harvard Health, Marcelo Campos, MD explained that answering five specific questions can help you get on the right track to achieve your goals:
- Why do you want to make the change?
- Is your goal concrete and measurable?
- What is your plan?
- Who can support you as you work toward change?
- How will you celebrate your victories?
We’ll explore these questions in more detail below.
Why do you want to make the change?
Explore your true motivation for making the resolution. Are you doing it “just because”, or do you have a compelling reason to keep yourself on the right track?
Sure, your goal might be to get fit but focusing on the reasons why might help you actually get there. Do you want to trek across the Himalayas? Keep up with the grandchildren? Be beach ready by next summer? Imagining what your life would be like after you’ve made the change can be a strong motivator for making new habits stick.
Is your goal concrete and measurable?
Make sure you’re setting SMART goals for yourself. SMART goals are:
Specific: What will your resolution achieve? What outcome are you hoping for?
Measurable: What does success look like to you? How will you measure your progress, and how will you know when you’ve accomplished your goal?
Achievable: Is your goal actually within your reach? What resources do you need to get there?
Relevant: Why are you doing this? Is your resolution relevant to your life purpose, and is it a priority in your life right now?
Timely: What is your ideal target date? How will you know if you’re on the right track?
Examples of SMART Goal Setting:
Goal: I want to learn Italian
SMART Goal: I will listen to my Italian lessons for 30 minutes after dinner on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to improve my Italian
Goal: I want to lose weight
SMART Goal: I’m going to replace fizzy drinks with water from Monday to Friday to reduce my calorie intake
Goal: I want to get rich
SMART Goal: I’m going to invest 5% of my monthly salary in a high interest account to save money
Goal: I want to run a marathon
SMART Goal: I’m going to follow the C25K running program for three months to increase my stamina
What is your plan?
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” ― Benjamin Franklin
Be realistic with your resolutions. If you’re trying to introduce a new habit, make sure you define how much time you’ll need to dedicate to the change, and what time of the day/week/month you’re going to do it.
Perhaps there things you can prepare before you even begin your resolution. Are you trying to lose weight? Make sure all snacks are replaced with healthy options before 1 January. Trying to quit or cut down on drinking? Remove or reduce the amount of alcohol in your house.
Write your goals down on a calendar, or on a post-it note stuck in a highly visible location.
Maybe there’s an app that can easily help you track your progress? Check out the 5 best habit tracking apps of 2019 as listed by Time Magazine.
Who can support you as you work toward change?
A 2015 study on procrastination by Dr Gail Matthews from the Dominican University of California showed that participants who shared their goals were more likely to achieve them.
Matthews found that more than 70 percent of the participants who sent weekly updates to a friend reported successful goal achievement (completely accomplished their goal or were more than half way there), compared to 35 percent of those who kept their goals to themselves, without writing them down.
Depending on your resolution, it may be helpful to enlist the help of a friend, family member or colleague. Letting other people know about your goals can help keep you accountable, and therefore more likely to achieve them.
There are also many Facebook groups filled with like-minded people who can support you on your journey.
How will you celebrate your victories?
If you’re constantly focused on the end goal, it can be easy to feel discouraged if your progress plateaus.
Define your milestones, and celebrate them by treating yourself to something you enjoy that won’t contradict your resolution. For example, if your ultimate goal is to lose 15kg, reward yourself with new workout clothes when you hit the 20% mark. Trying to quit smoking? Treat yourself to a teeth whitening session when you’ve been nicotine-free for 2 months.
Enjoy the journey
Keeping a New Year’s resolution is a marathon, not a sprint. You may not see much, if any, progress in the early days but with persistence and perseverance you can achieve your goals.
If you stumble, don’t give up or be hard on yourself. Relapses are learning opportunities. Reflect on what went wrong and how can you can prevent it from happening again.
January 1st is just another date in the calendar, and tomorrow – whenever that may be – is a new chance to start afresh.