Sticking to Your New Year's Resolution
January 1, 2018
New Year’s Resolutions take on a lot of shapes and sizes. Maybe you’ve decided you’re going to work harder this year, or spend more time with your family. Maybe you’ve set out to get out of the house more, to quit smoking, or to lose weight. Whatever it is, there is something you can do to improve your life in the New Year.
The common pitfall with New Year’s Resolutions is in following through. While nearly everyone sets goals for the New Year, only 8 percent of people stick to it. This number may sound dismal, and give you the idea that your New Year’s Resolutions are doomed to fail. Fortunately, that’s not true. By understanding how you are motivated and what you can realistically achieve, you can become almost superhuman in the next 365 days.
Manage your expectations
Imagine you are talking about New Year’s Resolutions with a friend and they say something like, “I’m going to lose 100 pounds.” What would your reaction be? Likely, you’d be happy that they set the goal, but skeptical about their ability to achieve it. And when December 31st rolls around again, you’d likely find that they haven’t lost even a tenth of that. Their goal is possible, but not probable. When setting goals for yourself, you should be realistic about it. Sure, you dream to lose 100 pounds, but you might be better off sticking to 50.
Have a plan
Once you’ve set a realistic goal, the next step is to figure out how you’re going to get it done. If you’re trying to lose 50 pounds, that’s only 1 pound a week. By doing some research, you may find that you can do this just by cutting down on soda and hitting the gym every few days. Once you have a plan, you may even find that the goals you thought were unattainable are easy when broken down.
Make quantifiable goals
Another important part of managing your expectations is to put a number or date on your goals. Saying “I want to lose weight” has little gravitas because you can achieve it easily. Standing up can cause you to lose a little weight. Saying “I want to lose 50 pounds” is something you can work towards and be certain you have achieved. Similarly, saying “I want to quit smoking” is open ended. By the time you’re ready to do it, the motivation behind it may be lost and you’ll put it off another year—you can’t plan for “sometime.” You can, however, plan for June 21st, or your birthday, or whatever date feels right to you.
Take it piece by piece, and step by step
If you’re on Facebook, you may remember this video that made its rounds in 2017. Delivering his commencement address at the University of Texas at Austin in 2014, Admiral William H. McRaven said, “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.” This struck a chord with many around the world, and has been tagged on YouTube as inspiring. Part of what makes it so inspirational is the truth behind it. Your brain can become, in a way, addicted to achievement: once you’ve done something, your brain wants to do more. When you make your bed first thing in the morning, you’ll get a sense of accomplishment that will make you more motivated as the day goes on.
Taking this principle to your New Year’s Resolutions is simple. Your big goals for the year shouldn’t actually be seen as big goals, but instead as a series of small ones. Blogger Dan Erwin refers to this process as chunking, borrowing from a similar memory technique. If you break down your goals to their smallest pieces and take them step by step, you’ll be on top of the staircase next New Year’s Eve.
You can take this even further, if you want to. The Huffington Post article linked earlier cites Dr. Roberta Anding who said, “January 1 signifies a new beginning. However, each day allows for a new beginning, and hence it is a reset.” It is her recommendation that you look at the New Year not as one opportunity for improvement, but as 365 of them. By taking your goals day by day, you’ll see the results of your achievement day by day, and the effect will compound.
Remember the reward
Perhaps the most important part of achieving your New Year’s Resolutions is reminding yourself why you set them in the first place. Maybe you feel like you’re not living to your full potential, or that you are ready to make changes. Maybe it’s for your kids. Whatever it is that made you set goals, don’t lose sight of them. When you know why you want to improve, doing it is the easy part.