Be honest, did you make New Year’s resolutions this year that you have yet to stick to? If so, you’re not alone. Researchers have found that typically 77% of people are only able to keep their resolutions for 1 week, 64% keep them for one month, 50% for 3 months, and only 19% are able to keep their resolutions for over one year! The norm is not sticking to them. Feeling better yet?
Instead of feeling guilty again next year optimize the way you choose your resolutions and set yourself up for success. Here are a few ways to increase the chances that you will stick to your resolutions.
1. Be sure they are doable
Many people set themselves up for failure because they set unrealistic goals. If your resolution is to lose 50 pounds by summer, that may not be realistic. Choosing to eat better and to exercise may be a better goal. In order to be successful, you’ve got to pick the right resolution – it has to be personal to you, it has to be achievable by you, and you have to create a good plan to get there. If you plan activities make sure that you factor in the time to prepare, to get there, to get back. Account for any foreseeable obstacles ahead of time and plan how you will handle them. If your goal doesn’t seem realistic, change it. It’s better to stick to something that works than to choose something you’ll abandon by February.
2. Take baby steps
If your resolution is to exercise more, don’t plan on working out for two hours each day, six days a week. Your body won’t be able to handle that if you’ve been inactive for some time. It will feel painful, frustrating and you’ll want to give up. Instead, start small and build gradually. Decide to go to the gym twice a week for half an hour, then three times a week for an hour, etc. Don’t limit yourself to one form of activity -walking fast or dancing while you clean the house can raise your heart rate too!
3. Be honest about what you want and why
Ask yourself what is the ultimate goal here. If you want to be in better shape and healthier, you really don’t need to spend 12h a week at the gym. Don’t overshoot it for nothing. For example, if you actually have 12 hours to spare (+the time to get to the gym, get changed, showered etc.) you can spend a few hours exercising and a few cooking healthy meals, attending to your hobbies and relationships. You will be healthier and happier this way. Canadian and American guidelines recommend about 2.5h of exercise per week.
4. Make your resolutions SMART
Have you ever heard of SMART goals? Your resolutions should be Specific – Measurable – Attainable – Realistic – Time-limited, or SMART for short. For example, continuing with the exercise example, choosing to “attend spinning classes once a week and yoga twice a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 6pm for a total of 3h of exercise (+3h prep time and commute), after work and a light snack but before supper, at the local YMCA” would be a very specific, measurable, and time-limitted goal. It also accounts for the fact that you will likely be a little hungry after work and may need to eat before you exercise. Whether it’s attainable and realistic depends on your life and your schedule, but you get the idea. Right away you can see that you will need to prepare snacks, find out the schedule at the gym, etc. and you can troubleshoot before you run into obstacles. This is likely to boost your odds of success.
5. Be accountable to somebody
Tell somebody about your resolution so that they are likely to ask you about it. Knowing that your friend or a spouse could inquire about your progress will increase the odds that you will follow through on your commitments to yourself. Another simple way to increase your sense of accountability is to simply schedule your activities (even things such as reading, napping or texting one friend a day). Your agenda (or phone) will show you what to do and you’ll be more likely to go along with the plan.
6. Tackle one resolution at a time
Maybe you want to lose weight, build muscle, learn Mandarin, read more, listen to more podcasts and start writing that novel. These are all great goals to have, but good luck tackling all of them at the same time. You would have to stop sleeping and working and socializing to make significant progress in all of those areas at the same time.
Your best bet is to prioritize and tackle one goal at a time. Is your health at risk? If so, staying active would probably be a priority. Will learning Mandarin help you get that job promotion? Then maybe that should be on top of the list. Only when you feel you have a handle on one goal and have made progress should you consider adding another resolution to your “to-do” list. Everything has to fit within your life. If it doesn’t it probably won’t work. Make it fit or adjust your resolutions.
7. Think outside the box
Remember that choosing not to have resolutions is ok too. Decreasing the pressure we tend to put on ourselves to constantly achieve more and improve ourselves in one way or another is a perfectly fine resolution too!
Happy New Year!