A better question might be: have you already given up on the resolution you did make?
Don’t worry, no matter what time of year it is, there’s always time to set and make realistic resolutions that you can actually stick to. The key is knowing how to set goals, how to meet those goals, and what kinds of resolutions you’re most likely to stick to.
Do Resolutions Even Work?
About 50% of adults make a New Years resolution. But a 2007 study of 3,000 people found that 88% of those who made resolutions failed, even though 52% of participants felt confident at the time they made their resolutions.
According to Psychology Today, the most common resolutions are losing weight, exercising, and quitting smoking. Following that, other popular resolutions include managing debt and saving money, getting a better job, furthering education, reducing stress, taking a trip, or volunteering more.
But when people set these goals on January 1st, do they actually work? According to studies, yes! In fact, studies show that “by making a resolution, you are ten times more likely to succeed in your goal.”
But if you’re thinking, “Well, it’s never worked for me,” then give some consideration to the things you can do to increase your chances of following through on your New Year’s resolutions.
What Causes Resolutions To Fail?
Why did those 88% in the study fail in their resolutions? According to the study, it was because of one of four common reasons:
- They set unrealistic goals.
- They didn’t keep track of their progress.
- They forgot.
- They made too many resolutions.
To follow through on your resolution, you should remember to set achievable goals, track your progress, remind yourself of your goal (through notes around the house, with help from a partner, or through phone notifications), and stick to one or two reasonable goals.
Strategies For Sticking To Your Resolutions
- Write out WHY you want to change. Understanding why you set a goal – to lose weight, to exercise more, to quit smoking, to volunteer – will help keep you focused when things get hard (and they will get hard). Write out in a journal or a notecard or a Word doc exactly WHY you want to meet the goal you set for yourself. Remind yourself of that why when it gets hard to put down that cigarette or pick up that dumbbell.
- Start small. If you want to spend more time at the gym, schedule yourself for 3 or 4 days a week instead of 7.
- Make sure you enjoy yourself. You’re more likely to succeed at your goal if you focus on enjoying yourself in the process. For example, if your goal is to get healthier and go to the gym more, switch up your exercises at the gym. Make sure you include activities that are fun for you. Challenging yourself with new activities will keep you from getting bored, and the challenge will feel more like fun.
- Talk about your goals. One way to remember your resolution is to share what you’re hoping to change with your friends, family, and loved ones. Let them serve as reminders (and cheerleaders) as you seek to make positive changes in your life!
- Remove obstacles to success. Whenever possible, get rid of obstacles that will impede you reaching your goal. If spending a few more dollars a month means a significantly shorter walk to the gym, it might be worth it down the road. If we’re sticking with our gym example, pick a gym that’s convenient to get to and that you actually like. If you’re trying to eat healthier, try avoiding going to stores or restaurants where you know you’re likely to be tempted to stock up on sweet treats.
- Get back to your goal after an interruption. Life gets in the way of our goals sometimes: whether we miss gym days because of a vacation, or cave and have a cigarette after a particularly stressful day at work. The faster you get back to your goal after a slip-up, the easier it will be to get back on track.
Remember this: “Setting small, attainable goals throughout the year, instead of a singular, overwhelming goal on January 1 can help you reach whatever it is you strive for,” according to psychologist Lynn Bufka, Ph. D. “Remember, it is not the extent of the change that matters, but rather the act of recognizing that lifestyle change is important and working toward it, one step at a time.”