We all know the old song and dance: We’ve closed out yet another calendar year and ring in the next with high hopes for the 365 days ahead. We imagine all that’s possible for us to accomplish, creating long lists of intentions and/or New Year’s resolutions, selecting a “word of the year” to guide us, contemplating new traditions, or drumming up drill sergeant-type tactics to whip our lives into shape—all in an effort to maximize the year to come.
More often than not, though, how long does it take before all of our grand plans fall by wayside? Sure, we kicked off January by buying out half of the supermarket’s produce aisle, joining the gym, and dusting off the blender to whip up healthy smoothies every morning. But, by the month’s end, too many Americans are sneaking chips into the shopping cart and finding yet another excuse to avoid that next fitness class. Why do we subject ourselves to this deflating routine year after year? The problem may lie in taking the wrong approach altogether to New Year’s resolutions.Gargantuan goals like “Lose 50 pounds” are far less likely to come to fruition than more achievable (but still related) aims, like walking for 20 minutes every day or adding strength training to your weekly routine. Click To Tweet
Beating the Odds on New Year’s Resolutions
When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, the stats aren’t exactly encouraging. News outlets have reported that only 8% of Americans who make a New Year’s resolution actually stick to them through the entire year, while a whopping 80% have already given up by the beginning of February. On the other hand, making positive changes clearly does start with setting the goal to do so, and those who make New Year’s resolutions at least have a shot of landing within that successful 8%.
First, you’ll want to narrow down your goals to a manageable quantity. Stats show that the most popular resolutions made at the start of the year include living healthier, personal improvement or happiness, losing weight, career or job goals, financial goals, improving relationships, travel or moving, exercising, quitting smoking, or cutting back on alcohol. But, needless to say, you can’t do everything; choose your top 1 or 2. Also make them manageable in scope: Gargantuan goals like “Lose 50 pounds” are far less likely to come to fruition than more achievable (but still related related) aims, like walking for 20 minutes every day or adding strength training to your weekly routine.
Rethink Your New Year’s Resolutions With These Strategies
1. Focus on the positive, not the negative. Whether you’re looking to make formal resolutions or simply want to make positive changes in general, keep in mind that it might be more helpful to set goals looking to achieve something versus avoid something. One 2020 study found that “approach-oriented goals were significantly more successful than those with avoidance-oriented goals.” For example, maybe you want to cut high-fat, processed, and deep-fried foods from your diet. That’s a great goal, but you can also reframe it by pledging to add more servings of vegetables and fruits to every meal. Usually, the healthier choices will naturally push out the unhealthier ones. And don’t be afraid to ask for help; in this same study, the one of three groups that received support was “significantly more successful compared to the other two.” Enlist a buddy to keep you accountable and create daily or weekly check-ins to stay on track.
2. Determine your personal plan of attack. Before January 1st rolls around, take some time to review your personal history with goal setting. What has (or hasn’t) worked for you in the past? Your own experiences can be wonderful teachers! Evaluate both successes and setbacks when you have previously tried to make changes, asking yourself plenty of questions along the way. This will help you determine the best path forward—one that works for your unique needs.
3. Write it out. Studies have shown that practices like writing down your health goals and keeping a food and exercise journal lead to more successful results than keeping it all in your head. While you’ll benefit from written goal setting (try using my One Page Miracle), this process can also help in breaking up your goals into smaller steps. Many people find the SMART goal approach a useful one: Make sure your written goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Then write down notes on your achievements every day—you’ll be amazed at how motivating this can be as you progress.
4. Ditch the all-or-nothing thinking. So you slipped up yesterday—or all of last week. You don’t need to beat yourself up, and you certainly don’t have to eat the whole box of cookies because you ate one of them. Be compassionate with yourself and remind yourself that change takes time. Chances are, you didn’t develop your unhealthiest habits overnight, so it’s going to take some time to overcome them. Instead, celebrate your wins, big and small, congratulate yourself for how far you’ve come, and get back on track right away. To delve even further, try to pinpoint what went wrong, so you can avoid the same issue repeating in the future.
5. Start small. If you think the idea of a New Year’s resolution is too intimidating, you’re not alone. Instead, make a commitment to carry out your goal(s) for two weeks, or until the end of January. At the end of the prescribed time period, evaluate your progress. How do you feel? What worked best for you? Do you need to tweak your strategies to make them more achievable? If you’ve stuck with positive changes for a full month, you’re more likely to keep up the good work. And be patient with yourself—one study showed that it takes anywhere from 18 to 254 days to make a habit automatic. With enough practice, and with all of those feel-good results you’re sure to experience, you’ll be inching your way toward making even your biggest goals a reality, simply by taking it day by day.
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