It’s February and you have probably slipped up on some or even all of your New Year’s resolutions. You’re not alone –– more than 80% of individuals who set these goals fail to stick with them, according to a study by the University of Scranton. It’s so common that January 17th has been regarded as “Ditch Your Resolutions Day”, where folks officially give up on pursuing their New Year’s resolutions.
What makes these new habits so hard to keep? A 2016 study found that individuals were only really likely to stick to their New Year’s resolutions if they got instantaneous results from them. According to the researchers of the study, around 55% of the resolutions were about eating healthier and losing weight –– both of which don’t reap immediate rewards. Most people treat this marathon of achieving their goals like a sprint, and when they don’t reach the finish line, they instantly give up.
The key to success is to embrace your New Year’s resolutions as a year-long journey with perseverance. There will be high’s and low’s but every step you take will help you get closer to forming the new habits. Here are some tips and tricks that will make this transition just a bit easier.
Make SMART Goals
It’s really common to set high standards for yourself, like aspiring to switch from a carnivore to a vegan or waking up at 5am every morning to get a workout in. However, most of the time, those goals fail because they’re simply not SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-based). When you utilize the SMART acronym, you can develop clear and meaningful goals with an action plan and support needed to accomplish them. If you think your resolutions may be a little too unrealistic, it may be time to reevaluate them. Here are the questions you should ask yourself when crafting new ones:
- Specific (What exactly needs to be accomplished?)
- Measurable (How will I know when my goal is achieved?)
- Attainable (Is this goal a reasonable stretch?)
- Realistic (Is this a worthwhile goal?)
- Time-based (When can I accomplish this goal?)
SMART is all about taking the small steps instead of big leaps. “If someone wants to run a ½ marathon they are not going to start by running 10 miles. You want to look at what you are doing right now and try to change that behavior in a reasonable amount. For example, instead of ‘I want to walk more this year’ try something like ‘I want to walk Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for at least thirty minutes after work,” says Dr. Rebecca Leslie, a clinical psychologist. Once you have identified your goals as SMART, you can easily recognize the actions you need to take and create a plan to set yourself up for success in the following months.
Write Them Down.
A visual reminder of your goals can help you remember them better, according to data from a recent survey. The data showed that people who very vividly describe or picture their goals are anywhere from 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to successfully accomplish their goal. This is because the visual cue helps our brain’s encoding process, which decides what goes in our long-term and short-term memory. The more we write things down, the better chance our brain will remember it.
Kavita Rai, an organizer and founder of Justice in the Classroom, shared with us her annual tradition of making a vision board to serve as a visual reminder of the goals she would like to manifest for the upcoming year. “I created a vision board for 2020 and while 2020 was a horrible year to say the least, my vision board hung up on my wall as a reminder to my growth and kept me grounded in who I knew I wanted to become,” she says. “I’ve noticed how I accomplished my goals in 2021 and now will change and re-evaluate them for 2021.”
Creating a vision board is a beautiful way to remind yourself of your resolutions. However, if you’re not super artsy, there are plenty of other options. Maybe it’s adding sticky notes on your mirror or setting digital reminders on your phone to be reminded of your goals and the necessary steps to achieve them. Regardless of what the method may look like for you, it’s important to have them in front of you to spark motivation and consistency.
Designate an Accountability Partner
From watching a movie to sharing an ice cream sundae, it’s always really fun to do things in pairs. Why not accomplish your resolutions with a buddy? You and a partner –– it could be a friend, sibling, or significant other –– can share your goals and processes with each other and hold each other accountable for achieving them. Your goals and steps can be completely different but the fun lies in motivating each other to fulfill resolutions.
Now, this can happen in many forms. One way is to deliver consistent reminders to each other, says Kristin Meekhof, a therapist and author of A Widow’s Guide to Healing. “If you have a goal in mind, tell someone to ask you (via text, email, etc.) about it later. For example, all they may need to say is ‘How was your run?’ Often knowing you’re going to be asked this question later will motivate you to complete the task,” she says.
You can also create incentives together to drive each other. Maybe it’s planning a vacation to your favorite destination next year or doing staycations as milestones when it comes to key stages of accomplishing your goals. Having a partner as a part of your goal-setting journey is really influential –– it makes you feel you are not alone in this and have support from someone throughout this process. And when you come to the finish line, you both can reorient your approaches to your goals and perhaps try something new for the upcoming year!
The Bottom Line
If you experienced difficulty in adopting New Year’s resolutions in past years, don’t lose hope. With these tips, commit to giving 2021 a fresh start with actions that will make lasting changes in your life. Just remember not to be too hard on yourself, says Dr. Regine Muradian, a clinical psychologist. “It’s easy to get discouraged and unfocused. Even just setting a resolution or goal is a success,” she says. There will be challenges on the road, but don’t let that get in the way of what you’d like to accomplish. Take the plunge to embark on a compelling journey to ultimately change your life. The best is yet to come.