By mid-January, most of us have already given up on our New Year’s Resolutions. In fact, about one-fourth of all people who bother to make resolutions abandon them by the first week of January. One week! C’mon, we can do better than that. So why do we bother making them if we can’t keep our New Year’s resolutions longer than a few weeks? Well, it’s a fun tradition, one that’s hard not to get caught up in. Who doesn’t like to imagine themselves a better, healthier, wealthier, happier person?
The New Year represents a new leaf, that fresh blank page where we are free to write ourselves a new story. As appealing as the idea is, change is hard. Cultivating new habits takes diligence and time. For most of us it also takes a willingness to fail multiple times and the courage to keep trying. Whether it’s January, February or October, adopting new habits is easier if you take the right approach.
Expert Tips to Keep New Year’s Resolutions—Anytime of Year
1. Want it.
To be most successful, a change should be at least a little enjoyable. “I will give up cookies for the rest of my life” sounds more like a punishment than a resolution. Why are you giving up cookies, to lose weight or maybe to improve your dental health? Okay, then let’s go with “I want to improve my dental health.” That sounds much more positive and much less punitive. Reducing sugar maybe be part of your plan, but is that what you really want? No, you want healthier teeth and gums. Make that your goal.
2. Get specific.
Sure, everyone wants to be healthier, but what do you specifically need to do in order to be healthier, eat more vegetables, see your doctor regularly, lose weight? Focusing on one specific action instead of a large, nebulous general idea gives you a place to start and increases your chance to succeed. For example “be more organized” is too broad of a goal and a hard one to measure. A resolution to clean and organize your home office gives you a solid place to start.
3. Make a plan.
If your goal is to lose weight, decide how you will do that. Again, the more specific you can be the more you set yourself up for success. Saying “I want to lose about 20 pounds by the end of the year” is not nearly as effective as saying “I want to lose two pounds a month this year, and I will do that by reducing carbs, adding coconut oil to my diet and working out twice a week.”
4. Write it down.
Tracking progress encourages more progress. If your resolution is to save money, write down every time you deposit something into your savings account. If you want to exercise more, mark a big red heart on the calendar each day you work out. Having a visual aid you can easily access at any time will help you stay focused on your goal and positive about your ability to reach it.
5. Find support.
Accountability is a big factor when learning new habits. Your workout buddy knows if you’re showing up to the gym or not. Sharing your goal with someone else forces you to be more honest with yourself, but it also gives you someone to lean on when challenges come up. Confide in a friend, a support group or a therapist—and be honest about your progress—for the best chance at success.
Lastly, accept that you’re going to fall down once in a while. It’s natural to take the path of least resistance, to eat the fast food or throw that pile of junk on your desk. An occasional lapse is not the same as a complete failure. In those times when you’re feeling defeated, remind yourself why the goal is important and take a moment to acknowledge all the progress you’ve already made.