I love the idea of starting the New Year with a clean slate. I’ve often viewed the New Year as an opportunity to leave the negative behind and embrace positive acts of self-improvement in the year to come. I’ve set all sorts of New Year resolutions in the past including losing weight, increasing my productivity, saving more money, improving my mental health… the list goes on. I’ve set out to do it all! But for many years I failed at sticking to my New Year's resolutions. And I’m not alone!
New Year’s resolutions are a popular tradition to kick off the new year. Millions of Americans set New Year's resolutions every year. People love the idea of hoping that the upcoming year will be better than the last, and that sentiment is amplified as we move on from the raging dumpster fire that is 2020.
As popular as they are, studies show that New Year’s resolutions aren’t effective in helping us reach our goals. U.S. News & World Report estimates that a whopping 80% of resolutions are abandoned by February. Only an estimated 8% of resolutions-setters will stick to their resolutions throughout the entire year. Think back to the New Year’s resolutions you’ve set in the past. How long did you keep up with that fad diet you started on January 1st? Did you get your money’s worth on the annual gym membership you purchased in January? The odds are that your past resolutions fell short, most likely leaving you frustrated and discouraged. We’ve all been there!
This is why New Year’s resolutions usually don’t work:
You take on too much too fast.
You’re not clear about the goals you’re setting.
You don’t have a plan on how to achieve your goals.
You don’t have anyone to hold you accountable.
Does this mean you should skip setting a New Year's resolution altogether? Absolutely not! But you should be more deliberate about how you set your goals. Here are some tips to set bullet-proof resolutions that you can stick to for the entire year:
Be specific and realistic: You don’t run a race not knowing how far you have to go to reach the finish line. Goals are no different! Be specific about exactly what you want to achieve. If your goal is to lose weight, be specific about how much you want to lose. It’s also important to be realistic with your goals! Don’t try to lose 50 pounds when you don’t have 50 pounds to lose, and don’t expect to lose 20 pounds in a single month!
Find your WHY: What's the motivation behind your goal? Tapping into the real reason you want to achieve your goals will help you stay motivated for longer.
Have an action plan: List the steps you plan to take to achieve your goals. Like your goals, these steps should be as specific as possible! For example, someone trying to lose weight may plan to drink a specific amount of water each day, work out a certain number of days per week, and incorporate a certain amount of vegetables into each of their meals. Think of these steps as mini-goals to achieve on a daily or weekly basis!
Focus on one thing at a time and work your way up: Habits are easier to master when you don’t overwhelm yourself with too much at once. Once you have your action plan, focus on mastering it one step at a time. Start with the easiest task and work your way up to the most challenging. When you’ve mastered being able to do the first task with about 80% consistency, move onto mastering the next task in your action plan.
Be patient: We live in an age where we want instant results and gratification. But it takes time to reach your goals! A healthy weight loss rate is 1 to 2 pounds per week. If you’re trying to lose 25 pounds, don’t expect to do it in a month. It may take up to half a year!
Make changes for life, not for right now: Many people get sucked into fad diets or workout programs that offer extreme results in a short amount of time. But they require you to make drastic lifestyle changes that aren’t sustainable such as giving up foods you love or severe calorie restriction. The changes you make, whether it’s going to the gym 4 days per week or meal prepping, should just become part of what you do. If you can’t really see yourself doing something consistently for at least a year, it’s not sustainable.
Find someone to hold you accountable: There will be times in your journey when you lose motivation or when life gets in the way. Having someone to hold you accountable will help keep you from becoming derailed when this inevitably happens! Find a friend, family member, or enlist the expertise of a coach to help keep you on track!
Lastly, remember the last 2 years have been tough. If you set resolutions, be kind to yourself in the goals you set and how you plan out to achieve them. It's fine to challenge yourself, but don't come down too hard on yourself!