How To Follow Through On Your New Year's Resolutions
How setting specific, realistic goals and finding your motivation for change can help you achieve your resolutions this year
Have you already given up on your New Year’s resolution? If so, you’re not alone. According to Forbes, about 75% of people don’t make it through the first month of a New Year’s resolution. Why is that? Just like diets, resolutions are designed to fail. Resolutions are typically very vague- something like “I want to eat better in the new year,” or “I want to go to the gym more.” By neglecting to make a specific goal, you have no action to take. You toast to a healthier 2019, make a few mindful decisions about food or activity over the next few days, and forget about your resolution as you get back into your usual routine. If you did go the extra step and create a specific goal, there are still challenges ahead.
Step 1: Set a Specific Goal
With good intentions, everyone sets off with their specific goals to better themselves in the new year. Here is the next fatal flaw of resolutions: they always seem to be all or nothing. Say you plan to go to the gym 5 days a week and exercise for an hour each time. The first week goes well, but then your routine is interrupted by another obligation, or you realize you’ve been neglecting other priorities in your life. You miss one day, and then another, and maybe a third. You are discouraged that you couldn’t keep your initial goal, so you quit entirely, becoming another to fall victim to the gym’s New Year’s promotion.
If you decided to start with a food related goal, maybe you planned to have a salad for lunch every day. You happily munch on your salad at lunch each day, proudly telling your coworkers about your resolution to improve your health in the new year. A few weeks go by, and you try several new varieties, until the day you can’t even look at another salad without cringing. Again, you give up on your resolution and fall back into old habits. In both of these scenarios, by failing to set a realistic goal, you have set yourself up for failure. Say you took the time to set a specific, realistic goal. There’s no way you can fail now, right?
Step 2: Make sure your goal is realistic
You’ve decided to exercise for at least 30 minutes 3 times per week and eat a vegetable first at dinner 5 days a week. You’ve found these goals realistic and attainable, and have even gone above and beyond your initial goal a few times. Having realistic goals has allowed you to have some flexibility with your diet and exercise routine, which has made it easier to stick to. You continue on for weeks and eventually months, but for some reason you still slip back into old habits by the 4th of July.
A third reason many people give up on their New Year’s resolutions is that they haven’t fully explored WHY they are trying to make a change. Sometimes their initial motivation is to get in shape for “swimsuit season” or to lose X number of pounds by a certain date. Many times, they want to look better or achieve a certain weight, which are only very surface level goals. Research has shown that basing goals on these parameters does not lead to long term change. This another reason many people give up. If they had taken the time to figure out why they wanted to lose weight, the motivation to reach a larger goal could have kept them going.
Step 3: Find your motivation for change
When setting a new goal, ask yourself WHY, WHY, and WHY again. A few examples:
Initial goal: lose weight to look better for summer
ASK: Why else do I want to lose weight?
You may find you want to lose weight for a number of more important reasons:
to improve your ability to do activities you enjoy without feeling winded (hiking, biking, etc.)
to decrease joint pain so you can enjoy playing with your kids/grandkids
to reduce your cholesterol, decreasing your risk of heart disease and stroke in the future
Initial goal: exercise to get fit
ASK: What will I enjoy about a higher level of fitness?
You may find you would enjoy a higher level of fitness for many reasons:
to feel stronger and be able to do activities with ease
to be able to do something new (walk or run a 5k, try a new sport or active hobby)
to maintain your strength and stamina so you can continue to do the activities you enjoy as you age
Armed with these three principals, I hope you can revise and reach your new goals!
Make goals specific. Avoid vague resolutions such as “eat better” or “exercise more,” because these don’t direct you to a a clear action to take.
Set realistic goals. Start with small goals and work up to larger ones. You will feel much better overshooting your goal than being unable to reach one that wasn’t attainable in the first place.
Determine your motivation for change. Remember it each day of your journey! This will help you stay on track, even when the newness and excitement of your initial goal starts to fade.
For more help setting goals see: Realistic Goal Setting- Reach Your Goals Faster!
What are your goals for the New Year? Share them in the comments below!