12 Simple Tips For How To Keep New Year’s Resolutions
Posted on 01 February 2019
The first month of the new year is officially over -- have you kept your New Year’s resolutions? According to The New York Times, more than half of all resolutions fail, which makes sense when you think about it: what reason is there for your motivation to suddenly improve in January and remain consistent enough to create long-lasting effects, versus any other time of the year? For most people, the new year is a time to reflect, to look back on accomplishments and failures, take stock of what we’ve accomplished and resolve to do better in the days that follow. Though the change from one day to the next really isn’t all that grand, we’ve decided as a species that the change from one year to the next is. Close to half of all Americans make New Year’s resolutions, though only 8% will keep them all year round.
Why is that?
Psychology Today claims that the celebration part of New Year’s is obvious: it is essentially a celebration of another 365 days of survival. However, the tradition of making resolutions has more to do with establishing a sense of control over the unknowable. Not having certainty of future events means that we don’t really have any assurance of what to do in order to keep ourselves safe. Thus, to counter this feeling of powerlessness and the throws of uncertainty, we make lists, plans and promises to ourselves to be better: diet and exercise more, save money and be frugal or finally quit smoking. What is most fascinating about making New Year’s resolutions is that just the act of committing to them -- even for a moment -- gives us a feeling of control over the uncertain days to come.
So, how do we keep them and prolong our feelings of control amidst uncertainty?
#1 Be realistic
This first tip has more to do with which resolutions you choose, rather than how to keep the ones you’ve already chosen. Making sure you pick realistic goals is crucial to ensuring the success of achieving those goals. For example, if you resolve to never eat cake again, this is a sure way to set yourself up for failure. Instead of making absolutes, strive to create goals that are attainable: avoid cake Sunday thru Friday, or only allow yourself a piece a month (depending on your previous cake intake + how much you believe cake is bad for you).
Sticking to New Year’s resolutions can be hard, but Richard Wiseman (a professor who has gained international recognition for his understanding of the field of psychology) claims that our chances of success are much higher when we channel all our energy into changing just one behavior.
Basically, don’t overload yourself.
According to The New York Times, resolutions fail because they are being made for the wrong reasons: they are created because someone else told you to do them, they are too vague and there is no realistic plan for achieving it. If you want to know how to keep your New Year’s resolutions, be SMART with your resolutions: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.
#2 Find your motivation
It can be easy to see what needs to change, but not why. So, you want to lose weight, to write more, to finish all those home renovation projects, to pick up a new hobby or to get a new job, but why? Listing your motivations for making a resolution is just as important as making the resolution itself. If you’re serious about learning how to stick to your New Year’s resolutions, then understanding the root reason for why you believe a change needs to be made will actually help you, in the long run, make that change. To keep from falling down the rabbit hole of why’s, use your root reason as your source of motivation to stick to your resolution.
Let’s say, for instance, that your New Year’s resolutions 2019 are primarily focused on getting a new job. Why? Because you don’t enjoy it. Or, because you’re not getting paid what you believe you’re worth. Whatever the reason, it’s important to remind yourself of that reason continuously so as not to remain complacent and to, instead, seek the change you believe should be made.
#3 Make failure painful
Sometimes, the best thing to do to break a nasty habit is just to dive into a healthy habit head-on. If you want to start exercising more, sign up for a race! If you want to be more frugal and start saving money, set up a direct debit from your paycheck to your savings account. Part of committing to a resolution and making a serious change to your habits is confidently making decisions without dwelling on them too much. As Nike says, just do it. After all, some change is better than no change at all or stagnancy: even if it turns out plunging head-first into the deep-end isn’t a method that can be repeated consistently with success, it can, at the very least, introduce you to new experiences and be the catalyst for change.
Like the ripple effect caused by throwing a stone into a pond, something needs to be set in motion. However, this tip is not to overload or overwhelm, nor is it expected an individual can maintain drastic change consistently over time. This tip is only intended to get the ball rolling, as they say. Take a leap, and then stop and assess: how does it feel? It feels good to work towards your goals, doesn’t it?
#4 Baby steps
This tip is similar to tip #1: be realistic, and somewhat counter to tip #3: make failure painful. If you have a relatively large goal that feels almost unattainable and tip #3 feels too overwhelming, a good way to deal with it is to break it down into manageable, digestible chunks. For instance, if your resolution is to lose 30 pounds this year, focus first on losing 5 pounds in the first month. Keeping your New Year’s resolutions can be the hardest thing we do all year, so maybe start out by replacing your favorite junk foods with healthier options. Dramatically cutting your caloric intake or forcing yourself to go to the gym twice a day, five days a week might be overkill.
Just a bit.
Basically, doing certain tasks to dramatically alter your behavior over a prolonged period of time is not something that can maintained. Real change must be a gradual incline: if you’ve never run a marathon, don’t expect to come in #1 on your first race. If your new year’s resolution is actually to run a marathon, maybe start out by going for a jog once or twice a week. Small changes make it easier to stick to your new habits, which increases your chances of long-term success.
(Note: tips #3 and #4 are both included, despite their contradictory natures, because not everyone is the same. Some tips work better for some people, while they could be harmful to another. If you’re looking for tips for keeping New Year’s resolutions, you have to keep in mind what will work for you.)
#5 Eliminate bad influences
This is a really hard one. It’s one thing to say you will make changes and check off each thing from your New Year’s resolution list, and it is another thing to actually take real, legitimate steps towards change. A great way to make sure you succeed at your healthy New Year’s resolutions is to remove influences and temptations that would cause you to stray from your goal.
After a few weeks, you will begin to feel some discomfort or temptation associated with changing your behavior, which you might not have felt in the first couple of days of making your resolution. At this point, you have started to deal with the reality of what it means to lose weight or quit smoking: your body is in pain, you’re more unmotivated than ever and your head is pounding from nicotine withdrawal.
To keep yourself on track, remove the influences in your life that could sway you to slip right back into your bad behaviors: delete the Grubhub app, throw out all bad food and replace the items with healthy food, stop going out to bars where the temptation to smoke is all too high. If your resolution is to read more, then place all your video games in a box and put it in storage and pick up that book instead!
#6 Partner up!
Resolutions don’t have to be a chore and, if they are, this is a sure way to ensure you never reach them! When it’s a team effort, sticking to New Year’s resolutions is much easier because they’re fun, rather than work. If your goal is to get in shape in 2019, set up gym dates with a friend. Go to Barnes & Noble with your bosom buddy and pick out a book each; make a plan that every Tuesday night, you will each read at least a chapter in your book and check up on the other’s progress!
It’s all about having someone to hold you accountable: change is very rarely made without some form of social support. Whether it’s just a weekly phone call with your mom about your progress for the week, or a group of friends all dedicated to quitting smoking, make sure someone else knows your goal and has a stake in your success. That way, you can be put in check if you start to slip up.
#7 Plan it out
Making a plan is another way to hold yourself accountable. If you say, “oh, I’ll do it when I have some free time,” chances are you most likely will never do it because it is not really in our nature to find time to do things we don’t want to do. However, they need to get done, right? It’s a daily task you must challenge yourself to do (or at least think about!). It’s unrealistic to think you can work on your New Year’s resolution every single day, but if you have a plan, a schedule or a time-frame, you can relax knowing it will get done as long as you stick to it and make adjustments accordingly.
Whether you want a heftier savings account (to take that much-needed vacation to Hawaii!), or just a cleaner house, you can make sure you stick to your resolution by scheduling off blocks of time in your planner dedicated to your goals. Making a detailed plan allows you to consider what tactics you will use when you are faced with hurdles, bad influences or temptations. How will you deal with the temptation to not go to the gym today? The first step is to write down your goal, make a list of smaller, more attainable tasks to help you achieve that goal, and then make a schedule for the next month of those tasks. By having a plan, knowing what you want to accomplish and being aware of any hurdles you might face, you will be better prepared to stick to your resolution and overcome any potential struggles.
#8 Share (but don’t overshare)
Similar to tip #6, this tip emphasizes the importance of social accountability. Having a solid support system can help you stay on track and meet your goals: yes, the buddy system actually works. Explain your goals to your friends and family: don’t keep your resolution a secret! Enlist the help of others by finding a group that shares your same goal.
Though that one girl from highschool who posts about her vegan diet and yogic achievements might be super annoying, she might actually be more likely to stick to her goals! Just knowing that other people are watching your success will limit your chances of bailing: the social gratification you will receive when you achieve your goal will feel soo good. Keep in mind that sharing via social media can be a good thing, but in moderation: posting 12 times a day about each nut you consume might be excessive. Maybe limit your posts to once a day (or maybe even once a week!) and stick to one social media platform (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.), but not all.
#9 Track your progress
It is not enough to simply make a plan (tip #7): you must also keep track of how well you’re doing! Let’s face it: it’s easy to make a plan in early January when you’re ready for a new you, but it’s hard to prolong that feeling of motivation or willpower in the following weeks and months. A great way to keep you motivated is to track each small step of success. Since short-term goals are easier to keep, utilize tip #4 by breaking your resolution into smaller, easier-to-achieve goals, and then check them off a list each time you complete one of these smaller goals! Then reward yourself (tip #11)! Tracking your progress will help you to know when you need to change your original plan, if it turns out it’s not working.
Let’s say your resolution is to give back to your community and to become a more active volunteer: you could start by making a list of places and organizations you want to volunteer at. A great way to keep track of your progress is to write in a journal each night, or make notes in a planner at the end of each day and each week. At the beginning of each week, make notes on what you want to accomplish and, as the week goes on, write those tasks into your free slots each day and check them off as you go!
#10 Avoid self-blame & be kind to yourself
Patience, patience, patience. Resolutions can be difficult to stick to, especially after a few weeks have gone by and you realize how difficult it may be. After all, you are trying to replace bad habits with new healthy ones. When trying to stick to your New Year’s resolutions, remember to be kind to yourself. Setbacks are common and obsessing over the smallest slip-up is not going to get you where you want to be.
So, you missed your goal for the week?
Oh well! No big deal. Start again next week! If you get too down on yourself for not being absolutely, 100% perfect, then chances are you are not going to reach your goals and you’re just going to feel bad about yourself in addition. Encountering a setback is one of the most common reasons people give for giving up on their New Year’s resolutions. If you suddenly relapse into a bad behavior, don’t view it as a failure! Ok, so you came home after a long day of work and binge-ate fries while you binge-watched cooking shows. That doesn’t mean you failed at your resolutions! Allow yourself to have some time off, and start again tomorrow.
#11 Reward yourself
As you move through your plan and keep track of your progress, give yourself little gifts to reward yourself when you complete a task! After you check each item off of your list or after a long week working towards your goals in addition to a full-time job, you need a little break and that’s okay. This tip isn’t an excuse to go smoke a cigarette if your New Year’s resolution is to quit smoking: don’t reward yourself with something that will damage the improvements you’ve made.
However, if you feel you’ve had a particularly successful week and you’ve managed to juggle all of your normal day-to-day activities in addition to going to the gym or consistently eating healthy, then it’s perfectly acceptable to give yourself a break. Managed to eat healthy and stick to your diet all week? Go shopping! Finally got that poem from 3 years ago published? Eat a piece of cake. Good New Year’s resolutions are ones that also allow time to reflect on the small successes you’ve made.
#12 Don’t give up!
Yeah, some things are really hard. First of all, don’t delude yourself into thinking it’s going to be easy. By mid-February, most people who made New Year’s resolutions will have lost that little spark of motivation. If you’ve totally run out of steam to work on your goals and resolutions, don’t despair. Give yourself a break and some time to regain some energy, and start over again.
Recommit yourself to your resolution tomorrow.
Tomorrow, make time in your schedule to complete a task that works towards your overall goal. Think of it as, this is just for today. Eventually, those just for today days will build up and, before you know it, you will be back on track! The best New Year’s resolutions are not something you can complete in an hour: they take motivation, planning, dedication and acceptance of yourself.
You’ve got this.