Ah, mid-January. Around this time is when those well-meaning New Year’s resolutions start to slip away. If you’re like 75 percent of Americans who make resolutions for January 1, they probably went spectacularly well for the first week but have been losing some steam since. Only 8 percent of people who make resolutions each year are successful in keeping them, according to research by the University of Scranton.
So, how can you make a good resolution that has staying power? By adding a few simple tweaks, you’ll find that you can actually be successful at New Year goal setting all year round.
01. Ask yourself two questions about your resolutions.
Think back to your most recent resolutions. Why did you choose to focus on that particular goal? Case in point: if you feel like you should start exercising more because, well, that’s just what one does at the beginning of each year, your commitment is likely to weaken. When it comes to sustainable goal setting, only commit to things that you truly want to change.
Health economist Austin Frakt described in the New York Times how he asks himself two questions when he is considering making a resolution:
- “Why don’t I do this already?”
- “Why do I feel the need to do this now?”
The first question, he says, helps him to identify what barrier he is facing to implementing his goal. The second question helps him assess his motivation. Ask yourself these two questions to help you identify a personal and meaningful resolution that you will feel motivated to keep.
For me, I have noticed that I spend an embarrassing amount of time scrolling through my phone whenever I’m waiting somewhere, whether it’s in line at the post office, waiting for a friend, or waiting for a page to load on my computer (this is the most embarrassing). Here’s my motivation: I want to stop mindlessly consuming social media. Why haven’t I done this before? It’s become such an ingrained habit that I don’t even notice I’m doing it. I want to be more intentional with my time by taking advantage of waiting as an opportunity to practice mindfulness or deep breathing rather than just scrolling through my feeds.
02. Choose a method that works for you.
Once you’ve identified your meaningful resolutions, it’s time to create an action plan that’s straightforward and sustainable. The key is to pick methods that will work best for you and your lifestyle.
Figuring out what motivates you is important. Reading Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies can help you discover your motivation style (you can take her quiz here). Another effective route is the SMART approach to goals and resolutions. If being held accountable to someone or something else motivates you to follow through with your resolution, you might benefit from using an app such as SuperBetter to help you track your progress and setbacks throughout the day.
To help me with my mindless social media scrolling, I might download Moment or a similar app to help me be more mindful of my phone usage. I’m also a huge fan of setting recurring reminders on my phone to remind me of my goals.
03. Remember these two principles.
Whatever methods you choose to set your goals, here are two helpful principles to keep in mind. First, make your resolutions behavior-focused. Psychologist Andrea Bonior, Ph.D., says that identifying specific behaviors to change (e.g. “spend no more than thirty minutes a day on non-work-related social media”) is more effective than making broader goals (e.g. “be more mindful of social media use”). According to research from the University of Scranton, people who set very explicit goals are ten times more likely to succeed than those who don’t.
Second, the American Psychological Association recommends changing only one behavior at a time with small adjustments (how many of us try to tackle 5 resolutions all at once?). For me, that might mean setting a timer when using my phone during my lunch break to limit social media use and to become more intentional on the rarer occasions when I do use it. All of this planning might seem like a lot of work, but having a clear plan before you put your resolution into practice will only increase your likelihood of success.
04. Keep the inspiration flowing.
Making any change to your routine can be difficult at first. But psychologist Dr. Joseph Luciani writes that cultivating optimism is essential to making resolutions stick. One way to do this is to remind yourself of specific goals that you have accomplished in the past, Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., says. Recalling your recent achievements can give you the boost of confidence you need when your alarm goes off extra early so you can squeeze in a workout before work.
Seeking out ways to cultivate inspiration can also help sustain your motivation over the long haul (don’t forget there are still 11.5 months left of the year). That could mean creating a Pinterest board for inspiration. Having a friend to cheer you on, can be helpful too. Verily Lifestyle Editor Krizia Liquido sets small weekly rewards for accomplishing her fitness goals: a manicure one week, a meal at her favorite restaurant another. Be creative and fill your life with the inspiration you deserve.
Goal setting doesn’t have to be an empty, obligatory rite of passage at the beginning of each new year. Instead, choose something that is fulfilling to you, something that you feel excited to do rather than something that you think you should do for the sake of doing it. By taking a more personalized and critical approach to putting your resolution into action, you might just find that you actually enjoy practicing it. And the satisfaction from accomplishing your goal will just be the icing on the cake!
Photo Credit: Brittni Willie Photography