Whenever January rolls around, most of us feel inspired to make New Year’s resolutions. We resolve to eat better, exercise more, and learn a new skill. We want to better ourselves, and the start of the new year seems to be the perfect time to do it. According to the American Psychological Association, some of the most popular resolutions people make are to lose weight, quit smoking, and exercise regularly. However, about 60 percent of people drop their New Year’s resolutions by June.
How do you stay strong in your resolution and not give up after a couple months? As a clinical psychotherapist, I can offer some suggestions of what helps people make a resolution that will stick.
Simply Make a Resolution
Yep, that’s right. Just by making a resolution and stating your intention to change actually increases your chance of success. Researchers have found that people who stated a resolution increased their chance of achieving their New Year’s resolution by ten percent compared to those who did not.
Why is this the case? The researchers hypothesize that making a resolution signals that a person is ready to make a change, and this means you are more motivated to take action regarding your resolution. If you’re not ready to make a resolution, it’s probably not the right time for you, perhaps for a variety of reasons. So, if you’re ready, make that resolution!
Believe in Yourself
Far from being some kind of cheesy mantra, believing in your ability to achieve your resolution actually does make a difference. Researchers have found that people are more likely to succeed in making and sustaining change when they believe in their own ability to succeed.
Believing in yourself and your abilities is crucial for changing habits, according to the psychological theory of self-efficacy. And when you think about this, it make sense. If you doubt your ability to run a 10K, for example, you are going to talk down on yourself every step of the way and beat yourself up over every setback you have. When you doubt yourself, you’re more likely to give up the first time you hit a roadblock with your resolution. But when you believe in yourself, you treat those same setbacks differently. Because you believe in yourself, you’ll push through those roadblocks, fight back against the self-doubt, and figure out a way to make it work.
Stay True to You
What’s your motivation for making your resolution? Are you choosing something that’s meaningful to you or are you just going through the motions?
As an example, I have quite a few friends who love running marathons. While I do run and love the idea of accomplishing a 26.2-mile race, it’s not something I actually want to do. So while some of the people I’m close to are choosing to run a marathon as their New Year’s resolution, I’m choosing something else that has more personal meaning to me. As another example, just because everyone else around you seems to want to lose ten pounds as their resolution doesn’t mean you have to too. Making a resolution that you actually care about means that you’ll have greater buy-in once January 1 rolls around and it’s time to leap into action.
Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew
We all have grand plans of being a boss lady and taking over the world, but make sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew when it comes to making your New Year’s resolution. I’ve written before about the SMART approach to setting goals, and one of its main ideas is that we need to set achievable goals.
Set yourself up for success but picking a resolution that is challenging but doable. To go back to the running example, if you’ve never run before, making a resolution to run a marathon might not be the best way to set yourself up for success. Chances are, you will more likely be discouraged rather than motivated by your lofty goal. Instead, choosing to run a 5k by June and a 10k by October might be a better route. Running a shorter distance will still be challenging, but it is much more achievable. The trick is to find a goal that is in the realm of possibility but still requires you to up your game.
Add, Not Subtract
This year, why not try to add something to your life? Instead of focusing on those habits you want to change (stop smoking, lose weight through diet or exercise, go to bed earlier), consider picking a resolution to add something to your life.
Perhaps you’ve always wanted to try rock climbing but haven’t gotten around to it. Now’s the time to try it! Or maybe you’ve been wanting to redecorate for ages. Go for it! Whatever it is, try adding something fun into your life this year. Pick something you are excited about, not something you are dreading. You’ll be more likely to be excited about making your resolution happen which, in turn, increases your chances for being successful at your goal.