Staying True to New Year’s Resolutions

With the start of the new year, many of us set intentions to make changes in our lives…. resolutions to lose weight, change jobs, make more time for ourselves, start that business we have been considering, or countless other goals to improve our well-being. Be honest, did you make New Year’s resolutions last year that you have yet to stick to? At five days into the new year, have you already lost the motivation that felt so strong on December 31st? If so, you’re not alone. Researchers have found that typically 77% of people are only able to keep their resolutions for 1 week, 64% keep them for one month, 50% for 3 months and only 19% are able to keep their resolutions for over one year! (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11920693)

If only New Year’s resolutions were more like leather sofas during hot summer months, we’d all be able to stick to them easily. But no matter what we do, it sometimes seems impossible to lose that weight, quit smoking, or learn a new language (among many other pledges).

If you’re feeling guilty for not being able to stick with your resolutions, here are some ways you can stay true to them:

Be Sure They are Achievable

Many people set themselves up for failure by setting unrealistic goals. If your resolution is to lose 50 pounds by summer, that may not be realistic for your personal situation.

In order to be successful, your goal has to be right for you, meaning, it has to be personal to you, it has to be achievable by you, and you have to create a plan to get there.

Take Baby Steps

If your resolution is to exercise more, don’t plan on working out for two hours each day, seven days a week. Your body won’t be able to handle that if you’ve been inactive for some time. It will feel painful and you’ll want to give up. Instead, start small and build gradually. Decide to go to the gym twice a week for half an hour, then three times a week for an hour, etc.

Taking a goal and breaking it down into smaller steps allows for several things:

  1. The goal doesn’t feel so out of reach. It may be hard to visualize losing 50 pounds but losing 5 pounds seems doable. We are much less likely to give up when success feels within our grasp.
  2. It helps to build motivation. When we reach milestones it is encouraging. We celebrate. We have accomplished something and we feel motivated to keep going.
  3. Setting time frames for each small step toward a larger goal will help keep you accountable and build momentum that will make it more likely to keep going and stick with the process.

Tackle One Resolution at a Time

Maybe you want to lose weight, build muscle, learn Spanish, and start writing that novel. These are all great goals to have, but good luck tackling all of them at the same time.

Adding too many goals into our already jam-packed schedules is a sure fire way to cause us to feel overwhelmed and when this happens, guess which things will drop off our “to-do” lists first?

Your best bet is to prioritize and tackle one goal at a time. Is your health at risk? If so, losing some weight should probably be a priority. Will learning a new language help you get that job promotion? Then maybe that should be on top of the list. Only when you feel you have a handle on one goal and have made progress should you consider adding another resolution to your “to-do” list.

Avoid All or Nothing Thinking

As I mentioned earlier, the success rate for resolutions is pretty low for most of us. Our motivation drops off somewhere along the way. Life gets busy. We forget. Some of us feel if we mess up, then we have sabotaged the goal and we give up completely.

Viewing the goal in such absolute terms, with a 100% success rate, all the time, is most definitely setting yourself up for failure. If you fall short or give in to temptation and need to recalibrate or start over, do it! Falling off track is almost inevitable and shouldn’t be a reason or excuse to give up, nor feel guilty. Focusing on progress rather than perfection will move you closer to reaching your goal. Let’s be honest, if you achieved 50% of the goal would that feel satisfying? This is not to say be apathetic in your motivation, however, if it means achieving some success versus giving up and achieving none, which would be better?  Try not to view your goal in all or nothing terms and look at it more as a continuum of self-improvement. If your actions are improving your health, making you feel more satisfied in your life, and/or have increased your self-worth, then you have reached success and the building blocks to continue forward.

Get Support

You may also want to ask for support from friends and family. Accepting help from those who care is one great way to make sure you stick to your goals. Perhaps a partner or buddy may join you in reaching the goal, which can help with staying accountable and provide motivation. The chance of getting to the gym or sticking with a healthy meal plan increases when doing it with someone else.

Also, consider seeking help from a trained therapist. Mental health professionals can offer powerful tools that can help you uncover obstacles, where they came from, and tools to help you overcome them.

If you are having difficulty reaching or sticking to your goals and would like to explore treatment options, please contact me. I’d be happy to discuss how I may be able to help you stick to your resolutions and move your life forward.

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