How many New Year's resolutions did you make last year? How many of them did you keep? For many of us, that ratio is not one that we’re especially proud of.
Most resolutions don’t make it past the intention stage and of those that do, few last into February. The reason why we’re so bad at keeping resolutions is not that we lack motivation but that we don’t take the time to plan the best way to succeed and integrate the new habit into our lives.
If you’re making resolutions this New Year, here are five tips for increasing your chances of success.
1. Details matter: When making resolutions, be specific about your goal. For example, "Get to the gym more often" is too vague. Instead, specify how many days a week, what kind of workout you plan to do, and how long each workout should last.
2. Set moderate goals: The best way to maintain motivation is to set a goal that isn’t too easy or too hard, such that it requires effort, but not so much effort as to be discouraging. Also, try to articulate sub-goals, because reaching them will help give you a shot of satisfaction and achievement along the way.
3. Set the start date: We often don’t start our resolutions on January 1, either because we’re sleeping in or because we’re sleeping off our night out. Fair enough. But we don’t necessarily start on January 2 either, because we’re waiting for a Monday or for a weekend or for the laundry to be back or for any variety of reasons (some but not all of which are mere excuses).
Before we know it, it’s the middle of the month, and we’ve forgotten about the resolution altogether. So decide the day and time you plan to start and ...
4. Put it in your calendar: You’re probably reading this on your phone or within reach of it, so put in a reminder right now so you don’t "forget." Entering a resolution start date into our calendar and blocking out the time to engage in it is a great way to strengthen our intention. If you don’t clear time and space for the resolution, it’s unlikely to happen.
5. Anticipate hurdles: If you’re making a resolution, it means the thing you're endeavoring to do isn’t happening naturally. Why not? What gets in the way? What makes you fail to follow through once you start? Make a list of the hurdles you anticipate and figure out how to get around each of them.
6. Create accountability: We are much more likely to follow through with decisions and resolutions if there are people to whom we’re accountable (annoying as it can be to have to account to someone—when it comes to resolutions and habit change, it’s extremely helpful). So let people in your life know about your resolutions (as long as they’re not too private), and ask them to check in with you about how well you’re keeping them.
7. Make it a habit: For resolutions to last, they have to become more automatic—like a habit. Most of us don’t have an internal debate about whether to brush our teeth every morning; we do it automatically because it’s an ingrained habit. For example, if you resolve to look for a new job, go over job listings while having your morning coffee. Linking a new habit to an existing one is an easy way to jump-start it.
New Year's resolutions usually involve initiating new behaviors and creating new habits, and both those things are not easy to do. So make sure you devote the time and thought to plan out and execute your goals as best you can and give yourself a fighting chance at success.