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The One Thing You Need to Do to Stick to Your New Year’s Resolution

The One Thing You Need to Do to Stick to Your New Year’s Resolution

The One Thing You Need to Do to Stick to Your New Year’s Resolution

80% of New Year’s resolutions fail within the first year.1 In fact, most people report failing their resolution by January 12th.2 So, if you’re struggling to keep your New Year’s Resolution or worried about choosing a resolution and failing to keep it like last year, you’re not alone. But there are ways to make keeping your resolution easier.

Popular New Year’s Resolutions and Which is the Hardest to Keep
Why Do New Year’s Resolutions Fail

    You aren’t ready for change.
    You feel overwhelmed.
    You feel discouraged.
    Your goals aren’t clear.
Why You Should Set Goals Instead of Resolutions This New Year
How to Create Your New Year’s Goal
How to Keep Your New Year’s “Resolution”

Popular New Year’s Resolutions and Which is the Hardest to Keep

According to a nationwide survey by Vitagene, the five most popular 2019 New Year’s Resolutions in the U.S. were:3

  1. Exercise to get in shape (19.7%)
  2. Diet to lose weight (18.3%)
  3. Save money (14.8%)
  4. Eat healthier in general (11.9%)
  5. Something for self care (5.5%)

Any guesses for which resolution is the hardest to keep? If you said “dieting or eating healthier” you’d be right.3 In contrast, the easiest to keep was “personal development resolutions” like read more or learn a new hobby.3 But why are some resolutions easier to keep than others? Is it all just a question of will power?

Why Do New Year’s Resolutions Fail

There are 4 common reasons why New Year’s Resolutions often fail according to Psychology Today.4

1. You aren’t ready for change.

  • Sometimes we make resolutions, but deep down we aren’t ready to make the changes needed to succeed. Maybe you lack the motivation or dedication to achieve your resolution. People may choose “exercising” as their resolution because it feels like the right thing to choose or what they should choose, but don’t not have enough of a desire to really commit to a change.
  • This might also explain why “personal development resolutions” were easiest to keep -Because the desire to read more or learn a new language or master how to knit already existed. People who made these resolutions were ready for a change.

2. You feel overwhelmed.

  • Setting a big resolution can feel overwhelming. If you don’t know how to start, you might quit before you even begin. Or you may feel so much pressure (from friends, family, or even yourself) to hurry up with starting your resolution that you give up. If you feel overwhelmed, take a deep breath and decide what the first small step should be.

3. You feel discouraged.

  • If you aren’t achieving your resolution as fast as you hoped you may feel discouraged. Maybe you aren’t losing weight as fast as you hoped or maybe you slipped from your new diet. When setbacks happen, you may start to reevaluate your entire resolution, wondering if your goal is worth it or not. At this point, you need to decide if you should reevaluate your process or keep up your current method, but give yourself more time.

4. Your goals aren’t clear.

  • Clarifying your resolution is crucial. It’s important for you to know why your resolution is important to you. This way you can reflect, for example, I want to have more energy to play with my kids, when you’re having a tough time dragging yourself out of bed early in the morning to get to the gym. You also need to have clear steps to achieving your resolution.

Why You Should Set Goals Instead of Resolutions This New Year

Resolutions tend to be big, sweeping statements: “My resolution is to exercise more”; “My resolution is to lose weight”; “My resolution is to start eating healthier”; “My resolution is to learn Spanish”.

But what counts as “exercising more”? Is it heading to the gym once a week? Or taking walks after work? Or working out a home while watching TV?

How much weight do you plan to lose? Will you set a weekly goal? A monthly goal?

How will you eat healthier? Will you stop drinking pop? Limit fast food? Have an actual breakfast everyday instead of a cup of coffee? What counts as healthy eating to you?

When will you decide you have “learned Spanish”? Do you just want to master the basic phrases? Are you hoping to become conversational? Or head to Spain and speak in Spanish the entire time? Will you take a daily lesson in an app or a weekly lesson with a native speaker?

Resolutions tend to be vague. It can be difficult to know where to get started and hard to measure whether you are really achieving aim. Choose goals instead! They are specific and actionable. Set S.M.A.R.T. goals and join the 8% of people who do achieve their resolutions!5

How to Create Your New Year’s Goal

Now that you’ve decided on creating New Year’s goals instead of resolutions, how do you get started? Make sure you have SMART goals!

SMART Goals

  • Specific: Keep your goal well-defined.
  • Measurable: Make sure you can measure your progress towards your goal.
  • Achievable: Your goal should be realistic. (If you’ve never gone running before, instead of aiming to run a marathon, set a goal for a 5K first and go from there)
  • Relevant: Make sure you pick goals that you’re motivated to achieve and that are relevant to your lifestyle.
  • Timely: Make sure you set a deadline for your final goal (and multiple deadlines as you make progress toward your mini goals).

Since 55% of resolutions are fitness-based, we’ll use fitness goals in our examples, but this SMART process can be used for any New Year’s goal.

Resolution: Exercise more.

SMART goal: Work out for one hour at the gym, twice a week.
SMART goal: Go on a twenty minute walk every evening after work, if the weather is poor walk for twenty minutes on the treadmill instead.
SMART goal: Sign up for and attend one yoga class a week.
SMART goal: Exercise at home for one hour, three times a week, using an exercise bike for 40 minutes and resistance bands for 20 minutes.

Resolution: Lose weight

SMART goal: Lose two pounds a week until I reach my weight goal of XXX.
SMART goal: Lose four pounds a month until I reach my weight goal of XXX.
Your weight loss goals should also be accompanied by a plan on how you will lose weight through diet and/or exercise.

Resolution: Eating healthier

SMART goal: Eat one fruit or vegetable with every meal.
SMART goal: Bring my lunch from home and only eat fast food twice a month.
SMART goal: Drink water instead of pop every time I dine out.
SMART goal: I will meal prep for my lunches every Sunday afternoon.

How to Keep Your New Year’s “Resolution”

Now that you’ve set your goals, it’s time to talk about how to stick to them. New goals are exciting for the first few weeks, but overtime it’s easy to hit the snooze button instead of heading to the gym or deciding to grab McDonald’s instead of making dinner after a hard work day.

10 Steps to Achieving Your New Year’s Goal

  1. Make a SMART Goal
    • Get specific. If your goal is vague you won’t be able to measure your progress or even know when you’ve achieved it.
  2. Keep it simple
    • Stick to one or two goals. Don’t go crazy and try to overhaul your whole life on January 1st. If you have too many goals, you won’t stick to any of them.
  3. Don’t wait until the last minute
    • Start planning for your goals in advance. If you want to eat a fruit or vegetable at every meal, you better plan a grocery store trip before kicking off your goal. Otherwise, it will be too easy to say, ‘I guess I’ll have to wait a few days to start’, and then possibly never start at all.
  4. Don’t repeat your past mistakes
    • If your goal is similar to a resolution that failed in the past, take the time to evaluate why you failed. Thinking about what you did that was effective, what wasn’t effective, and how can you approach your goal in a new way can help prepare you to achieve your goal this time.
  5. Take baby steps
    • Set small, attainable goals first. Take, for example, your goal to lose 50 pounds this year and change it into losing 1 pound a week. It’s easier to measure and will let you see your progress. If you want to run a marathon, but currently don’t exercise at all, maybe your goal should be doing cardio three times a week and finishing a 5K in 2 months. Once you achieve that, you can aim for a ½ marathon, and eventually a marathon - it’s all about baby steps.
  6. Get support
    • Tell your friends, family, and loved ones about your goals. You can work out with them, giving you motivation not to skip a day. Or make it a friendly competition, like seeing who can get the most steps each week. Having a buddy makes fitness goals more fun. And even if they don’t join you in working out or eliminating chips from your diet, you can still have them hold you accountable and encourage you along the way.
  7. Stay motivated
    • If things get tough, don’t give up. Maybe you aren’t making progress as fast as you hoped, but remind yourself that you are taking steps towards your goal. Think back to your initial motivation. Why did you set this goal? Remind yourself why you’re doing this and stay positive.
  8. Cut yourself some slack
    • If you skip a day at the gym or eat a brownie at work, don’t give up on your entire goal. Instead of deciding that you failed, tell yourself you’ll do better tomorrow. Don’t let one minor setback derail your whole year, nobody’s perfect.
  9. Choose the right rewards
    • Rewarding yourself when you reach a key milestone or achieve your goal can help keep your motivation, but don’t choose rewards that put your goal in danger. If you want to lose weight, your reward shouldn’t be a bowl of ice cream. But going to a concert, having a spa day, taking a photography class, getting a manicure, or enjoying a weekend getaway are great ideas.
  10. Track your progress
    • You can use a calendar or a journal to track your progress towards your goal. Add your plan, key milestones when you will check your progress, the date you hope to achieve your goal by, and any other important information. This might include fitness class dates, a list of food you ate, checklists, notes on your progress and setbacks, and more.

Turn your resolutions into goals and start making progress! Don’t forget, January 1st isn’t a magical date. You can start in March, July, or even December.

If you want to set a health goal that isn’t measured in weight loss, check out these 5 Healthy New Year’s Resolutions for Wellness, Not Weight Loss.

And if your goal is to lose weight, check this article on How to Keep Your New Year’s Resolution: Weight Loss.

References

  1. Luciani, Joseph. (2015). Why 80 Percent of New Year’s Resolutions Fail. U.S. News. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/32EkaUz
  2. Kahlil, Shireen. (2018). New Year’s Resolutions Last Exactly This Long. New York Post. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2NFEel4
  3. Vitagene. (2018). The Most Popular 2019 New Year’s Resolutions. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2QfSToT
  4. Ali, Shainna. (2018). Why New Year's Resolutions Fail. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2Q84uq6
  5. Prossack, Ashira. (2018). This Year, Don't Set New Year's Resolutions. Forbes. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2NHlUs7

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