How to be successful with your New Year’s Resolutions

The New Year is a good opportunity to reflect on what we want to accomplish going forward and to achieve the goals we have put off. Yet, a 2007 study of 3,000 people by Richard Wiseman from the University of Bristol showed that 88% of those who set New Year resolutions fail.

There are many reasons we do not follow through with our good intentions. Sometime we choose a goal because someone else told us to - your partner asks you to be neater in the house, or we are too vague about what we are trying to accomplish - I will lose weight. Another way to sabotage our resolutions is to choose too many. Below are some strategies to help you achieve your goal/resolution so that you can be successful:

Understand why you want to achieve this goal now - Knowing why you want something provides powerful motivation to overcome obstacles and see the goal through to the finish. Ask yourself “how will my life be improved if I achieve this goal?” and “what will this mean to me on an emotional level?” If you want to lose 10 pounds, you can think of the effect this will have on your life. It may help you stave off diabetes, be able to keep up with your kids, or fit into your clothes so you don’t have to buy larger sized ones. When you connect emotionally to what you are trying to change or achieve, you will be more likely to succeed.

Creating a mantra can also be helpful. For example, you can say, “Losing weight will make me feel healthy and look great!” This reminds yourself of why you want to lose weight and will make it easier for you to resist temptation.

Be specific - The goal should be clearly defined and actionable. Stating that you want to save money may be a good intention, but what does that really mean? State your goal as specific as possible – I will save $1,000 this year. Write down the goal and why it matters to you. Breaking down your goal into mini goals is also helpful – saving $1,000 sounds like a lot, but $80 per month or $19 per week appears more doable. You are more likely to work toward your goal if it seems manageable and not overwhelming.

Create actionable steps – Let’s say you want to organize your home. Each week write down what you will do to move forward with this goal. Choose to organize one room each month. If you start with your kitchen, you could decide to clean out 1 or 2 kitchen cabinets the first week. Each month you can monitor your progress and make changes if wish.

Design the best environment - Being successful is not about pure will power, but creating an environment/situation that promotes the desired behavior. It’s easy to revert to old habits and patterns if we don’t make it easy to accommodate the change we want. If you want to eat healthier as a goal, research healthy recipes and stock up on the foods you will need, including plenty of fruits and vegetables. Knowing your potential triggers and preparing for them is important. When a craving for something sweet hits, know what you will eat instead - a fruit smoothie or an apple with peanut butter.

Get an accountability partner– It’s more fun and will lead to a higher likelihood of success if you have a trusted friend or family member who is on the same path as you, and can hold you accountable. If you want to exercise more, make a date to meet your partner for a walk or at the gym. You will be less likely to find an excuse not to go if your partner is counting on you. We all have moments of weakness when we contemplate giving up on our goal; our accountability partner can provide the support we need to stay on course and/or recover from a slip.

Celebrate and be forgiving– Acknowledge your hard work and sacrifices by celebrating your successes. Giving yourself treats along the way gives you the feeling of pride and happiness that make you want to continue your momentum. Just make sure your “treats” are not in conflict with your goal.

It’s also important to forgive yourself if you slip up. Achieving a goal and moving forward is not a linear path, but involves ups and downs along the way. This is normal. Give yourself permission to have setbacks or take time off from the goal. Sometimes there are other things going on in your life that take up all of your energy and you need to hit the pause button on achieving your goal/resolution. This can be a good time to get support from your accountability partner. When you are ready, your partner can help motivate you to continue on your journey.

Hopefully, these strategies will help you achieve your goals and create sustainable change.

Happy New Year!

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