5 Tips for Making New Year Resolutions that Stick
I love resolutions. Generally speaking, I love all goal setting activities. I even hosted a vision board party last month. It takes a special kind of weirdness to do that. But the end of a year brings with it a special set of circumstances not available at any other time of the year. It’s holiday time, so you have more time to actually sit down, reflect on the year, assess your situation, and logically plan for the future. Hopefully your holiday season is also overflowing with positive energy and optimistic outlook for the coming year. December 31st brings with it a natural end to calendars, organizers, financials, schedules and workflows. It’s a clean slate that most of us desperately want and need.
Statistic Brain reports that nearly 50% of the US population makes New Year Resolutions. Surprisingly—or rather not at all—only 8% of these individuals actually achieve the goals they set out to do. The reasons for failure vary across the board, but hopefully these tips can help you as you prepare the final draft of your 2013 resolutions:
1. Reward yourself
Every heard of Pavlov’s Dogs? There’s a reason why this study continues to be the foundation of all classical conditioning behavior models. Pavlov’s dogs were trained to salivate when they heard a bell ring in anticipation of receiving a treat. Well, it’s time to embrace your inner Fidoand reward yourself in the same way.
Here is one easy way, especially if your resolution is to exercise more. First, each time you complete your daily workout, put $1 inside of a jar. Second, each day you successfully don’t ‘cheat’ on your diet, go ahead and put another $1 bill inside that jar. At the end of each month, enjoy dollars amassed in your jar and treat yourself to something special or donate it to a good cause. Either way, financial incentives assist with positively reinforcing good habits and behaviors.
You are an animal after all. Just like Fido, you have to reward yourself for a job well done. Maybe you can even get someone to scratch your tummy after you finish yoga class.
2. One at a time
Having numerous resolutions is fine. My checklist consistently includes 5 to 10 resolutions each year. Trying to do all of them at once, however, now that’s a mistake. You have an entire year to get through your resolutions. That’s 12 months… 365 days… 8,765 hours. Attempting to knock your whole list out before Valentine’s Day is a sure-fire to fail across the board. It’s much better to focus on one resolution at a time, especially if they are behavior related goals like working out or eating healthy.
It takes time to turn new behaviors into habitual practices. The easiest way to build a habit is to use triggers—like placing your running shoes in front of your refrigerator to remind you to exercise before scarfing down breakfast—committing yourself every day, and rewarding yourself (see tip #1). Most sources agree that it takes roughly 30 days to build a lasting habit. That’s potentially 12 pesky habits to change or add in a single year. How different would you be if you eliminated just 5 of those pesky or unhealthy habits? Or added 5 good ones?
According to Statistic Brain, the top five resolutions are losing weight, getting organized, spending less money, enjoying life to the fullest, and staying fit/healthy. These resolutions sound fine and dandy, but the obvious question is: relative to what? You need to make resolutions measurable so the goal can actually be measured and tracked. Instead of losing weight, try losing 10 pounds. Even better would be losing 10 pounds by June 15, 2013. Everything about the goal is measurable and you can track progress more effectively. If May 1st rolls around and you’re only down 2 pounds, you know it’s time to step up your game if you want to be part of the small percentage of people that follow through with their resolutions.
4. Be ALL In
If thinking about successfully completing your resolution doesn’t send shivers down your spine and make you want to stop the first person you see and scream in their face about how excited you are about your goal, maybe you should reconsider writing it down in the first place. You have to internalize your goal and desire to make a change. This is something author and lifestyle expert Tim Ferriss refers to as the “Harajuku Moment” in his book The Four Hour Body. To sum it up, go all in. Don’t accept anything less than success. The roadblocks, challenges, and obstacles only make the sweet nectar of victory taste that much sweeter.
5. Do Something.
Lists are cute, but without action you’re dead in the water. When I first watched the popular movie The Secret a few years ago, my only thought was ‘and….. then what?’ I fully endorse and urge people to think positively about life. But positive thinking without complementary action leaves you at the starting gates when everyone else is finishing the race. You have to move forward. You have to do something. Anything. Regardless of how large the task may seem, little moves forward build momentum. Momentum mounts. Before you know it you’ll be done with your resolutions by July and proudly penciling in new goals to keep yourself occupied until 2014.
The Mayans were wrong about December 21, 2012. That means two things. First is that there are going to be a lot of babies born around September 21st, 2013. Second, and more important, is that 2013 can and should be start of a healthy and fulfilling new life. Follow these steps to goal attainment and your resolutions will be a reality. Be part of the 8%. Cheers to you and the amazing year to come!