The humble New Year's resolution is not a recent invention. In fact, this tradition dates back to Babylonian times, where people would promise to repay all their debts and return borrowed objects at the beginning of each year. Fast forward a few centuries, and this custom is still in full force.
With the dawn of each new year, thousands if not millions of people across the globe make their New Year's resolutions list. Some may decide that 2019 is the year of quitting a bad habit, while others may see it as an opportunity to kick their weight loss efforts into gear.
Regardless of the resolution, there is one thing that most of us know to be true when it comes to making a promise of change to yourself at the beginning of the year: New Year's resolutions rarely stick. While the intention behind making a lifestyle change at the start of a calendar year is excellent, very few individuals stick to them for longer than a week. According to recent statistics, a mere 9.2% of individuals actually see things through, while most give up by February each year. When the hype dies down, and motivation dwindles, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep up that diet, exercise regime or lifestyle change.
While this seems to hold true for many individuals, there are ways in which your new year resolution ideas can become permanent fixtures in your life. To help you achieve your goals for 2019, we have compiled a list of ways in which you can make your New Year's resolutions take root.
Identify The Reasons Behind New Year's Resolutions
The first step in ensuring that you stick to your resolutions is first to understand the psychology behind it, i.e. why are you making New Year's resolutions to begin with?
Psychologically, a new year does change mindsets. Breaking from the year before, we can evaluate and make improvements on what transpired in the past 12 months. A new year symbolizes a new beginning and therefore, a fresh start that is full of possibility (1).
When you make resolutions, whether you keep them or not, it signifies a level of hope and belief in the opportunity for change and becoming who you want to be. Identifying what your real motivation is can significantly help you achieve your goals in the long run. This drive is not as simple as wanting to lose weight or wanting to quit smoking. Think about the reasons behind this decision. Do you want to lose weight because it will improve your health and quality of life? Would you like to save money because you want more security for your family? Ask yourself the questions you need to determine your actual motivation. Once you know 'The Why', it is easier to stay on the path.
Sticking to any decision is difficult if you don't know why you are really doing it. Identifying the real reasons behind your New Year's resolutions, will help you to stay on course and fully implement change into your life.
Set SMART New Year's Resolutions
While it is important to dream big, the goals we set each year can quickly become forgotten if they are somewhat impossible to achieve (2). Shedding a few pounds each month, with a nutritional supplement, is an obtainable milestone, but losing 20 pounds a week might not be. In order to see your resolutions actualized, follow the SMART goal diagram. This method is a great way to keep on track while breaking your aims into bite-size pieces (3).
- S - Specific - Make sure that your resolutions are clear and well-defined. Vague goals will not provide sufficient direction.
- M - Measurable - Set specific dates and amounts so that you can track your success. This will help you to set milestones which are easier to reach.
- A - Achievable - Ensure that it is actually possible to achieve your goals. If your resolutions are beyond the bounds of possibility, you will only discourage yourself and lose confidence.
- R - Relevant - Your goals should be related to what you want to achieve. This will help you to stay focused, while inconsistent goals will only waste your time.
- T - Time-Based - Set deadlines for your goals, without the motivation of time it is easy to procrastinate and lose sight of your resolutions.
Start by writing down what you want to accomplish, then apply the steps above to create an action plan. The only thing that's left after that is to set your resolutions in motion.
By applying the SMART goal criteria to your New Year's resolutions (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Based), it is simpler to form an action plan you can stick to for longer.
Decide If You Should Tell Other People About It
No one is accountable for your New Year's goals which means it requires a level of dedication and self-discipline. An easy way to add another level of accountability to your plans is to let your family and friends know about it. The more people that are aware of your resolutions, the more you might feel responsible for upholding them.
Social media has given us a platform on which we can inform others of our goals. By posting your achievements and resolutions on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, you will feel like there are people keeping tabs on your progress, even if no one calls you out on not meeting your expectations. However, it is important to note that when you announce your intention to commit to a goal, there is a possibility that your announcement may backfire (4).
Some studies do suggest that when you proclaim your goals, they might not be realized. This is because receiving praise at an early stage might diminish your motivation. Another reason why telling people about your resolution might not be a good idea is that negative feedback, especially in the early stages, can knock your confidence level. While it is purely up to you to decide whether you want others in on your New Year's resolution journey - make sure that you share your plans with those who will support you.
Telling others about your goals can either help or hinder your progress. As each person is different and therefore it is up to you to decide which you would like to do. If friends and family know that you want to achieve a specific goal, it can add a new level of motivation and accountability. Just be aware that there is a chance that it may have the opposite effect.
Turn Your Resolution Into A Habit
Habits are behaviors we don't have to think about doing every day. Once they are ingrained in us, they take much less effort. Turning your resolution into a habit means that getting up early to go running, for example, is something your body does automatically.
Establishing a habit takes time and consistency. But, how much time? The common belief is that it takes a mere 21 days to develop a new habit, but this number is not correct for everyone. One study looked at the habits of 96 people in order to come up with a realistic timeline. Each person in the study chose a new behavior to implement and would report each day on whether or not they did the behavior and how automatic it felt to do it (5).
At the end of the study, researchers determined that, on average, it took 66 days for a behavior to become a habit. There was a wide range - 18 to 254 days - that it took for habits to actually take hold. Additionally, the researchers found that even when participants missed a day, they were still able to develop their desired habit. So, don't get discouraged if you mess up, it still counts towards your goal!
Regardless of the time involved, it's good to remember to be kind to yourself and look after your health (6). If your desired habit is to wake up at 5am but you have the flu, cut yourself some slack and get back to it when you are well again.
The easiest way to make sure that your resolutions will stick is to turn your goals for 2019 into an automatic habit that comes naturally. If you consistently commit to your plans and follow a daily regimen for about 2 months, it will increase the likelihood of success.
The mantra of positive thinking is an essential aspect of sticking to your goals. It is also vital to your health (7). To create a healthy and positive mindset, you must first consider your mental and your physical environment.
When you find yourself in a negative environment, it is tough to keep a positive mentality. When you improve the space around you, you will notice a near immediate change in how you feel. To effectively cleanse your environment, you will have to make some hard sacrifices, starting with people. Cut out those who have a toxic influence on your life and replace them with supportive individuals. Decide who has your best interest at heart and keep them around, there should be no space for those who bring you down.
Next is your immediate environment, places like your home, car, work and so on. Make small changes and clean out the clutter. This purge will not only clear your surroundings, but it will bring peace and clarity to your mind as well.
When it comes to your mental environment, you can change the way you look at specific tasks, your attitude towards different aspects of your life as well as to practice mindfulness.
A great way to achieve this is to implement a form of meditation into your daily routine. Meditating helps you to clear out the clutter in your mind and strengthens your focus. Thus allowing you to achieve your resolutions (8).
Positive thinking will play a significant role in sticking to your New Year's resolutions. Eliminate all toxic and harmful aspects around you to ensure that you have a wholesome environment that supports your goals.
Implement A Reward System
While many set resolutions at the start of a new year, these goals often seem very difficult to accomplish. Objectives like adopting a healthier lifestyle or saving more money each month could become a struggle. The difficulty you experience is most likely due to the fact that you don't see an immediate result or reward. For this reason, you should create an incentive structure to keep you motivated.
As soon as you have set goals, decide how you will reward yourself for achieving each of these milestones. When you have something to look forward to, it gives you something to work towards. Personally recognizing your accomplishments will help you to stay disciplined.
How you reward yourself will entirely depend on you. These incentives can range from something as small as a candy bar to something as big as an overseas trip.
Here are some rewards to consider:
- Go to a spa and spoil yourself with some relaxing treatments.
- Visit your favorite restaurant for a delicious meal.
- Make time to read a book you have been putting off.
- Shop for a new dress or item of clothing.
- Buy yourself something online.
- Have a night on the town with some good friend.
- Binge watch a series you have wanted to see or go to the cinema.
A fantastic way to stay motivated and stick to your resolutions is to implement an incentive and reward system. Each time you achieve one of your goals, recognize your accomplishment and reward yourself.
Our Take Away
At the start of a new year, we all get a clean slate filled with endless opportunity and possibility. While many of us have compiled our New Year's resolutions list, trying to stick to our 2019 goals may not always work out. However, if you want to make a change this year remember to stay positive, focused and develop habits that will allow you to keep on track and stay motivated. Cut out negative influences and cleanse your space.
Once you have succeeded in writing down realistic goals for yourself, try to implement some of the tips above and work towards those milestones you have set for yourself. At the end of the day, there is only one person that can accomplish all that you have set out to do. Remember that everyone has setbacks and that slipping up now and again is a normal part of the process. Give yourself the best shot of success this 2019 and make your New Year's resolutions stick.