How to Stick to Your New Year’s Resolutions

We’ve all been there. January 1st comes and we make our New Year’s Resolutions.

“I’m going to lose 10 pounds!” “I’m going to read more!” “I’ll be smarter with my money.”

By mid-January (or maybe February if we’re really motivated,) we’re back to our normal routines, our resolutions a forgotten relic of a more hopeful time. One study found that only 46% of New Year’s resolutions stick. So how do you actually keep yours?

Top New Year’s Resolutions

  1. Exercise more
  2. Save money
  3. Lose weight
  4. Eat better
  5. Learn a new skill  
  6. Quit smoking
  7. Travel more
  8. Read more

S.M.A.R.T. Goals

If you’re familiar with “SMART” goals, you’ll immediately see what’s wrong with these resolutions. When you set goals using the SMART method, you are laying the groundwork that increases your odds of success.

SMART Goals acronym

Specific

When you write your resolution, get detailed. An articulated goal that is clear and well defined can provide a path forward.

Measurable

How will you know if you’ve achieved your goal without measuring it? The proper metric can help you track your progress, which becomes even more important for long-term goals. Quantify your resolution!

Achievable

Setting goals that can’t be accomplished is a surefire way to destroy your motivation. A worthwhile goal should challenge you but also be attainable.

Realistic

Do you believe you can achieve your goal? If your gut answer is “no,” you’ve likely set an unrealistic expectation. Consider the resources and time available to you when setting your goal.

Timely

It’s imperative you give yourself a deadline. No time constraints = no urgency = no motivation. A healthy dose of pressure will help you make consistent progress.

SMART in Practice

Old resolution: “I want to lose weight.”

SMART resolution: “I will lose 15 pounds this year. I will start walking for 30 minutes at least 3 days each week. I will track my active time using a fitness tracker, and check my progress at the end of each week. On the 1st of every month I will weigh myself to evaluate. If I am not losing at least a pound each month from increasing my walking, I will join a gym and begin working with a personal trainer.”

Tips & Tricks

1. Set a Goal for YOU

Many of us make New Year’s resolutions that we see others around us making. But it’s critical that your goal reflects your inner desires and your priorities. A spouse, boss, or partner may pressure you into a resolution, but it will stand little to no chance of success if you don’t truly want it.

2. Reduce “Activation Effort”

The less time it takes you to get started, the more likely you’ll actually get started. If you want to finally learn how to play that instrument, don’t keep it in the closet. Similarly, if your goal is to spend less money, reduce your access to it. Spending cash instead of swiping a debit or credit card will make you more aware of how much you spend – while also limiting you to only what you have on you.

3. Focus

Don’t spread yourself too thin. You only have so much mental energy, and if you burn yourself out, you won’t accomplish anything! Commit to tackling one or two resolutions thoroughly instead of multiple resolutions poorly. Bonus: completing one goal can boost your belief in yourself for your next resolution.

“Never half-ass two things.

Whole-ass one thing.”

Ron Swanson

4. Share Your Resolutions

Accountability from others can be the difference between success and failure. If you need to answer for your progress to more than just yourself, it can help you put in effort on those days you really don’t feel like it. It’s not only about avoiding their guilt-trips; when you complete your resolution, they’ll be there to celebrate with you!

5. Automate Where Possible

Smartphones have changed almost everything, and they can help with your resolutions too. Using calendars, reminder apps, to-do lists, and/or task management software can keep you on track. They won’t do the work for you, but a timely reminder can make a world of difference.

6. Avoid Willpower

The more challenging the resolution, the more willpower required, which depletes your mental resolve and endurance. Humans are susceptible to “decision fatigue” – as we make more choices, we lose our ability to make good decisions. So if your resolution is to eat healthier, don’t keep junk food around. Less temptation = more willpower.

7. Reward Yourself

Lasting change takes time, and it’s important that you celebrate along the way, not just at the finish line. Acknowledge success as you make progress, and make it fun! And if slip ups happen, don’t beat yourself up about it – just get back on the wagon. It’s about being consistent, not perfect.

Remember Your “Why”

Making real changes in your life can be difficult.

But your attitude may be more important than any of these tips.

If you focus on the negative, you’ll end up discouraged.

On the other hand, focusing on the positive will help you stick to your New Year’s resolution.