As we look forward to the new year, many people like to take part in the tradition of New Year’s resolutions! Even though we can and should be looking to improve throughout the year, New Year’s gives us all a chance to make a fresh start and find renewed motivation to reach those goals. However, a survey from 2018 shows that only 4% of respondents stuck to all of their New Year’s resolutions.
So what can we do to better keep our resolutions this year? Let’s discuss some strategies that might work for you.
1. Choose the Right Goals
A study from the University of Pennsylvania found that over a period of two years, those who were most likely to keep to their resolutions were those who filled their environment with reminders about why they wanted to achieve their goal. If you have a goal you want to achieve, make sure you have the right motivations, and find ways to remind yourself why you’re working hard day after day.
According to an online survey, the most common resolutions for 2021 were to exercise more, lose weight, save money, and improve diet. There’s nothing wrong with these resolutions; in fact, they are all admirable goals. The problem arises when we decide on a New Year’s resolution simply because we feel it is what we should do and not because we are truly committed. If your goal is to lose weight (one of the most common), ask yourself why you want to achieve this goal and how success will affect your life.
If you make a New Year’s resolution just to make one, you are likely to fall into the group of over half of the population that loses steam within two weeks of the new year. You may consider choosing resolutions that are more personal. Here are some other resolutions to think about:
- Taking a class or learning a new skill
- Checking off a bucket list item
- Making time each day, week, or month to foster an important relationship
Either way, choose goals that mean something to you and figure out how to remind yourself of your resolve every day.
2. Focus on the Process
In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear makes the distinction between goals and systems, saying “goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results.” According to Clear, many people fail in their goals because they focus too much on the outcomes they want instead of forming good habits that will help them achieve the long-term progress they desire.
Instead of making goals that focus on certain achievements, like reaching a certain number on the scale, long-term success is more often achieved by creating resolutions that focus on building long-term habits. A more effective goal than “lose 15 pounds” may be something like “eat five servings of fruits and vegetables every day” or “get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise before work each morning.”
This strategy works for three main reasons:
- Once you reach a goal, it’s easy to revert back to your old behavior. Instead, building good habits leads to long-term changes in behavior and progress.
- Often, result-oriented goals lack the specificity necessary to achieve them. Process-oriented goals focus on how we will act, leading naturally to results.
- It can take a significant amount of time to see the results of our resolutions. Focus on outcomes often leads to discouragement and abandonment, whereas a focus on process is achievable immediately and allows for continual success.
As Clear states, “The purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game. True long-term thinking is goal-less thinking. It’s not about any single accomplishment. It is about the cycle of endless refinement and continuous improvement. Ultimately, it is your commitment to the process that will determine your progress.” If you’re looking for help achieving your goals, I highly recommend Clear’s book as a more thorough resource.
3. Make a Plan
There is a significant amount of research showing that simply writing down a goal increases a person’s chances of success. As you make your plan, it should be as specific as possible. Consider the following two statements:
“I will walk every day.”
“Every morning, I will leave the house at 7 am and walk around my neighborhood for thirty minutes.”
The first statement has good intentions, but the second makes an actual plan for success. Be as specific as possible when you make a plan to keep your resolutions. If possible, include time, location, and other relevant details. Put this plan somewhere highly visible and hold yourself to it!
4. Design Your Environment for Success
Did you know that grocery stores put the expensive, name-brand items at eye level, while the value brands with a lower profit margin are placed on the bottom shelves? This is because people are far more likely to grab the eye-level items. It’s just more convenient, and the store makes a bigger profit.
You can use similar tricks when you’re trying to stick to a goal or make changes in your life. If you want to eat healthier, make it easier by putting healthy snacks in the front of the pantry and hiding treats on the top shelf (or getting rid of them altogether!). If you want to exercise, take your workout clothes out of the closet the night before.
There are plenty of ways you can set yourself up for success by altering the environment around you. We are creatures of habit, and many of our unconscious actions are based simply on convenience and what’s around us. Think of ways you can make your environment work to your advantage.
5. Share Your Goals
When we’re accountable to other people, it’s a lot easier to stick to our resolutions. If you can, find a partner with whom you can share resolutions and keep each other accountable. Bonus points if you gain a workout buddy or meal prep partner in the process.
If you are a social media user, you could document your progress on your profile or a personal blog. If you aren’t comfortable sharing your goals with anyone, keeping track of your progress in a journal can help you stay accountable to yourself.
No matter your resolution, your challenge from Zion Health is to make a strategy and stick to it this year!