Every year, roughly half of the U.S. population makes New Year’s resolutions. Chances are, you probably made a New Year’s resolution this year along with everyone else. But you may be starting to feel like your resolve is slipping. The excitement of New Year’s has faded, life is starting to get in the way, and the determination you felt at the beginning of the year has fizzled out. To make matter worse, this may just be the most recent addition of many failed New Year’s resolutions for you.
How do people do it? How do people stay motivated long enough to see a resolution through to the end of the year? Below are five tips for achieving your resolution and finally being able to cross it off of your list.
1. Put things into perspective
Most people fail to keep their New Year’s resolutions. Yes, most people. In one study conducted in 2007 involving 3,000 participants, over half of the participants expressed confidence at the beginning of the year in their ability to achieve their New Year’s resolutions. By the end of the year, only 12% managed to actually fulfill their resolutions. Don’t get too down on yourself for past failures. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you just lack the perseverance of others, but this simply isn’t true.
2. Set realistic goals
Let’s be real: unless you’re a contestant on “The Biggest Loser,” you’re probably not going to lose 100 pounds in a year. As empowering as it can be to proclaim that you will completely reinvent yourself by the end of the year, you have to be realistic. It’s better to be conservative when planning a particularly difficult goal, such as losing a large amount of weight. Take a moment to reflect on your goal, identify factors that may get in the way of that goal, and consider going a little easier on yourself.
3. Break your resolution down into smaller goals
A year is a long time. Lots of things can happen over the course of a year that cause you to lose sight of a goal that is so far away. One effective way to keep your eye on the prize is to split your main goal into a series of milestones, and give yourself a small reward when you reach each milestone. If your resolution is to learn the guitar, you can map out a plan to learn a few scales in the first week, learn to play a song in the first month, etc. By doing this, your progress feels more tangible, and the excitement of seeing frequent results will reignite your motivation.
4. Don’t quit cold turkey
Some of the most difficult resolutions are the ones that require you to break a habit that you enjoy. My advice in this case is to not quit colder turkey. Immediately quitting a long-term habit may feel liberating at first, but pretty soon your willpower starts to collapse under the pressure you have placed on yourself, you fall back into your old ways, and you view your failure as proof that quitting is just too hard, without realizing that you merely took the wrong approach. When I made the decision to eat healthier, I started off slowly by gradually removing certain junk foods from my diet. The first month I stopped drinking soda, then the second month I stopped eating fast food, and so on. Slowly easing into this new lifestyle made the whole process much more manageable for me than if I had made a huge diet change all at once.
5. Get a partner
If you have a friend, spouse, or family member that is interested in achieving a goal similar to yours, ask if they want to partner up. Being able to encourage each other, empathize over the same struggles, keep each other focused, and share the results of your hard work can make the journey much more enjoyable. When I decided to pursue a healthier lifestyle, one of my friends decided to join me. In addition to the benefits this provided in terms of moral support, it was also just flat-out more fun to do it with a friend.
Despite how many people fail to realize their New Year’s resolutions year after year, it is possible to succeed. The trick is to understand what the successful people do that is different from the unsuccessful people. By following the above tips, you greatly increase your chances of being able to look back on this year and feel proud of the changes you have made.