Each year at the start of the New Year, we reflect on the past year (or years) and how we can make this New Year better. Many of us focus on improving our overall health.
We vow to exercise more, lose weight, eat a healthier diet, give up smoking…
We use the start of the New Year as an opportunity for this improvement. We aim to be a healthier version of ourselves and create new beneficial habits. So we make a New Year Resolution.
We’re full of enthusiasm for our commitment and eager to start on a path to a better version of ourselves in the coming year. But for many of us, our resolutions are short-lived and eventually abandoned each year. If your New Year resolution involves improving your health, for example, putting off going to the gym Monday morning and grabbing a quick bite from the drive-thru at lunch often leads to giving up on the day. You may tell yourself, “I already ruined it today. I’ll get back on track tomorrow.”
But then something unexpected comes up, and you start to question your ability to keep your New Year’s resolution.
You’re not alone. One study found 77% percent of people studied maintained their resolutions for one week. Only 19% kept them for two years.
Why is it so Hard?
Why is it so difficult for most of us to keep our resolutions? Are we just too weak? Do we lack willpower?
We blame ourselves and believe we just don’t have what it takes. But maybe there’s another reason. Perhaps it’s our mindset and how we state our resolutions that determine (in part) whether or not we keep our New Year resolution.
5 Tips to Help You Keep Your New Year Resolution
1. Define the “Why”
Each of us has our own personal reason for making a New Year resolution. The fact that you’re making a resolution means there is something in your life you want to change or improve. But the true “why” is key to your success.
If your goal is to lose weight, for example, reflect on why you want to lose weight. Is it because you’ve recently gained a few extra pounds and want to get back to your previous weight? Is it because your friend recently lost weight and looks great and you want to too? Is it because you know you should lose weight? Is it because your doctor told you you need to lose 30, 40, 50…pounds to improve your health?
Each of these reasons is different, and the strength of your motivation may vary based on the reason behind it, even though the result may be the same. Knowing the “why” behind your resolution can help set you up for success. The more motivating your “why” is, the more likely you’ll stay committed.
2. Be Focused, Yet Flexible
Some of us make our resolutions too restrictive: “Jog on the treadmill 30 minutes every day before work.” Yet others set too vague a goal: “Get into better shape.”
Setting goals and creating new habits are essential. But, very strict objectives require a lot of energy and willpower to maintain. There’s not much room for the unexpected in life. If your goal is to walk 30 minutes on the treadmill every day before work, for example, what happens when “life” happens?
On the other hand, committing to “walking or jogging” five days per week gives you flexibility. There’s no mandatory time, distance, or speed. But this type of goal can trick you. With no clearly defined parameters, you can fulfill your commitment by casually walking on the treadmill for 5 minutes, when you could easily jog for 30 minutes.
Setting a goal to walk or jog one mile, indoors or out, is more effective because it’s specific and gives you something to aim for and achieve, and is most likely doable. But, while achievable, it may not be challenging enough and gives you too much room for cheating yourself.
Suppose you give yourself the option of walking or jogging one mile, three miles, or five miles instead. These parameters allow you to adapt to what may occur in your life on any given day. It doesn’t put you into an “all or nothing” frame of mind and gives you options that offer varying degrees of challenge. Plus, you can build upon it as you get into better shape.
3. Make it Enjoyable
Another aspect of setting up your New Year resolution for success is making it enjoyable. If you’re doing something you detest because you think it’s the only way to get the desired result, you’ll have a tough time sticking with it long-term.
Of course, there are varying degrees of dislike and enjoyment. You don’t need to love working toward your goal, but you can’t dread it and expect to keep your New Year resolution.
For example, if you believe you can only eat salad, chicken, and fish to lose weight, you may find it too limiting and start cheating or just give up. But, if instead of limiting yourself to these few foods, you allow yourself other healthy options, such as steamed veggies, fruit, and a few other healthy carbs, you may find it more doable. You can even try different eating plans to find one that works for you. Intermittent fasting and the Paleo diet are two popular choices.
The same holds true for other goals, such as exercising. If you generally don’t enjoy going to a large, crowded gym, find a smaller, private one or hire a personal trainer to come to your home.
4. Celebrate Milestones
Your mindset and emotions play a vital role in achieving your goals. A great way to keep a positive and confident attitude is to set smaller milestones on your path to your ultimate goal. Along with these milestones, give yourself a reward to celebrate how far you’ve come.
Of course, the reward should not be detrimental to your goal. For example, if your New Year Resolution is to lose 25 pounds and set milestones at losing 5, 10, 15, and 20 pounds, you don’t want to sabotage your hard work by celebrating with a food reward.
Instead, celebrate by doing something special or buying something special for yourself. Maybe you’d enjoy a massage—or a new outfit. The important thing is to make it something you can look forward to.
5. Remember the “Why”
The fifth tip to help you keep your New Year resolution is having and remembering the “why.” If you’ve started with step one and defined the “why,” take some time periodically and examine the reason you set this goal, to begin with—especially if you’re having an off day. How will you feel when you’re successful? How will your life be different? If you have a compelling “why” and remind yourself of it when you’re having an off day, it may give you the motivation to carry on.
Whatever your New Year resolution, it’s essential not to be too hard on yourself if you have a few setbacks. Don’t give up. It won’t always be easy, but if it’s a goal you sincerely want to achieve—it’s worth the effort.