How to Make and Keep a New Year’s Resolution (Or Should You Bother to Make One at All?)

The start of a new year is always filled with potential, but questions abound: Should you even bother making new year’s resolutions? Will you break them before the calendar hits February? And why do so many of us feel such ambivalence about resolutions in the first place? These are all common questions about this part of the calendar. We turned to experts for answers.

Experts say:

The odds are against you – 90 percent of all people don’t stick with their new year’s resolutions.

We don’t blame you for feeling that way. And when it comes to New Year’s resolutions, we definitely do NOT encourage you to make any. But! We also don’t want you to feel guilty about making them. From the perspective of Betterment, it’s not just okay to set resolutions but important that you do…but only if you can actually follow through and stick to them for the whole year. If you’re really ready to make a change, then heed this advice: when setting your resolution, choose a low-risk goal that doesn’t take too much effort or commitment (but can still be meaningful). This will help keep your “new behavior” realistic and sustainable over time. Also? Set several small “mini” goals along the way so that you can celebrate along the way….and build momentum as you progress toward your overall resolution and new habits.

New Year’s resolutions fall into two categories:

The type where you declare something to the world, and the other category that involves a personal choice that you keep to yourself. The problem with the first type is that you’re more likely to generate a sense of guilt if you don’t follow through, which ultimately leads to failure. You must do enough research on your chosen resolution to find one that is realistic, even achievable by most people, preferably one with a wider group of potential supporters than critics.

To break the cycle and make a resolution stick this time around, you need to identify which one’s worth your time and energy, create a positive plan for implementation, and then add steps to your routine to remind yourself to stay committed every day.

Here are simple steps to help you on your way:

Pick the Right Resolution

Resolutions can be a tricky thing. Next thing you know, it’s New Year’s Day, and you’re still on your couch. We think setting successful resolutions starts with picking the right one — one that really matters to you. So here’s a friendly guide on how to choose the resolution that will give you your best shot at success.

According to the time management firm FranklinCoveyone-third of resolutioners don’t make it past the end of January.

A lot of these resolutions fail because they’re not the right resolutions. And a resolution may be wrong for one of three main reasons:

  1. It’s a resolution created based on what someone else (or society) is telling you to change. 
  2. It’s too vague.
  3. You don’t have a realistic plan for achieving your resolution.

Whether you’re trying to lose weight or learn to play that new guitar, resolutions are a time-honored way to start getting results. But if you don’t set your goals carefully, it may be hard to tell whether or not you’ve attained them.

Let us help get you started with the S-M-A-RT goal-setting formula:

Specific:

Be clear about the resolution you are making; this way, it will have some real meaning for you.

The object of your goal resolution should be addressed in a specific way. This is likely to give you a more results-oriented result and help you reach your goal faster. “A lot of the research has shown that if you use an action verb instead of just stating a goal like ‘I want to lose five pounds,’ it’s going to be more effective because you’re giving yourself something specific to do,” said Wharton academic Katherine L. Milkman. It is even better if you state how much weight you want to lose for example: “I want to lose five pounds within two months”

Measurable:

Set a goal that has measurable outcomes. These can be numerical (for example, “I want to lose 10 pounds in two months”) or descriptive (“I want to plant a garden at home”).

If you’re trying to lose weight, break up your progress over time into smaller goals – start by tracking one or two pounds per week. If you want to spend less money, keep a log of how much money you spend each week and see if you can lower that number. When you’re reviewing your journal or viewing those charts on your phone, you can look back over the progress and see just how much improvement you’ve made.

Attainable:

Make sure that your goals are realistic and attainable — think big, but start small so you know what success looks like.

If you want to change your life for the better, there’s no need to swear off chocolate eclairs forever. Achieving a goal – whether it’s a fancy new lifestyle or just some small bit of happiness that’s been out of reach – is as simple as making an achievable resolution. There’s a balance between what we really want and what is actually achievable; the key is taking small steps that you can complete. Break up big (or hard) goals into bite-sized pieces. For example: if your goal is to do 10 pull-ups, try doing two pull-ups at a time in each workout until you get to ten; if your goal is to run three miles, then run for a quarter of a mile today and double it on February 1st.

Relevant:

Make sure that the resolution is linked somehow to your life priorities and beliefs. Is this a goal that really matters to you, and are you making it for the right reasons?

If you do it out of the sense of self-hate or remorse or a strong passion at that moment, it doesn’t usually last long,” said Dr. Michael Bennett, a psychiatrist, and co-author of two self-help books. “But if you build up a process where you’re thinking harder about what’s good for you, you’re changing the structure of your life, you’re bringing people into your life who will reinforce that resolution, then I think you have a fighting chance.” 

Time-bound:

Formulate an end date for the resolution. This will serve as a deadline for yourself. Set up milestones along the way so that your progress over time is measurable too.

New year, new you. That’s the motivation behind a lot of people’s New Year’s resolutions—dieting, exercise, getting organized. But if you want to actually achieve those goals (and keep them), you’ll have to set realistic expectations and think small. After all, change is a process, and the little steps matter just as much as the big ones. Like “achievable,” the timeline toward reaching your goal should be realistic, too. That means giving yourself enough time to do it with lots of smaller intermediate goals set up along the way. “Focus on these small wins so you can make gradual progress,” Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power of Habit” and a former New York Times writer, said. “If you’re building a habit, you’re planning for the next decade, not the next couple of months.”

Making New Year’s Resolutions can seem daunting.

Should I even bother with New Year’s Resolutions This Year?

You’re wondering if you should make those New Year’s resolutions anymore? We don’t blame you. Resolutions are tricky- it’s difficult to make a change from your typical routine, especially if you aren’t used to working hard for something. It is important to set goals that inspire you and keep in mind the fact that making a change does not mean giving up your favorite things, but rather tuning yourself for better results.

I’m not going to act like encouraging you to make New Year’s Resolutions is my job. After all, your time is valuable and I prefer you spend it doing things that bring you joy. However, on the off chance that you are not sure if the time, effort, and work required to set goals and resolutions are worth your while, let me share a few thoughts.

So before you give up on making one, consider these tips on how to make resolutions that will actually stick. And allow your commitment to yourself and your goals to create positive momentum in January and beyond.

1. Assess your willingness.

The first, and in my opinion most important step in the resolution process is to decide whether you actually want to make different choices in a certain area. If you really don’t want to spend less time on social media, don’t make that a resolution.

Chose resolutions that really matter to you and where you have a strong “why.” For example, maybe you really do want to lose weight because you want to have more energy or you want to keep up with your kids or you want to look fantastic for a wedding. Having a compelling reason can give you the tenacity to stick with your resolutions when you feel tired, unmotivated, and just want to take the easy way out.

2. Pick just one or two.

When you make a resolution to start exercising more, or quit smoking, or spend less money on impulse purchases, that’s generally seen as a good thing. A lot of people will support your efforts, and plenty of resources exist to help you. But keep in mind that resolutions are still soft goals. If you want to create the strongest possible motivation to accomplish your resolution, pick just one or two things, instead of several at once. Make sure you’re committing only a small amount of willpower to each goal—and note how much easier it will be to achieve them when you take this approach.

3. Commit to a specific action.

It’s easy to make resolutions that seem like good ideas at the time, but things always get busy and the weight of your New Year’s promises keep falling further down the list. Instead of using up valuable brainpower deciding if you will stay on track with your resolutions, schedule a certain time to act on them. If a resolution is something you know you should do, like moving more often or eating healthier food, decide on what specific action you’ll take each week to make it happen. And then put it in your calendar.

4. Track your progress.

It’s easy to lose motivation when we don’t know how we’re doing in the quest to achieve our goals. If you are serious about achieving your resolutions, I recommend that you track your progress by writing down any actions related to your resolution and record what you do each day.

5. Get support.

It can be tough to keep your New Year’s resolutions, but consider getting support from a friend, colleague, or boss.

When you talk to others about your resolutions, they will likely be supportive, but they may also point out challenges or hurdles that you won’t have thought of alone. Additionally, when or if you slip up and let your resolutions slide, people who know what you committed to can hold you accountable by giving you the right kind of feedback. That accountability can help keep expectations clear for not just them, but for yourself as well.

Having at least one person you can call on when the going gets tough can really help when you’re trying to bring your resolutions to fruition over the course of a whole year.

I can’t guarantee that you’ll follow through on your resolutions — only you have the ability to decide what you prioritize and the choices you make in life. But I can guarantee that if you follow the process above you can greatly increase you chance of success. There is always hope for positive change. This year you can seize the opportunity to repeatedly do the actions that help you become the person who you want to be — regardless of what is going on in the world around you.

Filip Hajduk
Filip Hajduk

Sales Representative

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