As the calendar resets and a new year begins, the perfect time for transformation, reflection and growth is upon us. It’s no wonder why so many of us use it as an opportunity to set new year’s resolutions, but they can be pretty daunting–especially if you haven’t had much success in previous years.
If you’re wondering why you’re scrapping your new year’s resolutions by March every year, you’re not alone. Millions of Americans every year set high expectations for themselves in January, only to find themselves exactly where they were last year–whether that’s in terms of health and fitness, money sense, or productivity.
But like many things, achieving your new year’s resolutions comes down to psychology, and you can fine-tune your mindset for success through careful planning and thoughtful goal-setting.
But first, let’s talk about why new year’s resolutions are so hard to keep in the first place.
Why It’s Hard to Keep New Year’s Resolutions
If you find yourself scrapping your new year’s resolutions by March, determining the underlying cause can help you approach the new year in a way that’s prepared and empowered.
A new year’s resolution is all about the direction in which you want to take your year, and not what you feel like you “should” do. And around this time of year, people have a tendency of establishing goals that are unrealistic or unattainable, setting them up for boredom and disappointment.
Because of this pitfall, it’s important to assess whether your new year’s resolutions are achievable. Are they measurable? Do they have reasonable time constraints? Can you achieve your goals within the established time frame? New year’s resolutions require a change of habits, and this is going to take time!
It’s understandable that past failures can leave you feeling a little jaded about new year’s resolutions. But don’t let them get in the way of your progress! It’s important to understand that even the tiniest victories are worth celebrating, and every slip-up is the opportunity to learn.
And while you might even feel an impulse to doubt yourself, remember that focusing your energy on “I can’t” isn’t going to help you with your goals. Instead, ask yourself “why is this such a challenge?” As you learn from your behavior patterns, do so with compassion and patience for yourself.
Not Knowing Your “Why”
All too often, people fail to succeed in their new year’s resolutions because they don’t have their “why” nailed down. And your “why” is crucial to keeping you motivated in your goals! For instance, many people list “lose weight” as their new year’s resolution, but they don’t establish why. Is it because they wish to feel more confident? Is it for health benefits? Or so that they can fit into a certain piece of clothing?
When you know why you’re setting out on a new year’s resolution, you’ll be able to remind yourself why you’re doing it when it becomes hard. And likewise, you’re more likely to scrap your resolutions when you don’t.
As you consider your new year’s resolutions, it’s crucial that you take accountability for yourself and stay mindful of your actions. Envision how you want things to look for you a year from now–you can even make a vision board or digital pinboard, if you like. Hold onto that vision as a daily reminder of your goals, and make sure to enjoy the process of your transformation.
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Tips for Success With Your New Year’s Resolutions
So what, exactly, can we do to make our new year’s resolutions stick? The following tips can help you build goals and habits that will not only last, but carry you into next year.
1. Choose a Specific Goal
When we come up with new year’s resolutions, we tend to get caught up in vague objectives like “lose weight” or “be a morning person.” Instead of choosing something ambiguous for your new year’s resolution, opt for specificity.
For instance, you can start with a goal like “lose fifteen pounds,” or for becoming a “morning person,” you may map out a morning routine and establish a consistent, designated time throughout the new year.
Choosing a goal that’s achievable and tangible also lets you plan out how you’ll accomplish that goal over the course of the next twelve months.
2. Learn From Your Mistakes
The topic of new year’s resolutions is often rife with visions of progress and success. However, it’s important to note that mistakes are a key part of the process.
According to one study, people who successfully maintained their resolutions had an average of fourteen slip-ups. But by learning from their mistakes, the vast majority of these individuals reported growing better and stronger as a result.
3. Start With Small Steps
Taking on too many new year’s resolutions is a common reason why so many of them fail. If you’re working out too hard at the gym, eating a diet that’s too restrictive, or drastically changing your schedule, you may be setting yourself up for failure. Instead, keep your focus on gradually building up your habits over time.
If you’re trying to eat healthier, for instance, make simple switches for more nutritious choices, and then move onto a new goal when you become comfortable with the new changes, like reducing portion sizes or completely cutting out on takeout foods. While it might make the overall process feel slower in the beginning, it can make a huge difference in your long-term success with your new year’s resolutions.
4. Plan for Obstacles
Unfortunately, there are always going to be obstacles that can throw off your plans for your new year’s resolutions, whether it’s friends inviting you out to an indulgent dinner, or an impulse item you just have to have.
That’s why it’s important to consider the obstacles you’ll likely face in the first weeks after you’ve established your new year’s resolution, and develop a plan accordingly.
Preparing for the most likely obstacles can help you feel equipped and empowered to take on the unexpected obstacles of the new year.
5. Get Support
We know that this piece of advice is a bit cliche, but that’s because it works! Of course, we’re talking about the buddy system. When you have a solid support system with your new year’s resolutions, it’s going to be easier to hold yourself accountable, which will help keep you motivated. Plus, it’s more fun when you’re working on your endeavors with a friend or loved one, whether that means having a gym buddy, having a friend over to budget together, or meal prepping with your spouse.
Even if you can’t find someone to join in on your goals, make sure to share what you’re doing with your family and friends, and explain your objectives and why you want to achieve them. This will help keep you accountable, and they’ll be cheering you on to keep you motivated.