If New Year’s Eve is known as a time of celebration – ringing in the upcoming year while watching the ball drop – then New Year’s Day is usually the first-time people embrace all those New Year’s resolutions they’ve lined up for themselves. Promises to lose weight, exercise more, eat healthier and save more money typically top people’s lists.
But studies have shown these resolutions often don’t last. In fact, less than 20% of people surveyed have reported success with keeping their goals for more than a year, according to Psychology Today. But there are ways to make sure your resolutions stick. If you are serious about creating changes that can improve your life, here are some tips to help you succeed.
Have a plan. Resolutions designed to lead to lifestyle, career or relationship changes require some planning. They should not be ideas that spontaneously bubble up over a plate of appetizers and some champagne as the clock ticks down toward the new year. Put some thought into what changes you really want to make over the next 365 days, including the time and effort you would need to invest to make them happen.
Be realistic. You might be tempted to dream big and kick off the new year with a long list of resolutions to tackle. But if you are being realistic, you will understand that small improvements – not sweeping changes – have the best chance for long-term success. For example, it might feel empowering to tell yourself that you will leave your couch-potato lifestyle behind and make time to exercise every single day. But a daily workout is likely not a goal you will be able to meet. A better one might be the promise to exercise at least three days a week. That way, if you surpass that, you will be an overachiever.
Rely on routines, not willpower. Research has shown that relying on routines, not willpower, is one key to making resolutions stick. Making something a regular part of your day will make it feel normal very quickly and if you skip it, it will be noticeable. Take breakfast, for example. One way to stay committed to eating healthier is to start each day with a bowl of oatmeal and a piece of fruit. It can sound boring to make this fiber-packed duo your morning staple five days a week, but by making it a routine you are setting your diet up for success each day with a breakfast that will fill you up and leave no room for fattening doughnuts and lattes.
Weekly check-in. Even though people make year-long resolutions, they often forget to take a bite-sized approach to success. Try tracking your progress each week. If your goal is to lose weight, step on the scale the same day each week, or step into a pair of formerly snug pants and measure your progress by how they fit. If you’d resolved to save more money this year, do a budget check each pay day to see if you are staying on track with your plan to squirrel away more cash.
Reward yourself. Don’t forget to celebrate your small successes, either weekly or monthly. This step is important and can be a key motivator to hitting your goals. Did you blow past your exercise goal this week? Invest in a couple nice pieces of workout gear as a reward, or sleep in on a weekend morning and skip that morning run. Treat yourself. You’ve earned it.
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