8 Secrets for Sticking to Your New Year’s Resolution
January 1st tends to give us that “new year, new me” feeling. We all know that rush of motivation to make this the year we shed 10 pounds, pay off debts, or take our career to the next level. But then February rolls around and suddenly it’s like a switch has been flipped – your ambition fades, your motivation plummets, & excuses start pulling you away from reaching your goal. Before you know it, December arrives and the resolution you set in January is now a distant memory. At best, you’re no closer to your goal. At worst, you’re even further from it.
Research suggests that roughly 81% of New Year’s resolutions go unaccomplished by the end of the year. So what can a person do to make it in that mythical 19% of goal achievers?
1. Rely on your “why”
Before you determine what your goals will be, focus on “why” you desire a change in your life. Are you wanting to be healthier so you can play with your grandkids? Do you long to give your family a financially stable future? Keep a picture of your “why” as your smartphone’s screensaver. Revisit your “why” when your motivation wears thin and you feel like giving up.
2. Get a SMART start
Now that you’ve established your “why,” grab a pen and write down your goal. The act of writing goals down will make you feel more accountable for achieving them. As you detail what you aim to accomplish, make sure your goals pass the SMART criteria:
Specific – Your goal must be clear and well-defined. If possible, stick with one specific resolution rather than aiming for several lifestyle changes at once.
Measurable – Your goal should be broken down into small milestones and detailed steps so that you can measure your success along the way. Keeping charts or journals of your progress will help you stay on track.
Attainable – Goals should be challenging but also realistic. Avoid “all-or-nothing” thinking and make restrictions reasonable. Instead of saying, “I’m not going to eat any sweets until 2020,” make your goal to limit sweets to twice a week.
Relevant - Goals should support your “why” and be relevant to the direction you want your life to take. By keeping goals aligned with your vision and values, you'll be more likely to stick with them.
Time Bound - Your goals must have a deadline, otherwise you’ll keep putting them off when challenges arise.
3. Fake it til you make it
Even if you don’t feel fully confident that you’ll achieve your goal this year, talk a big game. The language you use to describe your goal will influence how invested you are in making it happen. “I will quit smoking,” rather than, “I’d like to quit.” “I’m going to pass the bar exam,” rather than, “I’ll try to pass.” Go public and tell your friends and family about the goal you’re going to achieve in 2019.
4. Make an action plan
Failing to plan is planning to fail. This is especially true for demanding or long-term goals. Make an action plan of detailed steps you need to achieve to accomplish your end-goal.
Example: Goal – To open a coffee shop by December of 2019.
January/February – Develop my business and marketing plan
March/April – Find a property to lease for the shop
May/June - Apply for a small business loan
July/August – Acquire a business license and develop the menu
September/October – Establish vendors and startup inventory
November/December - Open doors and start carrying out marketing plan
5. Be good with bite-sized
Celebrate when you achieve smaller, bite-sized goals that contribute to your big picture plan. Setting out to achieve more micro-goals will feel less overwhelming than if you only focus on your long-term ambitions. Breaking your goals down into small and manageable portions will make you less likely to give up.
6. Try the “if-then” method
The if-then method is an effective secret-weapon for top goal achievers – people who use the if-then method are more than twice as likely to achieve their goals than people who don’t. The if-then method recognizes that there will be temptations to fail and creates a plan for how to work around them. To use the if-then method, think about what situations might tempt you to fall off-track. Then, create an if-then plan to prepare yourself to avoid falling into their trap.
Goal: To save $500 per month for savings and investments.
If-then statements to avoid temptations:
If I buy Christmas gifts, then I will stick to my budget
If I go to the mall, then I will avoid expensive clothing stores
If I go grocery shopping, then I will stick to my shopping list
7. Don’t quit after setbacks
Many people use screwups and setbacks as an excuse to drop their goal altogether. Give yourself some grace and be determined not to throw in the towel if you stumble along the way – even if it means you have to adjust your deadlines a bit.
8. Call on a coach
Making major life changes is challenging, but people are more successful when they have a supportive coach to hold them accountable. Our specialists can help you define SMART goals, create realistic action plans, and support you each step of the way.
Dr. Christopher J. Sample, Psy.D. specializes in supporting men and teenage boys through life’s transitions. If you have a teenage son who struggles with goal attainment or motivation, Dr. Sample can provide a comfortable place for him to overcome obstacles and work toward success.
Click here to schedule your appointment with Dr. Sample.
Cynthia R. Johnson, LMFT, is a specialist in Parenting and Child Therapy at Variations Psychology. If you would like to see your family rise to higher goals in 2019, Cynthia can empower you to set and achieve your ambitions in any aspect of life.
Dr. Marta M. Shinn, Ph.D., is an expert in child and educational psychology. If your child struggles with motivation issues and goal attainment, Dr. Shinn can provide diagnostic testing and recommend support to help your child develop a goal-oriented lifestyle.
Dr. Daniella A. Davis, Psy.D., is an expert in dealing with the unique challenges that women face throughout each stage of life. If you are a woman struggling with achieving your dreams, Dr. Davis can help you move forward on a clear path toward reaching your goals.
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How to Cite This Blog Article:
Shinn, M.M. (2019). 8 Secrets for Sticking to Your New Year’s Resolution. Psychologically Speaking.
[Variations Psychology blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.variationspsychology.com/blogs/8-secrets-for-sticking-to-your-new-years-resolution