Lose weight. Be positive. Spend less time online. Get at least 8 hours of sleep each night. Work out 4 times a week. Eat healthy. Whatever you resolved to change this New Year’s Day, have you truly stuck with it? Or, has it become a worthless goal in the back of your mind, overlooked because of your constantly increasing workload, extracurricular activities, and list of tasks to complete?
According to psychologists, setting resolutions isn’t necessarily ever a waste of time, regardless of if you complete them. Resolutions exemplify self-examination and indicate that you are aware of changes you should make to lead a healthier and happier lifestyle. But in order to follow those resolutions to complete fruition, you need a plan.
John Norcross, a psychology professor at Scranton University, has conducted extensive research over the past 30 years regarding resolutions and resolvers. According to Norcross’s research, it takes almost three months for a change to become routine. However, he has found that after six months, only about 40 percent of people actually stick to their resolutions. And even more shockingly, over 25% of people drop their resolutions after just one week into the new year.
So what actually sets apart successful resolvers from the 25% of them that drop their resolutions in just the first week after determining them? Realistic and self-disciplined planning.
If you begin the year by setting an extremely far-fetched and most likely unachievable resolution, that’s setting you up for failure. The most important key to following through is setting achievable milestones (weekly, monthly, etc.) that not only indicate progress but also offer the satisfaction and reward needed to keep you going. Another strategy to ensure that your goal continues to play a pivotal role in your life even after a few months is to write them down.
Psychology professor Dr. Gail Matthews, at the Dominican University in California, led a study on goal-setting with nearly 270 participants. The results? You are 42 percent more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down.
Writing your goals down not only forces you to get clear on what, exactly, it is that you want to accomplish, but doing so plays a part in motivating you to complete the tasks necessary for your success. The process of putting your goals on paper will force you to strategize, to ask questions about your current progress, and to brainstorm your plan of attack.
After you’ve created a plan on how you’ll achieve your resolution, it is important to set yourself up in an environment that pushes you towards your goal. Make sure to remove any triggers from your environment that may cause you to resort back to your bad habits. Surround yourself with positive influences that will keep you away from such triggers and maybe even join in your journey. If applicable, fill your room or home with healthy alternatives to the habit you are trying to change.
Lastly, during the process, it is important to understand the outcome you’re expecting from this lifestyle change. Expecting a very specific behavior or goal (whether it be measurable quantitatively or qualitatively) at the end of the year is far more motivating than simply determining that you would like to “lose weight” or “get more sleep” or “eat healthier”.
If you’re reading this and thinking about how you’ve already blown past your resolution, it’s absolutely alright to start again now. Everyday is a new start and you definitely don’t need to wait until 2021 to implement healthy habits. To recap, here is a list of steps you can take even a month into the new year to ensure that you get back on track and set up for success:
- Pick a specific resolution that you’re extremely passionate about.
- Choose the goal with the biggest impact. Picking a goal that will make a big impact on your life will keep you motivated to see it through.
- Write down why you’re passionate about your resolution and keep the list close by.
- Break up your resolution into smaller, more achievable goals.
- Identify a specific, expectable outcome.
- Don’t give up just because you fell off track! :)