Not everyone feels excited about the New Year. Many people feel pressured to make changes at a time of year that’s already stressful.
So let me preface this post by stating clearly: no one needs to make New Year’s Resolutions.
For one thing, any of us can set goals and work towards them at any time of year.
For another thing, it’s often healthy to work on accepting ourselves as we are right now, rather than focusing on what we are not. Whether or not to make a resolution really just depends on YOU and your individual needs.
My Experience with Resolutions that Stick
With all that being said, let’s assume you DO want to make a resolution. Maybe you’ve tried in the past, but lost motivation after a few weeks or months.
Personally, I’ve had success with New Year’s Resolutions. One in particular comes to mind: Quitting smoking.
On January 1, 2017, I quit cigarettes for good. For me, something about the year mark was motivating; I didn’t want to mess up that date.
So, if you, too, are ready to make a resolution, I’d like to share what I’ve learned personally and professionally about what works. Here are 5 tips and examples for making resolutions that stick!
#5 Think Small
I know, right? This is quite a change from what we typically hear. “Think big!” “Dream big!”
Go for a SMALL change if you want resolutions to last long term. Big changes are often only sustainable for a few days or weeks. After that, most people can’t realistically keep up a big change within the lifestyle what they want.
So, scale down. Be realistic, not idealistic. You can always increase the scale of the change once you’ve adjusted to the small change.
#5 Think Small Example
Instead of… “I want to work out for 2 hours every day.”
Try… “I want to work out for 2 hours twice per week.”
Why? Well, think about it. Is 2 hours a day realistic for you? Maybe it is. But what about when you get sick? Or go on vacation? Or work picks up and you have to stay late? For me, 2 days per week is still doable under most of those circumstances… but daily? Not so much.
#4 Be Specific
In order to create resolutions that stick, you must clarify the exact action you want to take and when!
Vagueness leads to confusion and procrastination. If your goal isn’t specific, you may conveniently find a lot of excuses or loopholes.
#4 Be Specific Example
Instead of… “I’m going to talk to a therapist in 2020.”
Try… “I’m going to contact a therapist by January 10, 2020.”
Why? “Talk to a therapist” is too vague. Does it mean call, or have a session with, or talk to a friend of yours who happens to be a therapist? And “in 2020” could mean you call a therapist December 31, 2020. Be specific!
#3 Consistency Counts
Making a behavior a regular part of your routine has two benefits. First, it makes you more likely to keep doing it. Second, it increases the benefits of the behavior!
#3 Consistency Counts Example
Instead of… going to a weekend meditation retreat once annually.
Try… meditating for 5 minutes every day.
Why? Studies show consistent meditation over a period of time has great benefits… but results are mixed about short-term meditation. Plus, meditating for 5 minutes every day is much less expensive than paying for a retreat!
#2 Develop an Accountability System
Whatever you’re working towards, accountability is a big part of resolutions that stick.
Loop your family and friends into your resolution. Join an accountability group on Facebook or at a gym. Get an accountability buddy to check in with you about your progress.
You can also stay accountable without involving anyone, by tracking your progress in a planner or calendar.
Which system you choose matters less than figuring out one that works for you personally.
#2 Accountability System Example
Instead of… keeping your goal to yourself.
Try… ask someone to join you in reaching your goal (or at least, check in with you about it).
Why? Increased motivation to stay focused on your resolution: You won’t want to let your buddy down!
#1 Progress, not Perfection
So, you know how at the beginning of this article I said I quit cigarettes January 1, 2017?
I did. But in all honesty, I have had 2 slip-ups since that stop date. Hey, I’m only human.
Each time I slipped up, I quickly realized how disgusting cigarettes taste and how much I don’t want to start again. So in a bizarre way, those relapses were sort of a good thing. They confirmed my decision.
I’m not saying that you should try to mess up. But if it happens, go easy on yourself, and return to your original plan.
#1 Progress, not Perfection Example
Instead of… “I failed. I’m a loser. I might as well give up.”
Try… “I made a mistake. I’m only human. I’m going to get back on the horse tomorrow.”
Why? Because being hard on yourself does NOT help you stay consistent with your goal. Negative self-talk decreases self-confidence and hope, which makes you less likely to work towards your goals.
Do you have any other tips for making New Year’s Resolutions that stick? Have you tried any in this article that worked for you? Comment your answer below!
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Have a Happy New Year!
Rebecca Ogle is a licensed therapist who practices teletherapy in Illinois. Rebecca empowers therapy clients to cope with anxiety, depression, self-esteem, and burnout using their natural strengths and inner wisdom.