The statistics are bleak:
- 45 percent of Americans usually make New Year’s Resolutions.
- 8 percent actually achieve them.
- 24 percent of people who make then don’t make it past the first week
I willingly admit that I am in the bottom 24 percent. Yet, every year, I make one (or five) new resolutions that I intend to keep for the next 365 days.
After doing some digging (both in my soul and on the Internet), I discovered what is holding me (and so many people) back from reaching our goals.
The No.1 reason people don’t follow through on their resolutions is that they lack self-discipline.
This is both obvious and defeating. Of course, I don’t have self-discipline. When I think of the “d-word”, it conjures up images of monks that deny themselves all earthly pleasures. It’s just not for me. I like earthly pleasures – that’s pretty much why I’m here on earth.
Though I struggle with self-discipline, I have learned that there are quite a few simple ways to overcome this shortcoming and still keep my resolutions.
- Choose only one resolution. Multitasking is difficult. I know this – I have 25 tabs open on my browser as I write this. It turns out multitasking doesn’t even make us more productive – in fact, it may even hurt our performance. “If you have more than one resolution, you’re almost destined to fail – and every time you fail, you’re less likely to ever try again,” advises Rory Vaden, a self-discipline strategist and best-selling author.
Call it a one-month resolution. 365 days. 12 months. 525,600 minutes. Big numbers are daunting and scary and make us feel like we’re never going to get there. Which is why you shouldn’t think about any goal in those terms. According to a recent study, the majority of people (75 percent!) who successfully made it through just the first month of their resolutions continued working on them through the rest of the year. Challenging ourselves for one month is significantly more appealing anyway. And, it's a good step toward turning this new behavior into a daily habit. In other words, our goal-keeping goes on autopilot.
- Tell somebody. Every article I have read about New Year’s resolutions stresses the importance of making goals a social effort. Research suggests, “Sharing with others increases your sense of responsibility to meet your objectives.” After all, we don’t want to let anyone down, right? So next time you find yourself at a big family function or nothing to share on Twitter, perhaps, you can declare your goals for 2014.
- Prepare for the plateau. This advice comes from financial guru Ramit Sethi, who may be one of the smartest and most productive people on the planet. It’s inevitable to have a cheat day once in a while where we don’t go to the gym or we decide to eat an entire platter of buffalo wings by ourselves. Don’t beat yourself up. “Plan for it,” he writes. If your goal is to lose weight, “there’s no reason to feel guilty about it if you plan for it. What could you do to stay on track? Keep working out? Moderate your big meals with healthy snacks?”
- Be specific. Studies have found that people who set specific goals (“I want to lose 15 pounds” vs. “I want to lose weight”) are more likely to be successful in maintaining their goals. And it goes without saying, that these goals should be attainable. In other words, don’t make it a goal to go swim across the Pacific Ocean, when you have trouble in your bathtub.
- Go for small wins. Similar to the one-month resolution above, the idea is not to overwhelm ourselves early on, which makes us more likely to give up. If the goal is to get a better job, don’t feel the pressure to do everything at once. Focus on a small project first, like re-writing your resume. Then, have a friend review it. A small win helps you feel like you actually accomplished something and will motivate you to keep going and make more small wins. You don’t need to completely overhaul your life to make a positive change.
- Have a game plan. So, I lied earlier about this advice being all easy. Because making a game plan is clearly not a fun task to take on, unless you’re an organizer-at-heart, which I am not. But figuring out how you’re going to fulfill your resolution is the most crucial step, because then, you’ll actually know how to do it. Think about it. Do we just go on a trip without planning our itinerary? Do we simply start cooking without a recipe to follow? Probably not. Making a game plan for achieving our goals is the same thing. We want to have a guide that will help keep us on track and also monitor our progress. It can be as simple as:
Goal: I want to save $____in 2014 to buy a __________.
Jan. goal: Save $____
What expenses will I cut down to save this money?
Amount saved $_______
Extra expenses: Birthday, holidays, etc.
I know there are a ton of other tips out there that I’ve missed – these are just the ones that really resonated with me. If you have any advice for keeping your resolutions, I’d love to hear them in the comments below.
And if you’re not sure what goals you’d like to make for next year, get some ideas from this list of the top 40 resolutions from 2013 here.
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