As January kicks off each year millions of us around the world enthusiastically declare our resolutions for the upcoming year.
Whether it's to hit the gym more, eat healthier, embark on a new career path, or improve relationships, the tradition of setting New Year's resolutions is deeply ingrained in our culture.
However, despite the initial surge of motivation and determination, research suggests that most of us don't reach our goal or stick with the new behaviour. The recent Forbes Health/One Poll survey found that only 8% of us tend to stick with our goals for one month, and only 1% of us hang in there for 12 months.
So how can we increase our chances of success? These tips might help all of us who are wanting to embed more positive habits this year:
Have clear and achievable goals
One of the primary reasons many of our New Year's resolutions fail is because we set goals that are too vague or broad. Setting an ambiguous goal like "losing weight" or "being more productive" lacks the clarity required for us to succeed or achieve.
If your goal is around fitness or health, try breaking down your resolution into smaller, more manageable tasks. For instance, "I commit to exercising for 30 minutes five times a week" or "I will eating 2 servings of fish each week or a serving of vegetables with every meal."
And if you haven't been exercising at all, 5 days a week straight up could be a mountain to climb. Start with 3 times, then after a few weeks increase to 4 or make your walks longer or more difficult. Stepping stones and progress are key.
Experts also suggest not to aim too high too quickly or have too many goals you are working on all at the same time. With weight loss aim for 2 specific goals at a time.
Map the Journey
Another common stumbling block is the absence of a well-defined plan. Wanting to embed a new habit or achieve a goal without a roadmap is like setting sail without a compass; you may have a destination in mind, but the journey becomes overwhelming and directionless.
Take the time to outline actionable steps, set realistic milestones, and create a timeline for your goals. Breaking down your resolution into achievable tasks not only makes the process less daunting but also provides a sense of accomplishment along the way.
Understand Your Why
Many resolutions falter because we fail to deeply connect with our goals. Before embarking on a new endeavor, if we take a moment for self-reflection we can better understand the underlying motivations behind why we want to achieve this outcome.
Who will losing 5 kgs or becoming stronger help you to become? Will you be able to play with your kids more or get back into a team sport you love? How will that feel? Feel the feelings now and see the picture as if it is already a reality. Visualisation is a very powerful tool to help us connect to our why and stick to our plans.
Whether it's improving your health, advancing your career, or fostering personal growth, when we clarify and connect fully with our "why", and really connect with how the new you will feel, it can serve as a powerful anchor during challenging times when we are tempted and probably will falter in moving toward our goal.
This intrinsic motivation can significantly enhance your commitment and resilience in the face of obstacles.
Remove All-or-Nothing thinking and maintain motivation
Perfectionism can be a major block that can stand in the way of achieving our goals. Many of us have an all-or-nothing mentality about setting and maintaining new habits, seeing any deviation from the plan as a failure, and a reason to give up.
We have a bad day or week and we don't stick to the plan. Next we hear ourselves saying, "I've failed. I'm no good. What's the point." And next thing we know we keep falling off or give up on the goal.
Instead of aiming for perfection or having rigid standards or rules, we can acknowledge that setbacks are a natural part of the journey.
British podcaster and life coach Jay Shetty recently talked about the 4 stages of cognitive restructuring that helps us maintain motivation and get back on track when we fall off the path:
Awareness: What happened and how? What was my self-talk when I faltered in my plan?
Re-appraisal (without beating ourselves up.) OK so I deviated from the plan. I ate a huge ice-cream/had a few drinks/had a lazy day. Accept it, and give yourself a break. He says 'Guilt blocks growth.'
Adoption: Get back into the new routine. The next day. Don't give yourself permission to have the rest of the month 'off.'
Evaluation: Keep track of your progress. He also suggests to count or record or give yourself a 'tick' for every workout, every day you achieve toward your goal. Every step you take forward. Reward yourself for what you ARE doing and achieving.
Share Your Journey
Keeping your resolutions a secret may seem like a way to avoid judgment or pressure, but it also leads to a lack of accountability.
Share your goals with friends, family, or a supportive community. Having a network of individuals who can provide encouragement, guidance, and even participate in the journey with you can make a substantial difference.
A shared commitment fosters a sense of responsibility, making it more challenging to abandon your goals when faced with difficulties.
And share your wins. It's not about boasting or ego either. When we talk about and share our journey and achievements we are training our brain into making our new behaviour a habit. And those who love you will cheer you on.
The journey from setting a resolution or goal to achieving it requires thought, preferably clear and regular visualisation, and deliberate actions. By defining specific objectives, creating a solid plan, connecting with your motivations, letting go of judgement, fostering accountability, and embracing progress, you can increase the likelihood of making resolutions that stick.
And we know that ANY new habit takes persistence, and practice.
As you embark on your journey, remember that each day is a new opportunity for growth and positive change. May this be the year your resolutions become lasting transformations and new long term positive habits.
Until next time,
The PLS team