What are your New Year Resolutions this year? If you’re like most people, the list might say:
Spend Less/Save More
Spend More Time With Family
But, if you’re like the 45% of Americans who usually make New Year’s Resolutions, you probably won’t be successful. According to StatisticBrain.com, only 8% of people are successful in achieving their resolutions. That’s not very inspiring, but I’m not recommending you give up and curl up with a tub of ice cream and bottle of wine just yet.
Most Common New Year Resolutions
The most common New Year Resolutions, according to StatisticBrain, are losing weight, getting organized, spending less/saving more, enjoying life, staying fit/healthy, learning something new, quitting smoking, helping others, falling in love, and spending more time with family. Time also includes traveling, getting out of debt, being less stressed, and drinking less. They’re all admirable goals, so why such a low success rate?
Why Do New Year Resolutions Fail?
Timothy Pychyl, a professor of psychology at Carleton University in Canada, says that resolutions are a form of “cultural procrastination,” an effort to reinvent oneself. People make resolutions as a way of motivating themselves, he says. Pychyl argues that people aren’t ready to change their habits, particularly bad habits, and that accounts for the high failure rate. Another reason, says Dr. Avya Sharma of the Canadian Obesity Network, is that people set unrealistic goals and expectations in their resolutions.
Psychology professor Peter Herman and his colleagues have identified what they call the “false hope syndrome,” which means their resolution is significantly unrealistic and out of alignment with their internal view of themselves. This principle reflects that of making positive affirmations. When you make positive affirmations about yourself that you don’t really believe, the positive affirmations not only don’t work, they can be damaging to your self-esteem.
The other aspect of failed resolutions lies in the cause and effect relationship. You may think that if you lose weight, or reduce your debts, or exercise more, your entire life will change, and when it doesn’t, you may get discouraged and then you revert back to old behaviors. (PsychologyToday)
How to Be Successful With Resolutions
- Narrow your list. Choose one or two resolutions so you can focus your time and energy effectively.
- Set SMART goals. SMART stands for SPECIFIC, MEASURABLE, ACHIEVABLE, REALISTIC, TIMELY. A goal of losing weight is not SMART. A SMART goal for weight loss might be “I will lose 10 pounds within 60 days”. This one has been the most critical in my personal resolution success!
- Don’t wait for New Year for resolutions! If it’s March and you feel like you need to step back from technology and spend more time with your family, make a SMART goal and start right away!
- Take baby steps! You’re much more likely to be successful if you set small and reasonable goals. Once you reach them, you can set new goals.
- Have a buddy. A friend or family member that can encourage, motivate, and share your successes will increase your odds of success by up to 40%.
- Celebrate each mini success. Your goal was to lose 10 pounds and you lost 3? That’s cause for celebration…now keep going!
- Focus on creating new habits and ways of thinking. It takes 21 days to break or make a habit, right? If you make it 21 days, you’ve created new neural pathways that will make it easier to achieve this goal moving forward.
- Focus on today. It can be overwhelming to make changes and step out of your comfort zone! What can you do today to move toward your goal?
- Be positive. If you have a cigarette halfway through the month, focus on how good you felt in the days you stayed strong. Then let it go and keep going with your goal. Too many people give up (and smoke the whole pack, or eat the whole cake), but a small setback won’t keep you from achieving your goals if you stay positive and continue on with your goal.
- Surround yourself with like-minded people. Whether you’re going gluten free, Paleo, or trying 21 Day Fix, there’s a facebook group or meetup group of people with the same goals. The benefit of this is you’l find people at all stages of the journey, with lots of personal experience to share and loads of support and encouragement.
It’s an ongoing resolution, and one that I’ve been successful with each year for the past 4 years. I plan to inventory our material possessions at least once per season and donate or sell anything that we don’t truly want or need. Even though I’m mindful of making minimal purchases for the home (and we don’t do gifts for Christmas or birthdays), it’s still human nature to accumulate too much stuff. When we moved abroad, we sold and donated almost everything we owned, and started fresh. But each year, I find we’ve ended up with stuff we just don’t need. It takes a focused and mindful approach, but it keeps stress levels down, teaches the children that material things aren’t tied to our happiness, and has a lovely side effect of less work to tidy the house! In the spirit of accountability, I’ll take a photo of everything we purge this week and share it along with the details of my room-by-room-strategy.
Here’s to Your Success!
Please share your resolutions in the comments, along with the strategies that have led you to success in the past. Happy New Year!