New Years Resolutions are an annual tradition for approximately 40% of Americans. Of the millions of people who set resolutions for the year, it is estimated that less than 10% actually succeed. Despite the best of intentions, why is it that most people do not accomplish what they set out to do?
There are a variety of reasons why people do not succeed with their New Years Resolutions. In my experience as a personal trainer, I used to see people flock to the gym every January with the belief that this was the year they would get into shape. By March, many of them were no longer to be seen. A large portion of people quit before they even got started.
Some people feel that they simply do not have the willpower to achieve their goals. Others may think that they doomed to a cycle of starting and stopping new endeavors without finishing anything. Despite past frustrations, it is possible to set resolutions that lead to permanent change.
Consider these 5 ways to make your New Years Resolutions stick this year. As you read through each point, give thought to what goals are the most important to you. By setting yourself up for success, you can build positive momentum and make meaningful change in your life.
New Years Resolutions – Set Very Specific Goals
One mistake people make when setting New Years Resolutions is making them way too vague. You need to set meaningful goals instead of just making a list of good intentions. For example, instead of saying “I want to lose weight” set a specific amount with a due date. “I will lose 10 pounds by March 15” is a goal that has much more chance for success.
You can apply this method to everything you choose to pursue. “I want to pay off some debt this year” is weak compared to “I will pay off $500 a month in credit card debt”. I would rather see you set a few small specific resolutions rather than a long list of vague intentions that have little chance of success. If you achieve all of your resolutions early in the year, set new goals for yourself. The habit of setting and achieving goals is something all of us should do, regardless of the time of the year!
Be Realistic When Setting Goals
It is important to set goals that take you outside your comfort zone. The danger comes when many of us set unrealistic expectations and then get frustrated when we do not meet them. It is much better to be very honest with yourself when establishing your New Years Resolutions. One of the mistakes I saw in the gym was people trying to do too much at the beginning.
A good example is those who go from zero activity to wanting to come in several times a week. Despite good intentions, they either push themselves too hard or have schedules that are too busy. When they cannot meet their lofty goals, they just give up instead of doing the best they can. It would be much wiser to set a reasonable goal of 2 trips a week to the gym.
Money goals work the same way. While you may have the exciting goal of saving 10% of your income, is that a reality right now? You may be better served by setting a goal to save 3%. You can always increase the savings amount as your circumstances change. It’s a great thing to have ambitious goals, but they have to be realistic. If you set reasonable goals that are challenging, you are setting yourself up to succeed. Balance is the key.
Do Not Be Too Restrictive At First
In addition to doing too much too soon, I see mistakes at the other extreme when it comes to eliminating unwanted habits. Food and drink is a perfect example. People try to completely eliminate a large group of foods or treats instead of cutting back gradually. Rather than starting to eat healthy 80% of the time, people try to eat perfectly right from the beginning.
Sure, if you want to quit a bad habit like smoking or drinking too much, total abstinence is an excellent goal. Your health may dictate that you make immediate extreme changes. The problem is most people cannot handle the temptation or peer pressure and end up going right back to their regular diets.
There is a huge emotional part to will power and making long term changes. In the morning you may feel confident that you do not want a drink that evening. By the end of the workday, you might be ready to swim in the bottle. Try to find what works for you and make gradual long term progress. Keep temptation out of reach and out of the house if you can.
Give Yourself Time
I like to tell the story of a friend of mine who owned several gyms. He would get a large source of his yearly income in the month of January. Even with a large influx of extra members, he knew he only had to worry about gym traffic for a few weeks. Why? Just as I mentioned earlier, by the month of March levels returned to normal and the staff could get back to regular activities. It was because the majority of people who came because of New Years Resolutions stopped coming in regularly. They gave up shortly after getting started.
You have to give yourself time to make meaningful change. It is critical to allow new habits in their infancy to become the foundation of a new lifestyle. Otherwise, it is easy to just slip right back into old comfortable routines. It is too bad because most people stop right as they start to make serious progress. Do not allow this to happen. If you have specific and reasonable goals, you need to patience to see them through.
Have an Accountability Team
Building an accountability team may be as easy as telling close friends and family your resolutions. Finding a small group of people who will provide encouragement and positive pressure can be really helpful. Having a workout partner is a great way to keep accountable and focused on getting into shape. When you commit to exercise with a friend, it helps keep your workouts fun and consistent. You do not want to let your training partner down, so you put forth extra effort to make sure you are regularly in attendance at the gym. Whether your goal is to get into shape physically or financially, ask some people to support you along the way. It can be a powerful way to help you achieve your resolutions.
Money goals need accountability too. The challenge in our society is that we are conditioned not to discuss money. This is unfortunate, since surrounding yourself with people who will keep you on track with your financial goals is a good thing. Do not be afraid to ask people you trust to help you achieve your important money goals.
New Years Resolutions That Last
Deciding to make positive change in your life is a worthwhile pursuit. However, perfectionist tendencies and an all or nothing attitude can cause frustration and a pattern of falling right back into old habits. Follow the five suggestions above to set yourself up for success and meaningful growth. Setting resolutions and achieving goals is like any other set of skills. The more you practice the better you will get at it. Start out with a good foundation and build the life you want, one resolution at a time.
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