It often feels like breaking your New Year’s resolutions is as big of a tradition as coming up with them in the first place.
While most of us start out making an earnest effort at keeping up with our resolutions, eventually old habits creep back in and cancel out all progress. Research suggests that just 46% of people are able to carry their resolutions all the way to June. One-third of resolutions bite the dust by February.
That doesn’t mean your 2017 goals are a lost cause, though!
We’ve taken four of the most common New Year’s resolutions and come up with some helpful tips for how you can join that 46% of people who manage to keep up with their new goals.
Improving Your Health and Getting Fit
Many of us choose fitness-oriented goals, such as losing weight or eating better, when coming up with our resolutions.
It’s not uncommon for gyms to see their new membership numbers double during the month of January. Anyone who has a gym membership knows the routine by now: an influx of new faces show up at the start of the year, then gradually fizzle out by February.
So how do you break the pattern?
The biggest mistake most people make with their fitness resolutions is not setting a specific, achievable goal. If you go in with the generic goal of “losing weight” or “exercising more”, you’re not really creating any actual plan for achieving anything. If you instead set a goal of losing a specific amount of weight, or exercising for a set amount of time each day, you’re more likely to stick with it.
Another key factor is your patience level. You’re probably not going to lose those fifteen pounds in one week, but that doesn’t mean you should give up after a week. Come up with a plan that has a reasonable timeline and allows you to chip away at your goal week-by-week. (In fact, this is good advice for every resolution.)
Use a fitness app to keep track of your progress, and to remind you to keep up the good work. There are dozens available for any device – pick the one that best suits your goals. Several of them will even harass you with notifications if you stop logging your progress.
A lot of people will say that they want to “be a better person” in the new year.
The issue with that goal is very similar to the issue with saying you want to “lose weight.” Being a better person is an extremely broad concept, and it’s completely relative. One person’s self-improvement is another’s step backwards.
Again, the key here is setting specific goals. Identify what bothered you in 2016 and give critical thought to how these issues can be fixed.
Another key is patience. Even more so than physical health issues, mental or emotional issues are not the kind that go away overnight. It’ll likely be a year-long battle to establish new habits, but it’ll pay off if you’re successful.
When it comes to psychological or emotional issues, the most frequently-cited excuse – especially among young people – is that there simply isn’t enough time to address them. Many of us work long hours and don’t have a schedule that allows for frequent therapy sessions, but some things do require the attention of a professional.
Here’s the good news (or bad news, depending on how you look at it): that excuse is bullshit.
Thanks to modern technology, therapy no longer needs to be done through a 9-to-5 office appointment. There are several online therapy services, such as BetterHelp, that allow you to speak one-on-one with a licensed therapist from the comfort of your home, at a time that’s convenient for you.
For smaller improvements that don’t require professional intervention, the key is to flood yourself with reminders. Put a sticky note on your mirror reminding you of which behavior(s) you should be adjusting. Set a reminder on your phone that repeats at the top of the morning each day. It may be annoying, but it’ll help.
Save Money, or Start Making More of It
The third most common group of resolutions pertain to financial goals.
These can be divided into two main categories: savings-related goals and career-related goals.
Many of us wish to start saving more money in 2017. However, much like a few of the other goals we’ve mentioned, this is a little too broad to work with. You have to ask yourself exactly how much money you’re looking to save.
But before you ask that, you should first address why you want to save more money. Is it to pay off student loans? Is it for emergency usage?
By figuring out what you want to use your savings for, you’ll have a much better idea of how much you’ll need to save up. This will make it easier to determine how much money to set aside from each paycheck.
Then, once you’ve done that, you need to set up an auto-withdrawal with your bank that will send that money to your savings account automatically. You can’t blow through the money you intended to save if it goes straight to your savings!
As for career-oriented goals, the key here is to fight impulsiveness. Sometimes the energy of the new year, combined with the stress of year-end tasks at work, can have us thinking we need a change of scenery even when it may not be the best time.
If it’s something you’ve been wanting to do for a while, chances are it’s the right call. At this point, the only concern is returning to complacency. Many will energetically seek out jobs at the start of the year, just to get discouraged quickly and end up staying in place.
To succeed with a resolution of switching jobs, you’ll have to acknowledge that you might not find anything immediately. There are lots of people with the same goal applying for the same finite number of jobs, which means your first round of applications may not go well.
If you’re willing to be patient, there may be a great job out there for you. If you aren’t, you may either end up stuck where you are, or find yourself at a job even less appealing than the previous one.
Sticking with New Year’s resolutions isn’t easy. If it was, there wouldn’t be a 54% failure rate after just six months.
The point we want to drive home is that, while it may be difficult, it’s far from impossible. We live in a time of endless resources that can help you with any goal you could possibly imagine, but it requires enough dedication to seek out these resources and properly utilize them.
Ultimately, there’s no goal we can’t accomplish in 2017. The only question is, what will we accomplish?