Make Your New Year's Resolution Stick!
Want to lose weight? Get a promotion? Take over the world? Here's how to make sure your New Year's resolution becomes a reality.
First, the bad news: The odds are stacked against you. A few years ago, psychologist Richard Wiseman conducted a study of 3,000 people who had set New Year's resolutions for themselves. At the end of the year, a measly 12% had actually achieved their goals.1 But don't let those bleak stats kill your mojo—there are a few easy ways to make your goals more attainable, so you'll be toasting your success next December.
It's 11:59 PM on December 31st—do you know what your resolution is? For the best chance of success, set your goals long before you want to start them. Wiseman says that reflecting on your goals a few days before the New Year will make you more likely to choose a meaningful resolution2—which, of course, will make you more motivated to work for it. Still haven't set a goal? That's okay. Make one now and set yourself a start date a few days from now.
Shout it from the rooftops . . .
. . . or at least share it online. According to Wiseman's research, women were more likely to succeed if they told their friends and family about their goals.3 After all, you wouldn't want to fail in front of a few hundred of your closest friends, colleagues, and high school exes—would you? Make your resolution Facebook® official, tweet about it, or post a "before" photo on Instagram®. Accountability is your friend.
Once you've decided on your Big Important Goal, come up with a few smaller objectives that can help you get there. If you resolve to lose weight, commit to doing your INSANITY® workout every day. Or hire a personal trainer and buy sessions in bulk. Or take a two-mile hike every weekend. "Intention is very different than action," says Daniel C. Stettner, Ph.D., director of Psychology at UnaSource Health Center in Troy, MI, and an adjunct professor at Wayne State University in Detroit. "People have to come up with tactics and strategies. Otherwise, it's like driving to a destination without directions—you're not going to be successful."
Think positive . . . but not too positive.
If you paid attention in English class, you might remember "doublethink" from Orwell's 1984—the ability to accept two opposing beliefs as truth. In this case, you need to accept that you can succeed and that you can fail. In his book, 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot, Wiseman points to research by psychologist Gabriele Oettingen, who found that imagining success kept people motivated, while imagining failure helped them form "avoidance goals."4 In other words, it's okay to fantasize about firing your annoying cube mate when you become manager—but also devise a Plan B in case you get passed over for this round of promotions.
Know thy enemy.
Willpower is overrated. According to a recent study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, people were more likely to be successful if they avoided temptation altogether rather than expecting superhuman self-control to kick in.5 So figure out what changes you can make to sidestep your biggest roadblocks—can you take a different route to work that doesn't pass a bagel shop? Can you block Facebook on your computer to free up more time for new projects? Can you switch from your usual hangout to a non-smoking bar? A few small lifestyle changes can prevent big pitfalls.
We all love instant gratification. So when you're pursuing a long-term goal like weight loss or digging out of debt, short-term rewards will help you power through. Just make sure the rewards jibe with the ultimate goal—don't reward a week of workouts by eating an entire chocolate cake. If you're trying to slim down, for example, Dr. Stettner suggests buying a new outfit you can't squeeze into (yet!) or working out with a friend so the reward is built-in.
Don't let setbacks derail you.
Spoiler alert: You're human, so you're going to screw up. Don't let it discourage you, and don't use it as an excuse to let the rest of the day (or weekend, or month) go down the tubes. "There are going to be lapses, but a lapse doesn't have to be a collapse or a relapse," Dr. Stettner says. "Seek persistence rather than the dirty P-word, perfection. Don't think, 'I went off the plan today, so I'll start over tomorrow.' Salvage it. Save the day."