It’s late January, and most New Year’s resolutions created with the best of intentions have already fallen to the wayside. That’s right–nearly ⅔ of all new year’s resolutions are forgotten by February.
In fact, according to University of Scranton Psychology Professor John C. Norcross, Ph.D, less than 10% of New Year’s resolutions are actually ever achieved. Ouch.
So why don’t resolutions work, and what should we do instead?
Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail
One reason that new year’s resolutions fail is because they are too vague and are not measurable. Let’s say your doctor wants you to lose weight. A broad resolution of “lose weight” does not offer any specific goals to reach and offers nothing to hold you accountable to that goal.
Another reason resolutions often fail is that we set too many. After all, it’s overwhelming to try and juggle six goals and much more effective to focus on one or two truly vital goals.
Do This Instead…
Instead of setting broad, undefined resolutions (ie, “lose weight”), set smaller, more attainable action goals.
For example, you might set the specific goal to walk 20 minutes every morning, to take the stairs instead of the elevator, or replace your cream-and-sugar morning coffee with green tea.
Each of these smaller action goals will help you reach the larger resolution (in this case, to lose weight) but committing to smaller behavior changes breaks a large, overwhelming goal into more easily changed habits.
Say you want to save money for a trip to Italy. Break that into smaller action goals in order to work toward that objective. For example, you might choose to limit your dining out to twice a week instead of four, or replace your morning coffee shop run with making your own at home. Small changes add up, and as each smaller goal becomes a habit and is reached, you can add more smaller goals
Replace Old Habits With New Ones
They say old habits die hard, but it’s easier to nix them when you replace them with new habits–or, add onto current hood habits.For example, if you already walk 20 minutes every morning, what’s another 10? Set a goal to add 10 minutes to each morning walk, and before you know it, a 30-minute walk is your new habit.
If your old habit is to eat sugary cereal each morning, replace that with a bowl of hot oats and fresh berries. This simple, smaller behavior change is much more attainable than setting a resolution to “eat healthier”
Measure Your Success
Find a way to track your mini-goals and your successful habit changes, whether it be on a whiteboard, calendar or journal. Check off as you meet each goal. When you find a goal becoming a natural part of your routine, add in another small goal. Keep stretching toward that big-picture resolution, but stay focused on the baby steps.
Before you know it, new, healthy habits will have you on your way to feeling healthier and happier!