It’s easy to plan New Year resolutions. They’re a future-you problem, a tomorrow-goal. “I’ll drop a dress size next year.” “I’ll start my own business once the holidays are over.” “I want to get back into yoga, but I’ve missed so many classes… I know; I’ll make it my New Year resolution. From January, I’ll get back on it.”
Why January? What makes the New Year a magical date for change and new beginnings? By putting so much focus on making a single, big change after the holidays are over and a New Year begins, are we setting ourselves up for failure rather than success?
Ditching the ‘all or nothing’ mindset can be key to lasting success. When we put all of the pressure and onus on one big push, we are less likely to succeed. According to one study, 80% of New Year resolutions fail by February, while another says just 8% of us will actually achieve our New Year resolutions.
By making small, incremental changes and setting smaller milestones towards your bigger goal, you can keep your motivation levels high and have an ongoing feeling of achievements, whilst having an actionable way to track your progress. Focusing on the next small step towards sustainable change, rather than the more daunting leap needed towards your final goal can be a huge help.
We share four tips for making sustainable resolutions.
1. Identify your actual motivation and goal(s) – what is it you actually want to achieve? Keeping goals small and simple can make them more attainable in the long-run. Common resolutions like joining a gym, becoming your own boss, or finding love may sound good now, but what is your actual motivation behind wanting to make that change? Is it really attainable? Or is something else motivating you that should really be your focus?
Pick one main goal as your focus. Take time to think about why this is going to be your main goal. If it’s something big or a little vague, it’s time to break it down. For example, joining a gym: is your aim to lose weight, to get more healthy, or to regularly take part in a social or physical activity? What’s stopped you in the past – stress, money, exhaustion? How will you get past these? If you are looking to make more of a lifestyle change, would it make more sense to sign up to a specific class with a friend or colleague to keep your motivation up?
2. Tracking your progress – one of the things that can make keeping your resolution even harder is not having a clear way to track what you have achieved, or a good idea of what progress may look like. Do you plan to hold yourself accountable, or will someone else? Getting someone else involved can make it feel like the pressure is on, but it can also help inspire us to keep going, rather than give in when we meet unexpected obstacles.
Remember: the more specific your goal is, the easier it is to track. While a bigger idea like ‘getting healthy’ can sound like an admirable goal, it’s a great idea, not a great plan. Think of ways it could be easier to track your end goal: working with a coach, attending the gym on Tuesdays after work, or working on your endurance so you can attempt a half marathon or fun-run could all be good starting points.
3. Planning is key – setting a specific goal is a great start. What comes next? That’s just as important. Once you know where you want to be or what you want to do, it’s important to break it down and think of the logistics. How will you get there, what will progress look like, what kind of timeline (if any) do you need to work to? By putting together a master plan from the outset, you can spend less time thinking about how along the way, and focus all of your time and energy into doing what you are trying to achieve.
Planning how you’ll hold yourself accountable can be just as important as figuring out the logistics around those first steps towards making change happen. Maybe you want to use an app, create a blog, or talk things through with a loved one so it feels like your progress is being heard and celebrated. Working with a personal development coach can be another great way to not only be held accountable for your goal(s), but to get advice and tips along the way. Research shows that the more responsible we feel to follow-through, the more likely we are to succeed.
4. Don’t stop believing – it can be tough, but keep believing in yourself. If things slip and you have a bad day, don’t give in and say ‘well that’s that then’. Keep going. Keep pushing. Keep reminding yourself of why you started, how much of an impact this goal could have. Remind yourself of the smaller steps you’ve already made towards your goal and the little milestones along the way that you’ll continue to make.
Don’t give in to excuses, but remember to still be kind to yourself. It’s OK to struggle or to have a hard time. Own the reasons why you’ve struggled, admit to them, and get a plan together for how you are going to continue forward and get back on track.