How to keep your New Year’s resolutions

February 16, 2021 · 2 min read · By ASU CareerCatalyst

The start of the new year is a common time to reflect and feel a renewed sense of motivation to set a goal for healthier habits. But despite these good intentions, 80% of all New Year’s resolutions fail, with most people losing motivation by mid-February. Changing your habits is hard, but there are a few ways you can set yourself up for success. Here are some tips to help you set resolutions and stick to them.

Set a realistic goal

One reason why so many New Year’s resolutions fail is that many people set goals that aren’t achievable in the first place.

At the beginning of the year when your motivation has peaked, it’s easy to set a big, ambitious goal. While it’s good to challenge yourself, you also have to consider if your goal is realistic.

Any goal that requires you to drastically change many aspects of normal behavior is probably too difficult to achieve. For example, if you want to start running, it’s better to set a goal to run two days a week rather than trying to immediately run a marathon.

Another common problem is that many people set a general resolution to lose weight or get in shape. These goals are vague, meaning there’s no clear way to track your progress or know if you’ve succeeded. Without a clear plan or place to start, it’s easy to lose motivation and give up.

When deciding on your resolutions, it’s recommended that you set SMART goals. These goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.

Create a plan

A change in habits doesn’t happen overnight, so it’s important to have a plan to ensure you’re making steady progress.

Take a few minutes to break down your resolution into smaller goals or milestones. Map out a realistic timeline for when you hope to reach each milestone. Then, consider what small steps you will take each week to work toward accomplishing these short-term goals. Make sure to factor in rewards along the way to reinforce your new behavior and celebrate success.

During the planning process, it’s also important to consider what setbacks you may face and develop a plan for how you might overcome these hurdles when they appear. These backup plans will make the obstacles less intimidating and keep you on track when things get difficult.

Track your progress

Once you start working toward your goal, take some time each day or week to document your progress.

This frequent reflection can help you refine your plan and hold yourself accountable. Tracking your progress is also essential for maintaining your motivation. Seeing a streak of success can give you the little extra push you need to keep working hard on difficult days.

It’s best to document your progress in one central location such as a calendar or resolution journal. This could also be a place where you keep your plan and any other reflection you do as a part of your resolution journey.

Renew your motivation

When you first start working toward your goal, it’s easy to feel motivated. At this point, you haven’t felt any discomfort from trying to change your habits. But as time progresses, the challenge and discomfort of change can make it harder to keep working toward your resolution.

During these times, it’s smart to think back to what motivated you to set this goal in the first place. For example, if your goal is to exercise more, you can remind yourself of all the positive health benefits of regular physical activity.

Remember to focus on the personal benefits you will gain from accomplishing this goal. If you fixate on all the reasons someone else wants you to change, you may start feeling too much pressure and become even less motivated. This also may be a sign that you’re pursuing this resolution for the wrong reasons.

Find support

Change is hard, but you don’t have to go at it alone. Having a support group is another important tool to help you achieve your resolution.

If you’re trying to lose weight or exercise, then you’ll be in good company as many others set similar New Year’s resolutions. It shouldn’t be too hard to find a group of like-minded people, either online or in person, who are trying to accomplish a similar goal as you.

Also, share your goal with a few close friends or family members who you think will be supportive and encouraging. Tell them your plan so they can hold you accountable. Rely on their support to help you stay focused during difficult times.

You can also sign up for an online course for additional guidance. An online course has the added benefit of providing structure and expert advice that can make it easier to stick with your goal.

Don’t get discouraged by setbacks

Even the best plan can’t prevent life from getting in the way of your goal. There’s inevitably going to be a time when you slip up. The key is not letting that slip-up turn into you giving up.

Always be kind to yourself on good days and especially on bad days. We’re often our own worst critics so it’s easy to start beating ourselves up. These negative thoughts can make one mistake feel like a failure when really it’s just a bump in the road.

Track your slip-ups in your resolution journal. Take a few minutes to reflect on the relapse and what might have caused it. Then, take a deep breath and move on. Wake up the next day and continue with your plan as if that slip-up didn’t occur.

If you notice that you’re frequently relapsing back into your old habits, you may need to adjust your plan. It may be that the steps to achieve your goal are too strict or rigid. To ensure you keep making progress, check that your plan is flexible and make reasonable adjustments along the way.

If you get a few months into the new year and realize you’ve completely gone off track or abandoned your resolution, that’s okay too. You don’t have to wait until the new year to set a new goal. Learn from what went wrong last time and try again.

Create healthier habits this new year with a wellness certificate from Mayo Clinic and Arizona State University


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