Should You Make a New Year's Resolution?
The end of one year and the dawn of the next is a natural time for reflection for most of us. We think about what we could have done better, goals we didn’t reach, or ways we fell short in our personal relationships.
We promise ourselves that this year will be the year we’ll lose those 20 pounds, run a marathon, quit smoking, repair a broken relationship, or finally get organized.
So, we make a New Year’s resolution.
Even though studies show that over 25% of people abandon their New Year’s goals within the first few weeks, is it still worth setting a new goal? I think so, since people who make resolutions are also 10 times more likely to achieve their goals than those who don’t.
What are some ways to beat that 25% statistic and see your New Year’s resolution through long-term?
1) Start small.
Make a manageable, short-term resolution you’ll have a better chance of keeping, like running a 5K rather than a full marathon or finishing one class of your degree plan. Completing one goal can give you momentum to make other changes. On that note…
2) Change one thing at a time.
According to the American Psychological Association, “Unhealthy behaviors develop over the course of time. Thus, replacing unhealthy behaviors with healthy ones requires time. Don’t get overwhelmed and think that you have to reassess everything in your life. Instead, work toward changing one thing at a time.”
3) Write it down.
Writing down your goals can help you clarify an action plan and keep you focused when you need a reminder of why you started in the first place. Michael Hyatt, renowned author, successful entrepreneur, and organizational guru, discusses the other benefits of writing down goals, including determining your destination and enabling you to concretely see and celebrate your progress.
4) Find accountability that works for you.
Some of us thrive on support from others, so we might need to join a smoking cessation group, work out with a friend, or ask our significant other to check in on our goals periodically. Take advantage of the resources offered to military families by contacting your Family Services or fitness center for lists of support groups, upcoming "fun runs," and exercise classes offered for active duty, retirees, military spouses, and families.
Others prefer to go it more alone, but still need some prodding from an outside source like a trainer. Utilize one of the many apps designed to keep you accountable!
5) Be realistic.
Don’t set yourself up for failure. Cutting back on sugar is more realistic than saying you’ll never eat sugar again, and giving up a favorite food “forever” only makes it more of a temptation.
If you decide you want to finish the degree you started 20 years ago, it might make sense to ease into it. Genevie Kocourek, who attended medical school in her 50's, says, "I started with just one class. Make sure you can handle the material before you really commit."
6) Have a plan.
When you find yourself wanting to quit, what will be your strategy? Figure out ahead of time how you’ll deal with it so you don’t have to make a decision in the stress of the moment.
For instance: read a book or take a walk instead of smoking, call a friend when you want the unhealthy food calling to you from the pantry, set three alarms to help you get up for your early exercise time.
7) Celebrate your success!
Recognize each step you take toward your bigger goal and reward yourself. One idea to make it fun: write down several rewards on slips of paper and place them in a jar—make it something that will motivate you, whether it's a spa day, new purse, golf outing, or day trip. When you reach a predetermined goal, treat yourself by choosing a paper from the jar.
8) Start over if you need to.
If you fall off track in February or March, give yourself permission to hit “reset” and try again. Show yourself the grace you’d extend to someone else. If you're a military spouse in the middle of a deployment or a move, realize it may be two steps forward, one step back for a while, but make a point of recognizing your overall progress.
Since it takes about 21 days for a new habit to become routine, make the 21-day mark your first mini-goal to reach. And know that, if you make it past the first month, you’re already well ahead of the pack!