New year’s resolutions just don’t work for most of us. Researchers have looked at success rates of peoples’ resolutions and have found that only 8% of people who make resolutions succeed in keeping them. So how long do the resolutions last? Surprisingly, 75% of resolutions will be continued through the entire first week of January, but only about 46% make it past six months.
Why do so many people not keep their resolutions? Do people lack the will power or are plain lazy? Timothy Pychyl, a professor of psychology at Carleton University in Canada, says that resolutions are a form of “cultural procrastination,” an effort to reinvent oneself. People make resolutions as a way of motivating themselves, he says. Pychyl argues that people aren’t ready to change their habits, particularly bad habits, and that accounts for the high failure rate. Another reason that psychologists often cite is that people set unrealistic goals and expectations in their resolutions. So, here are few ways you can be among the lucky few who do see the end of the tunnel.
Set realistic goals
Focus on one resolution, rather than keeping too many. And set realistic, specific goals. For instance, losing weight is not a specific goal. Losing 2kgs in 90 days will be. Don’t set vague or highly unrealistic goals. Resolutions like “I’d like more money” or “I would travel more this year” are vague and unmeasurable. It’s impossible to know when you have reached these goals, so you end up ignoring them. What gets measured gets accomplished and what gets measured daily gets done faster. Many people quit because the goal requires too much work all at once.
Keep a track of your progress
Once you have set a practical goal, don’t wait until the end of the year to measure your progress. You need daily or at least weekly measurements that ensure you are tracking towards your larger 12 month goal.
Do not go alone
“If you are someone who has a higher success rate when you have outside support, then get a buddy,” says success coach Amy Applebaum. “This creates accountability, which is essential for success. Surround yourself with people who inspire you to be more, do more, and have more. Your friend or partner should be a positive force in your life, not a negative one. Whether it’s quitting smoking or hitting the gym every day, don’t go it alone.
Research well in advance
Get books on the subject and read up extensively. Whether it’s quitting smoking or taking up a new hobby, prepare yourself and enhance your knowledge. This will also help you understand the practicality of achieving the goal. For instance, if you decide to lose weight, have a good knowledge about what will work well for you and then plan a workable solution.
Don’t blame yourself for the few setbacks on the way
If you do fail and sneak a chocolate or lose your temper or cry in front of everyone just once, don’t be hard on yourself. Make a note of the triggers that caused this set back and vow to learn a lesson from them. For instance, if and when you know alcohol makes you crave cigarettes, you can work on cutting down on alcohol.
Pat your back for whatever you have achieved till date
When you feel discouraged, remind yourself how much you have accomplished in the past, suggests Elizabeth Lombardo, a psychologist based out of the US. “People beat themselves up about still needing to lose the baby weight or no longer going to yoga class. But they overlook the long list of things they have done that required major self-discipline, like building a nest egg or sticking with the computer training they needed in order to get a better job.”
“Write down 100 things you’re proud of, right down to ‘I get out of bed when I don’t want to.’ It’ll remind you how much willpower you really have,” says Lombardo.
Write your goals down on a piece of paper or e-mail yourself
People who put their goals on paper are significantly more likely to achieve them than are those who merely make mental vows, research from Dominican University of California has shown. “Your will matters most the moment you make a resolution — and you will want to be able to recapture the intensity of that moment again and again. The Dominican study also found that those who told friends or family about their goals did better than those who didn’t, and people who e-mailed their support team weekly progress updates did best of all. When people say, you look good, it apparently gives your brain a surge of soothing oxytocin.
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