Many of us make New Year's resolutions but few of us keep them. In their article "If at First Your Don't Succeed", in the 2002 American Psychologist, Polivy and Herman cite statistics saying:
- 25% of New Year's resolutions will be abandoned in the first 15 weeks
- The average number of times a New Years resolution is made is 10
- Those who manage to make a resolution that lasts for 6 months or more have often tried 5 or 6 times before finally succeeding
- Many New Year's resolutions are for health related goals
Though the odds may be stacked against us of attaining our New Year's goals, there are some things we can do that will improve our chances of success.
Break down your goals
Once you have selected a goal think of the tasks that you need to do to achieve that goal. For example, to lose weight and be healthier: you can read articles about healthy eating, develop a diet plan, plan menus, track your eating, get a consult from a medical professional, take an exercise class, walk 5000 steps four days a week, bike to work, stand up every hour for a minute, etc. These are just a few of the many small activities that will start you down the path of healthier living.
Track what you are doing
Tracking the tasks you plan to do can improve your motivation. Tracking can be as simple as checking off on the calendar each day you do one of your planned activities. You can also invest in getting a pedometer to measure steps, or use a pedometer or fitness app on your smart phone. You can keep a scrap book of healthy menus that you can add to as you find them, or journal your food intake daily. Anything you can do to keep track of your efforts will help you see your progress, and encourage you to keep going.
Do activities together
You are more likely to stay with activities if other people doing them with you. There are many ways to do this, for example you can do activities with a friend, join a class or group, sign-up for an online community of people wanting to eat better or exercise more, or just go to places where there are other people also doing things to improve their health, like the gym or a public park. By doing things with others you can be inspired, learn, and be supported.
M.H. Alderson said, “If at first you don't succeed, you are doing about average.”As the research I presented earlier suggests, many of us will abandon our resolutions. Prepare for the fact that sooner or later you will hit obstacles and stop following through on your efforts. This does not mean you can never achieve your goals, it just means you need to start again. So, if you want to be above average with your New Year's resolution, follow the old Japanese proverb, “Fall down seven times, stand up eight.”