With 2014 only a few days away, many of us are reflecting on the past year and looking for ways to improve ourselves and our lives in the new year. New Years is a time when many of us set goals, but few of us actually keep them. According to Statistic Brain, 49% of us infrequently have success in achieving our New Year’s resolutions, while 24% of us never do. Don’t let these stats discourage you. This article also claims that “People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t.”
I recently spoke to two friends who successfully kept their 2013 resolutions: Lindsay lost 50 lbs. and Michelle flossed her teeth twice a day. Since then, I have been reflecting on the commonalities between these women their goals. I’m trying to discover the secret to their success, or at least a few tips that can increase my chances of achieving my resolutions for 2014.
First, we must set ourselves up for success by picking the right resolution. I found a Huffington Post article that lists three characteristics required for a successful New Year’s resolution. It must be: realistic, measurable and challenging (because let’s face it, if it were easy we’d already be doing it). Both Lindsay’s and Michelle’s resolutions met the criteria. Still, I felt it took much more than this to succeed.
Lindsay, who had dieted, lost, and quickly regained weight in the past, told me she had known how to successfully lose weight all along, but for some reason was finally “ready” to make the commitment to regular exercise and a healthier diet, this year. Lindsay was able to lose the weight in a healthy (and more permanent) way because she was “ready.” I have heard former smokers say the same thing. They had tried to quit and failed several times; but once they were “ready,” they quit cold turkey and never looked back.
This made me realize that the Huffington Post neglected to mention a fourth, equally vital, resolution characteristic: important. A successful New Year’s resolution needs to be something that we believe to be important enough to be “ready” to commit to. We cannot simply make up resolutions on a whim because it’s a holiday tradition. In order to succeed, we need to find the resolution important enough to influence our behavior, even when it is difficult. It needs to be important enough that we’ll put down the chocolate, lace up our sneakers, pick up the dental floss, etc. On a side note, Michelle is a teeth person. Good teeth is on the top of her must have list for a guy she would date, and she claims that she can smell other people’s cavities – so although flossing twice a day may not pass the importance litmus test for many of us, it did for her.
My final thought on resolution selection is to choose wisely. Although we all have a laundry list of things we’d like to improve, most of us cannot successfully complete 15 resolutions simultaneously – so we need to prioritize! It’s not the quantity, it’s the quality. In order to set ourselves up for success, we need to pick one or two goals that are, realistic, measurable, challenging, and important; and then commit to make them happen!
Okay so now that we k now how to select a resolution or two, how do we follow through? I am certainly not an expert, but these were a few suggestions t
Break it into Mini-Goals: If we have a goal that cannot be achieved overnight, like losing 50 lbs., we should follow Lindsay’s example and break it into smaller realistic and measurable mini-goals. Lindsay began by walking a few miles each day, not worrying about how slowly or quickly she went. This daily “little win” of walking motivated her to eat well – since she didn’t want to counteract her progress by eating junk food. Achieving these little wins is a good way to see progress and increase the likelihood that the longer-term goal is attainable.
Check Progress Regularly: We must do something to ensure that the resolution stays top of mind – rather than simply being forgotten sometime between New Year’s and mid-February. I am not suggesting obsessively getting on the scale five times per day. What I do think would help is to set a weekly alarm, and spend a few minutes reflecting on how we’ve done over the past 7 days (if your goal is weight related now is your time to hop on a scale). A few other ideas are: to journal about progress or mark an “X” on a calendar for each day we’ve successfully flossed twice, gone without a cigarette, exercised etc.
Make the Resolution Known: If you are serious about completing a resolution, you’re going to need a support team. Letting your friends and family know about this goal will give them the opportunity to motivate you or at least avoid de-railing your progress. Others can also help hold you accountable – if you ask them to. They can check in with you on your progress and encourage you along the way.
Don’t Become De-Railed by Setbacks: No one is perfect, so we cannot expect ourselves to be. Lindsay mentioned that she didn’t beat herself up if she failed to exercise one day or ate a dessert. She knew that if she was going to make a lifestyle change, she needed to be realistic; and that never eating sugar again was, for her, unrealistic. Instead, she made sure that the majority of the time she was eating well and getting exercise. If she missed a day, she simply worked out again the next day – no guilt or self-loathing required.
If you’d like to share a success story or other tips to successfully achieving a 2014 resolution, that would be great! (It’s not bragging – it’s giving the rest of us some inspiration.) If you’re brave enough to share your 2014 goal, I’d love to hear those as well! Remember, statistics show that explicitly stating your resolution aids in your success!