Want to actually stick to that New Year’s resolution this year? If you’re like many of us, you’re sick and tired of setting goals on January 1 only to forget about them before February. This year, make real progress and follow through on what you want to accomplish with this three-part, foolproof formula.
Step 1: Set Up for Success
Take some time to think about what you want to achieve and plan out what you’ll need to make it happen. What will you need ahead of time? Whom do you need to ask for help? Do research, get your questions answered, buy supplies and be ready to roll on the first of January.
Here are some other planning tips that will set you up for success:
- Break big goals into bite-size pieces. Create mini goals to accomplish and give deadlines to each.
- Make your resolution measurable, concrete and specific.
- Write down your “why.” Why do you want this to be your resolution? What is motivating you?
Step 2: Get (and Stay) in Action
Get yourself in action by choosing one thing to focus on: one New Year’s resolution, one goal and one action. Keep it simple so starting isn’t so daunting. You can add complexity or more challenges after you take that first baby step. There are a number of strategies to keep the momentum going:
- Say “I don’t” instead of “I can’t.” A study in the Journal of Consumer Research shows that saying you don’t do something instead of you can’t do something empowers you to make better choices. For example, saying “I don’t eat candy” instead of “I can’t eat candy,” makes you more likely to follow through and not eat the sweets.
- Include your friends, family or coworkers. Resolutions often fail because there is no accountability or outside motivation. Also, some resolutions (like going running) can be more fun in a group. If big groups aren’t your thing, having a friend who can serve as an accountability buddy may work for you instead.
- Engineer your environment to support you. If your New Year’s resolution is to eat healthy food, don’t buy junk food at the store. Stock only healthy choices in your kitchen. Hoping to hit the gym more often? Plan to go first thing in the morning, before you start suffering from what researchers call “decision fatigue,” according to behavioral psychology writer James Clear. Lay out your workout clothes the night before so all you need to do is wake up, get dressed and GO!
- Act consistently. As Clear notes, it takes about 66 days to build a new habit. It is far easier to stick to something new in this window of time when you do it every single day. Giving yourself even a one-day break from acting on your resolution could derail your progress. So take one action, however small, consistently for at least a month.
- Reward yourself. Give yourself resolution-appropriate rewards when you do stay on track. It shouldn’t be all stress and boredom. Take time to acknowledge your progress and see how far you’ve come.
Step 3: Make It a Lifestyle
Once you’re on track in your day-to-day, make your new habit more of a lifestyle by building in long-term accountability. Try tracking your progress or the changes you make each day or week — or up the ante and enter competitions or events that require you to train or test your newly learned skill.
Once you articulate an actionable, meaningful resolution and stick with it, accountability can help you make it a permanent part of your life that you celebrate. This could be your year.