Now that we’re a little ways into 2015, raise your hand if you are still on track with the resolutions you made on December 31? It’s okay if you didn’t — you aren’t alone. According to a University of Scranton study, only about 8 percent of the people who make New Year’s resolutions actually successfully keep them each year. So even though the last time you saw the inside of the gym was January 2, you’re in good company, and there is still time to get back on track.
Salvaging your New Year’s resolutions is possible, but it requires doing a little bit of the work that you should have done before you made your resolution. Not only do you need to determine why you failed, but you also need to make a realistic plan for success going forward. If you do that, then there is a good chance that you’ll be able to ring in 2016 feeling great about what you accomplished this year.
Why Resolutions Fail
Experts say that there are two main reasons that most resolutions fail. First, people often have trouble sticking to their resolutions because they are unrealistic. There’s no way that you can safely lose 50 (or even 20) pounds in a month, or quit a lifelong habit overnight. Setting unrealistic goals for yourself is essentially asking for failure, because when you do not see immediate results or achieve your ultimate goal right away, you’re likely to get frustrated and give up.
The second reason that resolutions — even realistic ones — fail is that the goal-setter fails to come up with a workable plan for meeting the goal. For example, you might resolve to work out more, but what does that actually mean? How do you plan to work out? Do you have the resources you need to work out, like access to a gym or even a good pair of running shoes?
Publicly stating that you want to lose weight or start going to the gym is certainly worthwhile, but if you don’t determine a specific amount that you want to lose or how often you want to work out, how will you measure your success? When you haven’t specifically stated a goal and devised a plan for meeting it — even if it’s just as simple as saying “I’m going to an exercise class once a week” — it’s easier to abandon your resolution, since it was just a vague statement to begin with.
So how do you solve the problem?
Salvaging Your Resolutions
The first step to getting back on track with your New Year’s resolutions is to identify exactly what went wrong. Were you too vague? Too ambitious? Did you fail to plan for meeting your goals? Did you make too many resolutions? Identifying the cause of your failure allows you to develop a plan for success that prevents you from repeating your mistakes.
The next step is to set SMART goals for your resolutions; that is, goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timed. For example, “quit smoking” is a vague, if not admirable resolution. A better resolution would be “I want to reduce the number of cigarettes I smoke by half within 60 days.” It’s specific and measurable (reduce number of cigarettes by half), tied to a date (60 days), and certainly achievable with the right plan.
That plan is the third step to renewing your commitment to your resolutions. Think about how you will reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke each day; that could mean ordering some nicotine patches or prescription smoking aids from Canada Drug Pharmacy to help you deal with cravings, developing a few strategies for what to do when you usually smoke, and enlisting accountability partners to provide support and encouragement.
Of course, none of these strategies will work if you can’t see the benefits of following through on your resolutions. Obviously, you know that losing weight, eating better, exercising, and quitting harmful habits like smoking are certainly better for your health, but that information doesn’t always equate to commitment. Don’t be afraid to reward yourself for meeting certain milestones, and to make your efforts more fun.
For example, if you’re trying to get more exercise, sign up for a fun 5K race (like a color race or obstacle course) and train with friends. Studies show that when you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, or if it feels like a chore, then you are less likely to stick with it, so find ways to make your new habits enjoyable and something that you look forward to.
Staying On Track
In general, it takes an average of 66 days for any new behavior to become a habit, so don’t be discouraged if you feel a little frustrated or don’t see a major change after a few weeks. Stick with it, and reevaluate your goals and strategy after eight weeks. That’s a good time to reflect on your progress, and adjust your plan. Above all, don’t be discouraged. Making changes to our life can be difficult, but if you stay focused on your goal and accept setbacks as part of the process while still moving forward, you will eventually meet your goal.