January 17th is a new holiday that has found its way into our society’s consciousness. It’s known as “Ditch New Year’s Resolution Day.” It sprung up out of the fact that most people have already given up on their New Year’s Resolutions before the month is even over. A recent study showed 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail by February (U.S. News & World Report). That means 4 out of 5 people who make resolutions will have ditched them before the month comes to an end. What does this research mean? Why do we struggle so much with keeping resolutions?
Part of the reason we struggle in keeping resolutions may have to do with the fact that we generally use vague language when making them. Simply saying I want to lose weight, save money, or eat better, isn’t going to cut it. You need to have a very specific goal that can be measured. For instance, save money could be transformed into a specific measurable objective such as “save 10 percent of each paycheck” or “save $100 a month.” A goal to exercise more could be changed into a tangible goal like “complete 90 minutes of exercise per week.”
Measure Your Progress
If you can’t measure your progress, chances are you will fail. Being able to see yourself working toward your goal will help you stay motivated. It will also help you see where to make adjustments instead of having a setback and giving up completely. If you set a goal to save $100 a month, but have only been able to put away about $50 a month we could be inclined to give up. Instead of throwing in the towel you can see if there are areas of spending that can be reduced, or adjust your savings goal to be more realistic with your budget. Don’t feel bad if you need to scale back your goal. Although it may take longer, as long as you are expending effort in moving toward your resolution you will eventually get where you want to be.
Small goals are more effective. According to Stephen Guise, author of Mini Habits, we tend to have a mental block toward challenging tasks like getting up early to exercise. He advocates creating a goal so ridiculously easy that you can’t come up with a mental excuse not to do it. He created a healthier lifestyle with his initial fitness goal of one pushup a day. It was so easy he couldn’t fail. The author found that once he got his body moving he usually did more exercise than a single pushup. He just had to start. On days where he was sick or truly did not have time, doing one pushup kept him from mentally abandoning his goal to get fit. As he kept up this consistent routine his mind became used to the idea of exercising and getting in shape became a much easier task. Perhaps you could create a mini goal for resolutions you truly struggle with. You could try smoking one less cigarette a day, saving $5 a week or doing the plank exercise for 5 seconds a day. Taking this baby steps approach may make it easier to get where you want to be mentally, physically and financially.
Having someone to keep you accountable or assist you in working towards making big life changes can greatly increase your success. Whether it’s a friend, nutritionist, personal trainer, counselor or coach, having an additional layer of support will help you stay motivated for the long run. At the Mind Enhancement Center we have helped many individuals make great changes within themselves to improve their overall quality of life. Check out our website to find out more about what we can do to help you make your resolutions a reality.