In January, did you make a New Year’s resolution to run your first 5K, cut out sugar, quit smoking, join a gym, or attain another such ambitious goal? And are you now disappointed in yourself for failing to follow through on your vow?
First off, don’t feel bad; you’re in the majority. Research shows that fewer than half of all New Year’s resolutions succeed. And one study found that on average, more than a third of the people who make resolutions give up within two weeks!
So, if you’ve gotten off course, take heart. These tips can get you back on track.
1. Use your slips to strengthen your commitment. Psychology studies have found that many of those who fall off the wagon early on use this as motivation to try again. And when they do, they go on to make significant gains over the long term.
2. Break a big goal into smaller steps. If your goal was to take up running, maybe it would make more sense for you to set a goal of a daily 30-minute walk and work up from there. If your goal was to cut out sugar, maybe you could start with halving portions, rather than sacrificing your favorite treats altogether. Research shows that setting small attainable goals is the best way to change a habit.
3. Focus on immediate rewards. Instead of ruminating on the sacrifices you’re making to reach your goal, zero in on today’s payoffs. Noticing the energy you get from your new lunchtime walk and savoring your delicious new plant-based recipe are more motivating than a goal that’s off in the future.
4. Remind yourself why this is important to you. A good way to do this is to remember why you chose your goal. If your goal was to lose a few pounds, pay attention the next time you try to put on a favorite pair of jeans that’s too tight, and set them aside with the goal of getting back into them. If your goal was to clean out the garage, note this next time you have to park your car on the street.
5. Double-check with yourself on whether you picked the right goal. If you’re really struggling to find inspiration, it may be that you chose a goal for the wrong reasons. Do you really want to sign up for an exercise class, or is that a goal you think you should have or that you chose to match a friend’s? Some types of fitness may be less appealing than others; for instance, if you’re not a joiner, a solitary activity like running might be more to your liking.
6. Share with friends and family. Telling friends and family about your plan will help keep you accountable, and their support can help make it easier to stick to a habit change. Discuss with family or housemates specific ways they might support you, like not offering you seconds on desert or persuading you to stay home and watch a movie when you’re trying to go to the gym.