Around this time of year, struggles to keep New Year’s Resolutions frequently become the punch line of jokes like this farce Saturday Night Live video that aired January 18 in which a singer swore, “not gonna quit, that much is clear,” just before sinking his teeth into a cream-filled doughnut after which he promised that his “diet starts now.”
Don’t despair if that sounds like you. Researchers indicate that about 25 percent of people quit their resolutions by the end of January and this number continues to grow each month until we’re until we’re only left with 8 percent of people who actually see their resolutions through.
These dismal statistics can make you wonder how those 8 percent of folks are able to hold fast. Since I count myself among those 8 percent, I thought it would be helpful to share three of my own strategies, gleaned from my training as a psychologist, to help you fulfill those promises you made last month.
1. Edit your previously set “resolutions” and call them emotional goals. I don’t believe in making “resolutions” and according to popular psychology research, actually setting a resolution is a sure way to guarantee that you will not keep it. Instead of making resolutions, focus on what you’d like to experience in life during the upcoming year.
For example, instead of saying, “I want to lose 20 lbs,” say “I’d like to feel sexier and better about my body.” Our body image is not entirely tied to weight. Instead of enduring a diet-exercise-guilt rollercoaster, it may be better to consider smaller changes such as dressing more stylishly, changing a hairstyle, or even doing something as simple as wearing lipstick or mascara every day. Believe it or not, research shows that people tend to feel better about themselves when they “dress for success.”
Working on self-esteem through a support group, individual psychotherapy, or online guided meditation, for example, can also help boost your body image.
2. Share your goals with friends on social media or via email. After editing those resolutions into emotional goals, it is essential to write them down, keep them in your daily line of vision, and share them with people. Once your goals have been publicized, it’s harder to make them vanish into the oblivion of your everyday, busy life—since friends will likely ask you how you’re coming along with them. This can help sustain your motivation when you feel like giving up on these aspirations.
Keeping your goals posted in a highly visible location, like on a dresser mirror or front door, will keep them present in your mind, even if it is on an less conscious level. For instance, if one of your goals is to feel more financially stable, you may find yourself cooking dinner at home more often, clipping online coupons, or putting unwanted belongings up for sale on Ebay.
3. Check in and savor your progress. A good way to observe and enjoy your progress is to track your goals via web-based apps like, Everest or iDidit. These apps allow you to track your progress by having you input your goals and the steps towards them while offering supportive reminders, encouragement, and celebrations of any success.
Finally, have a celebratory gathering where you and loved ones celebrate any advance or change each of you made in 2014. Reflect on the moments where you seized opportunities—even small ones. Most importantly, spend some time considering new hopes for the upcoming year.
I guarantee that if you incorporate these strategies into your current resolutions, you will feel more accomplished by year’s end and motivated to make more positive changes in the future.
If you decide to incorporate any of my suggestions in your own life, I’d love to hear about your progress as the year goes. Tweet them to me @DrMonicaONeal. Good luck to you in 2014!