Making New Year’s resolutions is a time-honored custom — and, unfortunately, so is betting on how long any given resolution you make might “stick.” While 60% of folks faithfully make their New Year’s resolutions, roughly only 8% of people manage to keep them.
Want to beat the odds? If you want to make New Year’s resolutions that will actually work, we’ve got the skinny on how to make it happen. If you’ve been frustrated by New Year’s resolutions in the past, rest assured: It isn’t all about willpower. Instead, successfully knocking those resolutions straight into 2020 and beyond is more about having a good plan.
Here are our suggestions on how to do it:
Buy a Journal or a Calendar
Having a plan and having a plan that’s written down are two vastly different things. When your plan is put into writing, it helps you hold yourself accountable for your goals and progress (or the lack of either). Plus, a journal can help you keep track of things that distract you from your goals.
For example, if your goal is to drop a few pounds, your journal can help you consciously focus on the fact that you struggle with the late-night munchies. Flip to the back and start a list of ways you can cope with the issue so that you remember to stock the fridge with weight-friendly veggies or substitute another activity in the place of snacking.
Make Your Goals Clear and Reasonable
Vague goals, like “lose weight” or “write a book” can feel both unfocused and overwhelming — both of which can defeat the most fervently pledged of goals. You need to be very specific about what you want to see happen by Dec. 31, 2020, to avoid feeling confounded.
For example, if you want to lose weight, weigh yourself today and set a goal that’s workable and healthy — which is about 1-2 pounds a week. Setting a goal weight for yourself on the last day of 2020 for 50-100 pounds less than you are now gives you a concrete target to hit. Similarly, if your goal is “write a book,” pushing yourself to publish in a year when you’ve never done it before might be unreasonable — but setting the goal for a finished first draft certainly is not.
Break Your Goals Down Into Pieces
Even a hill can look like a mountain when you’re standing at the bottom of it. The mental trick you need to climb it is to remember that you just need to focus on a step or two ahead of where you are now until you make it to the top.
For example, editors say the “sweet spot” for the average novel is about 80,000 to 90,000 words. That sounds like a huge pile of prose when you’re staring at your first blank page on New Year’s Day. If you set the goal of merely having a finished first draft by the end of the year, that only works out to fewer than 250 words a day! You can knock that out over your second cup of coffee or evening glass of wine and know that you’re making steady progress.
If you start by marking your end goal in your calendar, you can reverse-engineer the steps that it takes to meet that goal, breaking everything down into manageable chunks by month, week and day. A daily-check in might be the most useful habit to acquire so that you don’t accidentally lose focus and let your smaller goals slide and turn into an insurmountable pile.
Find Your Internal or External Motivators
If there’s anything 80 or so years of research at Harvard University has revealed about human nature it is that everybody is a little different when it comes to what motivates them to stick to a goal. Usually, however, it’s not about the big rewards that come from reaching that goal.
Instead, people tend to be motivated by things like positive reinforcement from others, peer pressure, a fear of failure and small, regular rewards for their progress (even if it isn’t your final goal). None of these things are inherently bad if you know how to make them work for you.
If you tend to succumb easily to the fear of failure, for example, broadcast your goals loud and clear to your best friend, spouse, parents, siblings, children, and co-workers. Just knowing everyone is aware of your goals and watching you succeed or fail might be enough to keep you on track. Need a little more incentive? Try making a pact with your bestie to lose weight together or whatever your goal may be — you can give each other positive reinforcement whenever things get tough.
If you tend to be more motivated by rewards, you don’t have to wait until you catch the brass ring to spoil yourself a little. Grab your calendar or journal and set down a promised reward for reaching incremental goals. If you’re working on that novel, for example, take yourself out to dinner when you hit your first 10,000 words. Once you hit 30,000, you could treat yourself to a really good journal or a special pen. This also helps you take stock of how far you’ve come on your journey — which can make the next goal post seem even more realistic.
A Few Final Thoughts
As you pick up your pen and get ready for 2020, know this: We’re 100% confident in your ability to reach any reasonable goal you set for your future! Just remember that it’s far easier to focus on one or two goals at a time, rather than try to implement a massive overhaul of your life in one short year. When 2020 is over, there will be plenty of time to set that next round of goals.