2018 is winding down, and in just a couple months, people will be making their New Year’s resolutions. We all know that actually sticking to a resolution is no easy feat: many of us will write down a few huge goals for the next year, feel super motivated for a week or two, and then fall off the wagon. We’ll tell ourselves, “I’m just a little too busy right now, but of course, I’ll go back to the gym soon, and then I’ll crush it!” Before we know it, April has rolled around, and we’re no closer to achieving our goals than we were in January.
Is there any way to beat the curse of unfulfilled New Year’s resolutions? After all, it turns out that 80% of people have already given up on their resolutions by the second week of February, and by the end of the year, only 8% of people have achieved the goals they set out to accomplish on January 1. Clearly, the overwhelming majority of people struggle to fulfill their resolutions, and psychologists say that this is because most of us are trying to tackle way too many life changes at once.
Reflect on the last time you made a New Year’s resolution: did you write down just one realistic, measurable goal, or did you make a long list of vague promises to yourself? If you fall into the second category, it’s okay—most of us make the same mistake. Science journalist Chris Berdik, who is also the author of Mind Over Mind, says that one reason many of us fall short when it comes to our resolutions is because we make enormous demands of ourselves all at once. We expect to wake up on January 1st with a whole new outlook on life and the motivation to improve everything about ourselves—but it never quite happens that way.
Psychologist Lynn Bufka recommends that instead of placing such high expectations on ourselves and hoping for immediate results, we should set smaller, more attainable goals with benchmarks that we want to hit by certain points of the year. Social psychologist Roy Baumiester also says that it’s especially important for us to set goals that we can measure—it’s much more motivating to keep working hard when you can really measure and track your progress.
With all of this in mind, is there anything else that you can do to improve your chances of actually keeping your resolution? Well, why not get a little head start instead of waiting for January 1st? After all, New Year’s is just a date—if you really feel motivated to do something, there’s no rule that says you have to wait until then.
There’s another reason why it might help to just jump right in if you’ve already got a goal in mind—the longer you hesitate to make a decision, the more fear and anxiety builds up, and the less likely you are to actually do what you want to. Mel Robbins, motivational speaker and author of the best selling self-help book The 5 Second Rule, basically lives by the idea that once you get an idea in your head, it’s best to act on it as soon as possible—otherwise, your brain will start talking you out of it as a protective mechanism! You don’t have to jump into your resolutions in the next five seconds with zero planning, but if you have a vision of how you want to spend next year, and you’re only waiting to execute it because it’s not quite New Year’s yet, you might be self-sabotaging without even knowing it.
So, what are some baby steps you can take towards accomplishing some common New Year’s resolutions? If you want to eat healthier, try out some tasty vegan holiday recipes, and stock up on yummy seasonal foods that you can use to make savory, satisfying dishes, like sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and butternut squash. Try some simple swaps, like using almond milk in your coffee instead of sugary creamer, and bring some vegan baked goods to your next holiday gathering—you won’t even be able to taste the difference! If you want to get your finances in shape and get better at sticking to a budget, make a reasonable budget for your holiday shopping and get into practice. Want to get in shape? Gyms will be a little emptier than usual this time of year because people are so busy with holiday festivities and travel—why not take advantage of that and book a session with a personal trainer, or try out a basic yoga class just to get your body moving?
Setting your self up for a fantastic 2019 doesn’t have to wait—in fact, getting an early start on your resolutions in 2018 can help you achieve your goals.
What resolutions are you excited for?
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