With a new year comes the inevitable resolutions to eat cleaner, work out more often, and maybe even start a new hobby. But, according to U.S. News and World Report, 80% of these goals typically aren’t met, and most people have given up by mid-February.
It doesn’t have to be that way, though. Psychotherapist Jonathan Alpert told Business Insider that people typically fail to keep up with their New Year’s resolutions for three reasons. First, they aren’t specific enough, so people can’t track their progress. Often, they’re also not framed positively. Resolving to “stop wasting money” or “stop eating junk food,” might actually make you more likely to continue the habit, because you’re thinking about it constantly. Lastly, some people’s resolutions aren’t about what they actually want, but what they think they should do. And the lack of internal motivation makes them a lot less likely to actually follow through.
So with that in mind, here are six tips to help you set a New Year’s resolution that you’ll actually stick to.
Set a Measurable Goal
If you want to exercise more, figure out a way to quantify that. “It’s easier to drop out or walk away when you set goals or resolutions that are vague,” Alpert told Business Insider. Do you want to walk outside for 30 minutes four days a week? Or maybe you want to get a gym membership and aim to go every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Whatever your aspiration, make sure there’s a way that you can measure it. This way, you can track your progress and hold yourself accountable for actually achieving your goal.
Frame Your Resolution in a Positive Way
“We need to feed ourselves positive self-talk,” Alpert explained. “Instead of telling ourselves ‘don’t eat junk food,’ we should be telling ourselves, ‘eat carrots and peanut butter as a healthy snack.’” Rather than focusing on what you don’t want to do in 2020, keep things positive and think about what you want to do instead. You’ll be more motivated to make it happen.
Make Sure It’s Something You Actually Want
This tip might seem obvious but, according to Alpert, people often choose New Year’s resolutions based on what they think they ought to do, rather than what they actually want. So if you don’t actually want to start meditating, please, don’t make it your New Year’s resolution. Instead, you’re better off choosing something you’re actually interested in starting so that you’ll enjoy the experience. Forming a new habit is hard enough; it should at least be something you actively want to do.
Write Down Your Goals
Psychologist, performance coach, and consultant Elizabeth Ward, Ph.D., told SELF that people who write down their goals feel a greater sense of accountability and have a much higher chance of accomplishing them. Start a resolution progress journal (tying into the first tip here) or tack your resolution up on your bulletin board so you see it every day. This way, it’ll remain top of mind well beyond February.
Make Your Resolutions Public
Another thing that increases a sense of accountability is making goals public, John Norcross, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Scranton told SELF. That doesn’t mean you need to post your resolution to Instagram for the world to see. Unless you want to, of course. Tell a few friends, or get your family in on your goal and ask them to check up on you. That way, you’ll be less likely to fall off the wagon.
Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself
“Having a lapse is common. In fact, 75 percent of resolution-makers slip up within the first two months,” Norcross pointed out. “One setback shouldn’t undo all your efforts. Instead of stewing, figure out how to prevent it from happening again.” You’re bound to slip up (we all do from time to time), but don’t let it cause you to throw in the towel. Pick up right where you left off and you’ll be on your way to completing your resolution.