Want to tackle that novel or memoir you’ve always wanted to write? Maybe you want to lose a few pounds, eat healthier or make more time for your family. Whether your New Year’s resolution is common (losing weight) or not so common, one thing is certain: It’s hard to see them through. Research shows only about 8 percent of people who made a New Year’s resolution were able to meet their goals, and nearly half of resolution makers had abandoned their goals six months down the line.
Why are New Year’s resolutions so difficult to stick to?
Psychotherapist Rachel Weinstein says it’s because we often choose lofty, unrealistic goals. Add to that our friends and family sharing their goals and getting bombarded with resolution-themed marketing messages, and it’s easy to see why we choose sometimes unattainable goals. For most of us, Weinstein notes, changes happen in small steps, over time.
Though it seems like we may be set up for failure when it comes to accomplishing a New Year’s resolution, there are ways to hit your goal.
Don’t focus on results: When we set a goal for ourselves, it can be easy to get caught up in the results we’d like to achieve. John Norcross, professor of psychology at the University of Scranton, notes that focusing on actions instead of end results make for easier resolutions because actions can be tracked and are under your complete control.
For example, if you want to start writing that book, focus on actions like writing a certain number of words per day. That way, says Norcross, you get the immediate gratification of completing an item, which makes it easier to stick to a goal. If you want to get fit, focus on exercising a certain number of days per week rather than shedding pounds.
Make small changes: Those unrealistic goals we set for ourselves can shock our brains. This is because our minds can’t handle making a lot of large-scale changes at once, says psychotherapist Coral Arvon.
If your resolution is to eat healthier, instead of trying to overhaul each meal every day, just focus on eating a healthy breakfast. After you’re regularly eating a daily healthy breakfast, then focus on an additional small item like cutting back on soda or sugar.
Be Patient: Researchers found that it takes a little over two months—66 days to be exact—for a new habit to stick. So, if you’re aiming to incorporate healthier habits or are working toward a goal, be patient and give yourself enough time to master whatever goal you’re working on.
Tackling a New Year’s resolution doesn’t have to end in failure. No matter what you aim to accomplish this year, breaking your goal into smaller pieces, focusing on actions instead of results and being kind to yourself can set you up for success.