Lose weight. Spend Less. Save More. Floss. Write that novel. Find a new job. A new year means a new set of resolutions. But how many of us actually stick to them? Not many, only 8% of Americans are successful in achieving their resolutions. Only 46% of us make it past six months. Ouch. Here are some ways to make your 2016 resolutions stick past the first week.
- Be Realistic
John Norcross, a professor of psychology at the University of Scranton, is one of the world’s leading experts on how people change addictive behaviors. Over the last 30 years, he and his colleagues have studied people who successfully quit smoking, cut back or quit heavy drinking, lost weight or started exercising regularly — including those whose lasting change began with a resolution to start on January first. He outlined some of his strategies in his new book, Changeology and discussed how to make resolutions work with cnn.com.
First is believing that it can be done. The second key to success is being realistic. “Resolutions are supposed to be specific and realistic and measureable,” says Norcross. “In the book we talk about the acronym SMART, which comes from business. It stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time sensitive.”
Better yet, write down your resolutions in a journal or one a piece of paper and hang it on the fridge or your bathroom mirror for a friendly daily motivating reminder.
- Make One Change at a Time
It’s tempting to pursue several related goals at the same time (losing weight, quit smoking, exercising more, cut back on drinking), it’s likely more productive to stagger resolutions. For example, better to trim debt in 2016 and save more in 2017 then not accomplish either year after year.
- A Slip Does Not Need to Become a Fall
Just because you smoked one cigarette doesn’t mean you’re a cigarette smoker again. Just because you missed a couple of workouts while travelling out of town doesn’t mean you’ll never make it back to the gym. But some folks experience such slip-ups as tremendously deflating, which leads them to abandon their goal entirely. One way to avoid that is to imagine — before you embark on a resolution — a wide range of ways it may turn out and then ask yourself how you would react to each. Your answers, though, are not as important as the process. Research suggests that contemplating unpleasant or surprising future outcomes will make you less likely to overreact to them. Acknowledge the slip-up and move on.
- Pat Yourself on the Back, You’re Doing Great!
When you feel discouraged, remind yourself how much you’ve accomplished in the past. People beat themselves up about still needing to lose the baby weight or no longer going to yoga class. Don’t overlook the long list of things you have done that required major self-discipline, like building a nest egg or sticking with the computer training they needed in order to get a better job. Write down 100 things you’re proud of, right down to “I get out of bed when I don’t want to.” It’ll remind you how much willpower you really have.
- Talk About It
Share your experiences with family and friends. Consider joining a support group to reach your goals, such as a workout class at your gym or a group of coworkers quitting smoking. Having someone to share your struggles and successes with makes your journey to a healthier lifestyle that much easier and less intimidating.
We’re ready for you 2016.