From losing weight, to quitting smoking, reading more, saving monthly, or spending less time on social media, we all have committed to ambitious goals when a year is coming to an end – only to rapidly fail as soon as the new year arrives.
Worry not. You are not alone when it comes to making – and breaking – New Year’s resolutions. In fact, a study published in the National Library of Medicine showed that only 19% of people actually keep their treasured promises.
If only 1 in 5 people – with 70% of the people surveyed managing to maintain their pledges for only one week – can be bothered to stick to their word, it is no wonder how many new ideas created during the festive season never leave napkins where they were first drawn…and how many of us continue to live with the same undesired weight for the next 365 days. A few months later, after spotting cash leaving our bank account, we realise that paying for a new gym membership, as part of our resolutions for the new year, but not turning up for a serious workout, doesn’t really help.
Although some people stick to their New Year’s resolutions for longer than others, research conducted by Strava, an American internet service for tracking human exercise, using over 800 million user-logged activities in 2019, predicted that the day most people are likely to give up on their New Year's Resolution is January 19.
So, how can you avoid being added to those statistics before February even begins?
Here are five valuable ways to keep motivated throughout your journey to achieve your New Year’s resolutions, no matter how big or small your goals are.
Have clear goals
It should be common sense, really. However, very often, our goals are more like dreams than realistic targets. You must be specific when planning if you want to get anywhere with your goals. Do not just say to yourself, “I would like to lose weight in 2022”. That desire needs to be more direct, so commit to: “I must lose two stones over the next 12 months”. The clearer you are, regarding what you want, the easier it will be to figure out ways to achieve it. And most importantly: to not give up.
Take baby steps
You can’t run before you can walk, they say.
With your New Year's Resolution, the same is true.
Small steps move you forward toward your ultimate goal. If you are starting your 386th diet (I know, 2022 is the year you will eat less), then avoid going too radical to start with. Reduce your portions slowly, over a period of time, because your appetite will not change, overnight, just because you want it to.
For those with a list of goals as long as a credit card statement after the Christmas season, start building confidence by tackling the easy tasks first, before you set out to conquer the bigger things featured in your New Year’s resolution list.
Adapt goals accordingly
Regardless of the speed you are chasing your goals, when a new year starts sometimes things don’t go according to plan. In truth, things often won’t go according to your initial plans, especially when it comes to personal achievements. However, the good thing is that you can use your past experiences to avoid losing motivation with your New Year’s resolutions.
If you tried, in the past, to start a new year running 10 miles, daily, and gave up before the week came to an end, you already know that attempting the exact same approach is setting yourself up to fail. Scale your running length to a more beginners’ friendly routine and increase it as you go over the next weeks. You can also break the running time and, instead of running 10 miles in one go, you can try to cover five miles twice a day, to make it more manageable.
The best part of progressing towards your goals is being able to reward yourself along the way.
Start with small weekly rewards to encourage yourself during the hardest first days of a new dieting plan, lessons, gym routine, or even a new job. Later you can change the rewards to fortnightly or monthly before having an anniversary reward at the end of the year – hopefully with your goal achieved.
There was a time when people would say ‘I don’t like to share plans until they are 100% confirmed”. That is not the way to go when you are trying to tick resolutions off your checklist. Tell your friends and family what you are doing (aiming to lose weight, give up cigars, learn to drive, saving to put down a deposit for a house, etc.). They may even join you if they have similar goals. And they can help remind you to not lose track of what you want to achieve in moments when you might slip off course.
According to the study mentioned earlier, published in the National Library of Medicine, 53% of the successful group experienced at least one slip – with the average number of slips over a 2-year interval being 14 per person. These slips were typically precipitated by a lack of personal control and excessive stress. However, negative emotions were also accountable for people giving up their New Year’s resolutions – even if just temporarily.
It is time to decide and put down what you want to achieve in 2022 and go for it, despite the chance that you might not succeed on your first few attempts. Because as Thomas Edison, the American inventor who took out over 1,000 patents in a variety of fields, including the first commercial electric light and power system, once said: “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”