Each January, people around the world use the start of the new year to commit to their own list of New Year’s resolutions. But, 80% of resolution-ers abandon, forget or fail their goals by mid-February. While most people can identify goals they want to accomplish, many also realize that putting change into action is not quite as simple. Fortunately, we’ve rounded up nine key insights about how we can do better at achieving our good intentions for behavior change:
1. Limit Your New Year’s Resolutions
Taking on too many resolutions can be daunting and difficult. Establishing new behavioral habits takes time and effort. Instead of committing to a laundry list of resolutions, focus on three or fewer goals. As for the goals you do choose, the more specific and measurable they are, the more attainable they will be.
2. Be Realistic
While goals should be ambitious, make sure your resolutions are realistic. Resolving to never eat a favorite food again could be a set up for failure. Instead, strive to make each goal attainable. For instance, avoid problem foods more often or limit them to X times per week.
3. Start Small
An easy way to keep up with your New Year’s Resolutions is to start small. For example, if one of your resolutions is to exercise more, start by working out twice per week for a few weeks, then increase the frequency incrementally. If a resolution of yours is to eat healthier, try making just one healthy swap like replacing a processed snack with something healthier, like roasted nuts or fruit.
4. Change One Behavior at a Time
To avoid overwhelming yourself at the beginning of the year, it’s best to change behaviors one at a time. Since you have the entire year to work towards your resolutions, start with the goal you are most excited about or the one that may take the most time.
5. Don’t Beat Yourself Up
It is normal to slip up when trying something new. If challenges or setbacks arise, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, focus on how to remove or avoid those obstacles in the future. Making peace and troubleshooting missteps is part of the process.
6. Reward Yourself
Having something to look forward to makes it easier to stick with a habit. Celebrate little victories throughout the year by planning rewards in advance when you reach key milestones. Just make sure to choose rewards that don’t contradict your resolutions.
7. Track Your Progress
Keep track of each small, incremental win. Break your resolutions into smaller goals or milestones and celebrate those victories when you achieve them. Progress towards your bigger goal is worth celebrating and will make your final goal feel more attainable.
8. Stick with It
Experts say it takes twenty-one days for a new activity to become a habit and six months for it to become part of your personality. Be persistent and patient. Stick with it!
9. Remember that Change is a Process
Working towards your resolution is a process that will take time. Be patient with yourself. Even if you make a misstep or two, you can restart and continue on your journey towards your goal. Remember that this is not a race to the finish. Once you have made the commitment to changing a behavior, it may be something that you continue to work on for the rest of your life.