Rewriting resolutions for the new year
Is your New Year’s resolution to lose 30 pounds? Stop smoking? Give up junk food? Complete your degree? The new year is an opportunity to improve your life, but there’s one problem. Of the 45 percent of Americans who formulate resolutions, only 8 percent reach their goals, according to the Static Brain Research Institute. (i)
Don’t be a part of that statistic. Remember these tips to increase your chances for a happy, productive new year.
Make it worthwhile
Whatever you resolve to do (or not do), make sure it’s worthy of the commitment. Your resolution should be important to you. In a study published in the Journal of Personality and Psychology, Koestner, Lekes, Powers and Chicoine found that individuals who set goals based on external forces, rather than intrinsic motivations, are less likely to accomplish them. (ii)
Do research if you lack motivation when there is a resolution that you need to work toward. Read about the unpleasant implications for your health and wallet if you continue to smoke. Search jobs that you’ll qualify for if you finish your degree, even though you don’t want to read another textbook. Talk to an expert about how continual debt will impact your financial future; when you see the numbers, you’ll find the will to save.
Make it SMART and visible
The acronym SMART is used in goal-setting theory for those that are specific, measurable, attainable, results-oriented and timebound. (iii) A resolution to lose weight does not spell out what triumph looks like, making it difficult to take steps toward accomplishment. How much weight do you want to lose? Is that a safe, reasonable amount to lose? Why lose the weight? By when?
A resolution to “to lose 20 pounds and be able to run two miles without stopping within one year to improve my health” gives you a timeline, motivation and ways to measure your success. Once you have an achievement in mind, write it down and put it where you will be reminded often.
Make a plan and chart your progress
You can see the finish line, but you have to decide how to get there. You can’t go from couch to marathon in a day, so start by walking, gradually increasing the duration, speed and distance. Determine the necessary amount of time to study each day to earn your degree. Develop a weekly budget and credit card payment schedule to decrease debt. Create a healthy meal plan if you’re trying to lose weight, rather than attempting an unsustainable, and potentially dangerous, crash diet.
Set small weekly or monthly milestones to maintain focus, and don’t give up because you miss a checkpoint along the way. An all-or-nothing mentality can lead to failure. Struggles are a part of the process — if it were easy, the success rate would be much higher. When you are successful, reward yourself with something that won’t derail your progress (i.e. no shopping sprees if you’re reducing debt or cigarettes if you’re trying to quit).
If accountability to others is motivational, note your successes and failures on social media. Otherwise, write in a private journal.
Tell friends and family so they can ask you about your progress, offer support, and prevent you from returning to vices when the going gets tough. Also try to find a buddy with a similar goal to be your partner at the gym or library.
Here’s to a great new year of working, learning and accomplishing. Viel Glück!
ii Koestner, R. Lekes, N., Powers, T.A., and Chicoine, E. Attaining Personal Goals: Self-Concordance Plus Implementation Intentions Equals Success. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2002, Vol. 83, No. 1, 231–244. www.selfdeterminationtheory.org/SDT/documents/2002_KoestnerLekesPowersCh...
iii Hall, P. (2012). Lead On! Motivational Lessons for School Leaders.