Have you had trouble sticking with your New Year’s goals in the past? If you’re like most of us, the enthusiasm for resolutions starts to wane by the end of January.
Fortunately, we have some advice to help you keep on track. Following are seven tips for holding fast to your goals for 2016.
1. Reassess your resolutions
If (or should we say, when) your enthusiasm for your resolutions begins to flag, you may need to re-evaluate them. It could be you selected the wrong goals.
For example, maybe you should lose weight but really aren’t motivated to do so right now. In that case, making weight loss a resolution could be a recipe for failure. Instead, focus on a goal that excites you.
Or, perhaps you’ve picked vague goals that are difficult to gauge. Eating healthy sounds good, but what does that mean? Instead, break down your goal into smaller, actionable steps.
Rather than eating healthy, your resolution could be one of these:
- No eating between meals
- Skip taking seconds
- Only eat at the table
- Eat a fruit or a vegetable at every meal
- Stop eating after 8 p.m.
Whatever your goal, making sure that your resolution is specific and practical can increase your likelihood of following through.
2. Pare your goals
While you’re reassessing your resolutions, you may want to consider paring the list as well. Having too many resolutions in place at one time can be overwhelming and tax your willpower.
If you can’t bear to part with any of them, consider working on them one at a time. Focus on one resolution a month, or wait until you master a habit before adding another one into the mix.
3. Write them down
To really make your resolutions stick, write them down. That’s according to a study conducted by Gail Matthews at Dominican University of California. She found that those who write down their goals are significantly more likely to achieve them compared with those who simply think about what they want to accomplish.
4. Share with your friends
You can go one step further and send those written goals to a friend. While writing goals is helpful, the Dominican study noted that making a public commitment to a resolution is related to even greater accomplishment.
Depending on your resolution, you may find it helpful to simply post your plans on Facebook or other social media sites. That means everyone will know if you fail, and that potential for embarrassment may be enough to keep you motivated.
5. Track your progress (and share it)
Don’t stop at sharing goals with your friends. Keep them updated on your progress as well.
Going back to that Dominican study, the people who were most likely to meet their goals were those who not only wrote them down and shared them with a friend, but who also sent weekly progress reports. This is taking accountability to a whole new level.
Depending on your goal, you may be able to use a smartphone app to track your progress and share it with a friend. For example, the Jawbone UP app lets users of the fitness band connect with friends to share their daily steps, sleep patterns and even meals. Lose It! is another weight loss app with a social accountability component.
Other apps you can use to track your progress include:
6. Stay positive
The next time you’re tempted to think, “There is no way I can make it through the day without a cigarette,” try to shift your thinking to something more positive. Focusing on the idea that you can’t do something makes it more likely that you won’t do it.
The impact of “positive self talk” was illustrated in an article on WebMD, which compared two groups of water polo athletes:
The athletes who fed upbeat thoughts to their brains improved more than those who didn’t. They also had fewer interfering thoughts and were able to focus more on what they were learning.
7. Don’t strive for perfection
Finally, don’t expect perfection. Too often we get wrapped up in the ideal of flipping the calendar to January and living the perfect life from that moment on. Then, when we slip up or have a bad day or realize life isn’t as easy as we’d like, we give up without a fight.
Rather than plan to perfectly implement your resolutions, plan to imperfectly follow them. Plan to fail. If you don’t quite exercise five days a week, perhaps you’ll at least move more than you did before you made your resolution.
What about you? Did you make resolutions? Are you sticking to them? Let us know how it’s going in our Forums. It’s a place where you can swap questions and answers on money-related matters, life hacks and ingenious ways to save. Or post your thoughts on our Facebook page.