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New Year’s resolutions: stay on track to achieve your goals

by Liz Marchant

Are you one of the millions of people who make New Year’s resolutions each year?

Did you know that the 10 most common resolutions are to:

  1. Exercise more.
  2. Lose weight.
  3. Learn a new skill or hobby.
  4. Live life to the fullest.
  5. Save more money/spend less money.
  6. Spend more time with family and friends.
  7. Get organised.
  8. Quit smoking.
  9. Travel more.
  10. Read more.

How many of those resolutions are familiar to you?

In reality while most of us make resolutions each year once the glow of the celebrations wears off, many people struggle to stick to their plans and few of us actually achieve our resolutions.

So, when does willpower stop being enough? Research from Strava reveals that 12 January is the most common day that people start to waver on their resolutions, whether it’s from a lack of motivation, lack of resources, or an overall loss of interest. In other words, most of us don’t even last for two weeks after making our resolutions.

One of the challenges with resolutions is that they are usually quite broad and typically we don’t also set measurable targets to help us achieve our resolutions. This means they lack direction or drive when it comes to putting in the effort needed.

Putting a plan in place to regularly monitor your progress can help you stay on track towards fulfilling your New Year’s resolution.

Mentally prepare for change

No matter how good your intentions are, its harder to stick to a resolution if you’ve done nothing to prepare yourself to handle the inevitable challenge that comes with change, and to remain motivated while doing so.

Before diving head-first into your New Year’s resolution, it’s important to prepare your mind for the impending change. Consider taking a personal inventory to reflect on your accomplishments in the past year, thinking about what you set out to do and where you did and didn’t see progress. This will help to determine what else needs to change to support your resolutions.

While you may be tempted to focus more on areas that lacked progress, remember to celebrate the progress you did make as well. Changing ingrained habits is no easy task, so it’s important to remain upbeat about your new resolutions by using positive association from the things you have previously achieved.  After all, if you’ve done something once, you can do it again!

Re-frame resolutions into goals

People usually make vague resolutions to ‘get fitter’ or ‘save money’, without thinking about the individual steps to achieve it.

When resolutions are too large or vague, it’s easy to lose focus and believe it’s simply too hard to achieve them.

Goals (rather than resolutions) are specific and actionable, which makes them more effective. Re-framing your New Year’s resolutions into distinct goals can help you to get clarity on what you want to accomplish, why it’s important, and how exactly you’ll make it happen.

To do this, it’s helpful to break down each goal into smaller, manageable steps, outlining the individual tasks you will need to complete on your way to achieving your larger goal. The more specific you get when breaking down your goals, the more likely it is that you’ll accomplish them as they will no longer seem so large and overwhelming.

Set goals that truly motivate you rather than to please others

It’s surprising how often people set goals to please others rather than themselves. External influence from family or peers can sway people to take on resolutions that they are not truly aligned to and, while it can be nice to have support, the likelihood of accomplishing the goal is low if you’re not passionate about it.

You need to make sure that the goals you set are important to you, and that there is real benefit or value for you in achieving them. This will help to provide the reason and motivation to do what’s required to achieve your goal.

Don’t try to achieve too much at once

While it can be tempting to set a raft of goals, the more you have, the harder it is to focus on achieving any of them. Instead, choose goals that intrinsically motivate you and focus on these so you are not overwhelmed. Break down these goals into actionable steps and check in weekly to monitor your progress.

You want to make working on your goals a habit and something that becomes a natural part of your daily routine, so finding a system that works for you makes it easier to stay on track.

Be accountable and reward yourself

When we are accountable for achieving goals, we’re more likely to make significant progress towards them. For some people, being accountable might mean checking in with another person regularly to report back on their progress.

For some people, it’s enough to be accountable to themselves. This could include keeping a spreadsheet of your actions and progress towards your goals, or a journal.

It can also include rewarding yourself for achieving milestones on the way. For example, if you intend to lose 20 kilograms over the next 12 months, you may want to reward yourself with a new top, a charm, or pair of running shoes each time you lose five kilos.

Stay consistent

The key to success is consistency. If you only work on your goals sporadically, you won’t see consistent results. Put in the work and it will pay off. You might not see immediate results, but don’t let that deter you from continuing to put in the work.

It’s also important to acknowledge that you will have slip-ups along the way. No one is perfect and you’re going to have off days; that’s life! It’s how you bounce back from these slip-ups that matters. Avoid the defeatist attitude of ‘I’ve already messed up, so why should I even try anymore?’ and own your mistakes. This means acknowledging that they have happened, understanding what caused them to happen, and moving on. Don’t let a bad day become a bad week.

Why wait until the new year?

Despite the popular ‘new year, new me’ mantra, you don’t have to wait until the new year if you really want to make a change. After all, 1 January is just a day in the calendar. Every day is an opportunity for a fresh start, and deciding to make a change before the new year arrives can change the dynamics of resolutions, take the pressure off and leave you more confident in your ability to finish what you started and accomplish your goals. Plus you’ll get a head start!