Avoid these pitfalls to meet your New Year’s resolutions
by Trace Dye
If you feel like you have a hard time sticking to your New Year’s resolutions, you’re not alone. Although throngs of people make goals for self-improvement before the ball drops each year, a scant number manage to follow through. According to research by the University of Scranton, only 8 percent of those surveyed were successful in keeping their resolutions, while 24 percent reported experiencing failure year after year.
Despite those grim statistics, you don’t need to feel discouraged. By avoiding a few common pitfalls, you can beat the odds and ring in the New Year with a recipe for success.
Choosing unrealistic goals
Aim high, but also keep your New Year’s resolutions within reach. Ergo, if you have never jogged more than five miles in your life, making a resolution to complete a triathlon in a few months’ time would not be feasible. Moreover, even when certain progress is made on an unrealistic goal (i.e., losing five pounds when you resolved to lose 10 or 15), being unable to meet the goal’s full completion in a given timeframe can still cause a sense of failure. University of Toronto researcher, Janet Polivy, worked on a report with psychology professor, Peter Herman, which outlined False Hope syndrome. The term refers to the repeated attempts and failures that are experienced by those who set unrealistic goals based on misconceptions over time, ability and ease in completing said goals.
In order to avoid this pitfall, set goals that you know are attainable and can be expounded upon throughout the year. One example would be to make a goal of starting a food journal or increasing exercise to 30 extra minutes per week as a starting point.
Being too broad
An overly generalized goal can lead to inaction. In order to make New Year’s resolutions specific and attainable, consider using an if-then planning approach. Originally detailed by NYU psychologist, Peter Gollwitzer, if-then planning is a motivational technique that tackles goals with the cause-effect approach of, “If X happens, then I will do Y.” For example:
- “If the gym is closed when I get off work, I will set an early alarm in order to exercise in the morning.”
- “If cake is served at the party, I will only have one small piece.”
- “If I go to the mall, I will limit my spending to $20.”
The longer a task is relegated to the back burner, the less likely success will ever be achieved. As the hours in a day tick by, self-control wanes, according to research psychologist, Robert F. Baumeister. Baumeister also found that willpower is limited and, thus, needs to be harnessed carefully. For this reason, choose to take on the most difficult tasks first thing in the morning, when self-control is at its height. As you repeatedly take action, your behaviors will become habitual.
Going it alone
When it comes to buddying up for New Year’s resolutions, the more the merrier. Letting your friends and family know about your goals or inviting others to participate in your journey fosters a sense of support. This also will provide you with accountability, which can make all the difference in sticking to your resolutions.
One prime example of this would be in regard to exercise goals. According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), group fitness classes are the perfect way to stay motivated. Exercising with a group as opposed to alone encourages accountability and staves off boredom thanks to a fun social environment.
Beating yourself up
Even the most tenacious and conscientious planners can fall victim to setbacks. When you hit a detour on your road to success, the key is to not get down on yourself. According to research cited by the Pacific Standard, more than half of those who successfully carried out their New Years resolutions experienced slip-ups, but persevered. Conversely, those who gave up experienced feelings of guilt and shame.
Use setbacks as an opportunity for learning as opposed to viewing them as a sign of weakness. Celebrate small successes as they come and reach out to your support system to help you on your journey.