Deciding upon a New Year’s resolution that is realistic for your life is the first step toward success. If, for example, your resolution is to live a healthier lifestyle by eating better foods and working out, it is not going to be helpful to resolve to never eat another carb and to work out at the gym 7 days a week. These type of extreme goals set you up for failure. If you don’t currently go to a gym and don’t track what you eat, making a goal of working out twice a week and keeping a daily food log would be a more realistic goal. Setting unrealistic goals is not motivating; in fact they tend to be demoralizing, because failure is almost guaranteed.
Set a Lot of Small Goals Along the Way
Setting many small goals leads to a higher chance of overall success than setting one large goal. Small goals allow you to be successful along the way. Success is a hugely motivating factor in keeping a New Year’s resolution. The smaller the goal is to start, the more likely you are to stick to it and get that feeling of accomplishment. For example, an individual who is training to run a marathon does not start the first day by resolving to go out and run 26.2 miles. Instead, he or she will start by setting a goal of running 1 or 2 miles the first day. Maybe after a few days of successfully running 2 miles, he or she may set a goal of running 5 miles.
Positive reinforcement: it works for dogs, it works for children, and it works for adults too. Setting up a reward system is a great way to stay motivated. However, one should never set a reward that is counterproductive toward one’s goal. For example, if the New Year’s resolution is to lose weight, then rewarding one’s self with eating a pizza after every 5-pound loss may not be the best idea. Instead, one should find activities that are enjoyable and reward one’s self with them. For example, if one successfully sticks to going to the gym three times a week for the first two weeks of the year, perhaps a satisfying reward could be going to the movies with a friend. After a month of success, perhaps one could plan a day trip to the mountains or a national park. Doing these activities will be especially satisfying because they will have been earned through hard work and dedication.
Invite a Friend to Join
Having a friend commit to the same New Year’s resolution offers many benefits. One of the benefits is accountability. It is a lot harder to decide to take the day off from the gym when that decision involves calling a friend to explain why one won’t be able to meet them at the gym that day. Friends help friends stay on the track when one of them falters. Another benefit of having a New Year’s resolution buddy is that neither person feels alone in their healthy lifestyle efforts. It can be difficult to eat chicken and vegetables when it feels like the rest of the world is eating hamburgers and French fries.
Don’t Quit After One Slip Up
New Year’s resolutions usually involve trying to make some changes in your lifestyle. Change is hard, and it is not going to happen all at once. There will be stumbles and slip-ups along the way. Don’t quit. Trying to maintain positive thinking is an important part of finding the resolve to pick yourself up and try again. Beating yourself up about mistakes is not going to get you any closer to accomplishing your goal. Giving self-encouragement and space to try, and to make mistakes, and to try again is the key to making lifestyle changes.