Achieve your goals: how to actually keep your New Year's resolution
Updated: Jan 22
How is your New Year’s resolution going so far?
Missed a day or two?
Wondering how you’ll be able to keep this up for the whole year?
You’re not the only one. Most of us pack in our resolutions by February each year, and only a fraction of us last the whole year.
The truth is, we’ve been taking the wrong approach to New Year’s resolutions.
Goals set in the comfort of the Christmas holidays are often not realistic enough for our January lifestyles. Once we’re back to work, and back to our busy lives, it’s harder to find the time and motivation.
If we want to make sure that we keep this year’s resolutions, it’s time for some new ideas. So we’ve come up with 3 easy strategies to make sure we can all stay on track.
Behavioural scientists say that the problem with New Year’s resolutions is that the goals that people set are often too ambitious, and too vague. Some of the most common resolutions are ‘being a better person’, ‘losing weight’, and ‘saving money’.
Although great overall aims, vague and unrealistic commitments like these are not achievable goals. There is no way for us to measure when we’ve achieved them, and there is no plan to help us get there.
When it comes to ‘being a better person’, we could turn this into the more concrete ‘volunteer 5 hours per month’, or on another view, perhaps ‘cook for my partner at least 3 times a week’.
Even when the New Year’s resolution is specific and realistic, there is still a battle to be fought.
Gretchen Rubin has studied the reasons that people find it so hard to stick to new habits. It often comes down to this: the way to change our habits is to make it as easy as possible for ourselves.
Year-long resolutions fall down when they are too difficult. We often opt for an extreme resolution because we want to achieve a big change.
This is counter-productive. People are much better able to stick to their goals when they fit in one way or another with the lives they are already leading. Rubin suggests that people consider how they can make their goals easier to achieve, and build that into their resolution.
With this in mind, here are 3 easy strategies you can use to make sure that you keep your resolution this year.
3 strategies for a successful New Year’s resolution
1. Set small goals
The best way to build long term habits is to slowly build them up over time.
In one classic piece of research, Bandura and Schunk showed that children who broke significant pieces of homework down into smaller sections were much more likely to complete the work than children who faced a single large task
Now that you’ve set a resolution for the whole year, set a smaller goal for the first month. If you achieve your goal in the first month you can set another goal for the second month.
By the end of the year, you’ll have achieved your resolution.
Setting your goals this way helps you to build momentum. The feeling of achievement and success from meeting your small goals will push you forward and help you to achieve bigger goals later on.
2. Make it easy for yourself
Resolutions shouldn’t be too difficult. If you want them to last, you need to be able to implement them and fit them around your lifestyle. So, do whatever you can to help your resolution fit into your daily routine this year.
If you’re not a morning person and your resolution involves exercising in the morning, sleep in your sports clothes.
If you want to spend less time on social media, delete the apps and block them from your phone. Or even better, follow our advice and leave your phone at home.
If you want to eat more healthily, buy healthy foods that don’t require much preparation, like spinach or nuts, and add them to your meals - instead of expecting yourself to follow a new meal plan from scratch.
3. Have an accountability partner
A study by researchers at Leeds University found that checking in with a friend regularly can increase the likelihood that you will stick to your resolution.
The Leeds team worked with employees from 15 British councils who were attempting to improve their diet or do more exercise. Half of the group were left to do it on their own while others were asked to recruit a partner.
The researchers found that those who checked in with a partner regularly about their goal were more likely to continue with their new exercise regimes. It seemed to increase motivation and a feeling of commitment.
Partner up with someone and chat with them once a week about how you’re doing with your goal - you’ll notice the benefits.
Give these three strategies a try and let us know how you get on. We’re keeping our fingers crossed for you.