Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? About half of us did. A few more if you include those of us who sort of made them, by promising ourselves we’ll eat healthier, exercise more and lose weight “next year.” Year in and year out, those are among the most common resolutions we make.
And, alas, among the first we break.
If you made any resolutions before the start of 2019, did you keep them? The answer is almost certainly “no.” Research over the years tells us maybe 8% of all resolutions actually make it to the end of the year. In fact, by the end of January only a quarter of us resolution-makers will have kept them.
Psychologists, personal trainers, executive coaches and practically every professional involved in personal improvement tell the same story: We make too many vague and ambitious resolutions. Saying we’re going to lose weight is nothing more than a hope. A resolution that says we’re going to lose 5 pounds a month is a goal, specific enough to make us accountable and not so ambitious as to be unrealistic.
Doable resolutions are goals. Writing them down and tracking your progress reinforces your commitment, making the doing a habit. Should you slip — most of us will occasionally – forgive yourself and get back on the horse. Changing a behavior is not easy, the American Psychological Association says, so small steps are going to be more successful than attempting a big leap.
Today is only January 2nd, so go back to those resolutions you made yesterday or the day before and, being brutally honest, rethink how likely are they to still be real in February? More than two or three are probably too many.
If you resolved to save more money, rework it by specifying how much and how often and how. If you’ve been living paycheck to paycheck, are there expenses you can cut? If you doubt your self-discipline, schedule an automatic transfer from your checking account into savings. Sign up for your company’s 401k. Many employers will match what you put in, doubling your savings.
Keeping a resolution is work, but it shouldn’t be painful. Every time you go to the gym; every month you lose that 5 pounds; every time you save what you said you would give yourself a pat on the back. They may be small steps toward your goal, but every step brings you closer, so celebrate them.