New Year’s Resolutions: 8 Tips on How to Stick to Your New Goals18 Jan 2021
While any day of the year is a perfectly good day for personal reflection and growth, many people use the start of the new year to reflect on what they’d like to improve about themselves and lives.
However, new year’s resolutions have a habit of being broken within the first couple of months. In a survey done in early 2020, about two-thirds of 182 participants gave up on their resolutions within one month. Other studies have also shown similarly high rates for not sticking with the new year’s intentions.
Deciding on which habit to incorporate into our daily routines might be the most straightforward part of the process, however creating and keeping new habits takes time, energy and consistency.
So, what makes a resolution stick? And how do we ensure that our initial drive for self-betterment doesn’t falter as the year progresses? Here are 8 tips to help you create long-lasting change.
1. Conduct a year-end review: an excellent place to start is to reflect on the past year and the key learnings you took away from it. List down what’s gone very well and what has not and evaluate accordingly. Conducting periodic evaluation is also advised as it helps you track your progress and tweak your plans.
2. Attach your goals to your values: As you determine the areas of needed improvement and devise goals for the new year, make sure you ask yourself, WHY? Why do I want to achieve this goal? What personal value does it bring me closer to? Make a list of the ways this goal will improve your life. This will help you align your goals to your values, hence improving your chances of sticking with it.
3. Devise an action plan: Now that you’ve evaluated your performance and formulated new goals, start making some key actionable decisions on what you want to expand for the next year. Create a concrete plan with steps for achieving your goals. A good idea would be to break your goals into short term and long-term ones and your steps into small tasks that can be smoothly incorporated into your daily routine.
Example: your goal is to make a habit of waking up 2 hours earlier this year to have time for yourself before having to delve into your daily responsibilities. A short-term goal would be to set intention to be waking up half an hour earlier than usual after the first month. A specific, actionable measure would be to start tapering your alarm to ring 5 to 10 minutes earlier than the day before.
4. Create an incentive: Enjoying small progress is not only pleasurable, but it will also help to motivate you. Encourage yourself to keep at it by pausing to acknowledge success as you tick off small and big steps en route to your goal.
Referring to the above example, buying your favourite coffee blend and making yourself an aromatic cup of coffee on those early mornings will not only make the experience more enjoyable and associate it with happy feelings, but it will also give you something to look forward to waking up to every day.
5. Piggybacking: Refers to stacking the new desired behaviour after a routine habit. In a study on psychological determinants of habit formation that explored forming a flossing habit, a group of people was told to floss before brushing, and another after brushing. Eight months later, those trained to floss after brushing had a stronger habit than the other group.
6. Find an accountability partner or a mentor: Having an external form of accountability helps, especially over time as the initial juice and excitement of the goal fades and the going gets rough. A good idea is to have an accountability partner, ideally someone who is also trying to attain a new habit, so that you can encourage each other. The right accountability partner believes in you and your big goals. They also serve as an honest and true mirror that reflects back to you how you’re currently doing.
7. Learn from past experiences: Failure is merely finding a way that does not work. So instead of engaging in self-criticism and negative self-evaluation, think of failure as a tool to optimise your plan. In the above example about waking up earlier, missing an alarm and oversleeping might sound like a failure, but using this slip up to tweak your plan (by introducing sleeping with curtains open to wake up to natural light) is actually a step forward.
8. Allow space for slip-ups: Slip-ups happen, so make sure to factor them in. Avoid what behaviour change researchers call the Abstinence Violation Effect, where you say “screw it” after missing a day of routine and let it slide even more by using your slips as an excuse to stop pursuing your goal.
Now that you’ve got some extra information on keeping your new year’s resolutions or any personal goals for that matter, it is essential to mention that consistency is key just like anything in life. Remember, according to science, it takes an average of 66 days for a new behaviour to become automatic. So be patient with yourself. And if you worry about not succeeding, there’s always virtue in trying anyways and finding out what the exercise could teach you.