Making your New Year’s resolutions work

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Have you ever made New Year’s resolutions?

Resolutions are actions or goals that we promise to start doing at the beginning of the year. It can be related to improving your health, career, education or spiritual life. It can be a promise to stop bad habits or start new, good ones. It has become a tradition to mark the new year by making this list, all in the hopes for a better year ahead.

But did you know that studies show that only 8% of people who make resolutions succeed in keeping them? In fact, while 75% of resolutions are continued until the first week of January, only 46% make it past six months.

Why bother even making them?

Studies show that only 8% of people who make resolutions succeed in keeping them. In fact, while 75% of resolutions are continued until the first week of January, only 46% make it past six months

Why should you make New Year’s Resolutions?

One good reason is that you will always be a better person for it. Reflecting on your life, trying to make improvements, making an effort to write down goals with good intentions – these are positive actions that can lead to changing for the better. The real value in making resolutions is in the experience, not the end result. Even if you don’t fully succeed in carrying them out, you have made yourself aware of your needs, goals, and potentials.

Another reason is the possibility that you have what it takes to be part of the 8% that do succeed. You may be pleasantly surprised to find out that you are more disciplined and driven than you thought. Having a list of resolutions can help you focus. It can be a guide that outlines specific actions to reach your dreams.

Tips for making resolutions that work

  1. Plan ahead – You have to start making the list way before Dec. 31st. Take time to make a good assessment of your present self. Envision what you want to be in the next year. If you got sick too many times this year, maybe you’d want to have better health next year. Prepare not only your list but also your mindset. Remember that this is a commitment. Don’t take it lightly.
  2. Set positive goals – Habits are hard to break. Resolutions that start with “I will not,” “I will never,” or “I will stop” are almost impossible to accomplish. You will be more likely to succeed if you set positive goals. Committing to an activity that can slowly form into a habit (and replace a negative habit) is more feasible. For instance, instead of saying “I will never eat junk food again,” you should list down “I will eat two servings of vegetables per day” or “I will have a piece of fruit for a midday snack every day.” By choosing these healthy options, you may ease out junk and get into the habit of choosing natural, healthy food.
  3. Be realistic – Stopping all wars or eliminating poverty are righteous goals but these are not likely to be accomplished in anyone’s lifetime. It may be more practical to focus on goals that are reachable and humanly possible to accomplish right now.
  4. Start small– Taking the examples above (#3), you can modify your resolution to contribute to these causes. If you want to stop wars, start with the small conflicts in your life. Resolve to be tolerant, learn more about diversity, or make peace with a friend or family member that you’ve cut off from your life. You may not be able to eliminate poverty next year, but you can help the less fortunate by volunteering at a soup kitchen or food bank. A little effort goes a long way.
  5. Be specific – The more specific your resolution, the higher the potential for success. For example, instead of saying “I will be healthy in 2024”, which is vague, you should list down specific ways to achieve it. It can be “attend Zumba three times a week,” “eat at least two servings of fruits every day” or “attend yoga classes twice a week.”
  6. Make short term goals – You don’t have to set goals that take one year to accomplish. Experts say that it takes somewhere between 21 and 66 days for a new activity to become a habit and take root. Try making well defined goals that last for one to six months. This can make it easier for you to commit.
  7. Verbalize them – Telling your goals to someone makes them real and holds you accountable for them. This can also earn support from people close to you.
  8. Get support – Ask a trainer, a mentor/teacher, your husband, wife, or best friend to help you stick to your resolutions. Better yet, ask them to join you. You’re more likely to sustain an activity (for example, jogging or going to the gym) if your partner goes with you. Learning a new craft or polishing your language skills is also more fun when you do it with a group of friends.
  9. Set up rewards – Celebrate small achievements. Simple incentives can motivate you to persevere. For example, if your goal is to lose weight, how about promising to buy yourself a new shirt when you lose five pounds?
  10. Keep track of your progress – Noticing how you have improved can encourage you to push on with your goals. Record your progress regularly. Be kind to yourself when you fall off the wagon but never give up! Continue to persevere. You can do it!

Article updated November 27, 2023.
Sources: How to keep your New Year’s Resolutions, Art Markman, Time Magazine; Why your New Year’s Resolutions won’t work, and what will, William Vanderbloemen, Forbes; Top 10 reasons you don’t stick to your resolutions, Jené Luciani, Shape.

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