A New Year’s resolution is like my conscience walking up to me and saying, “I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news. Which would you rather hear first?” I want to cry and say, “Neither!” Then I want to run and hide in the corner hoping my nagging conscience won’t be able to track me down and confront my active avoidance to actually DO something about those pesky pounds I want to lose or the commitment I made to be on time in 2014. The good news is that I know I am not alone in not following through with my resolution. But, the bad news is I know I am not alone in following through with my resolutions. Have you ever felt this way, like an Olympian taking your victory lap around the stadium after going a week living up to your resolution only to feel like an epic fail a week after that because you were completely swallowed by a schedule that robbed you from eating healthy, a workout, or being on time? If you are human, this has happened to you. Well, be at peace because you are not alone!
Recently released research from the University of Scranton revealed that almost half of your fellow citizens make resolutions. Most of these resolutions target improvements for a healthier self in fiscal, physical, mental, and spiritual areas of life. That’s great news right?
Kind of. Are you ready for the bad news?
According to the research, only 8 percent of people will follow through and keep their resolutions. (Let me see your shocked face.)
I will admit, I fall into the 92% who experience failure or infrequent success in keeping their resolutions. If you are a repeat offender like me, you may be wondering what you can do to give yourself better odds of getting into the “8 Percenters Club.”. But, don’t be too hard on yourself! The great news is there is an actual psychological reason why you may have trouble following through even when you feel very determined to succeed! Clinical psychologist, Dr. Ben Michaelis, writes
It’s actually not your fault. It has to do with the way your brain is wired. Your brain is better suited for short-term thinking than long-term thinking. Your brain has one major job: to keep you (and your offspring) alive. Thankfully, your brain takes that job very seriously. That’s why when you are faced with the choice of eating a slice of chocolate cake or kale, the more primitive parts of your brain are directing you towards the cake, which has more calories — even if your higher brain centers know that in the long-term, the kale is better for you. It is just following a pattern of logic from long, long ago. This is why it is so hard to follow through on long-term goals like diet, exercise or writing that novel that you’ve been putting off.
Whew, I am in fact pretty normal. I was starting to get nervous. So, are we repeat offenders doomed to a life of being labeled a “Resolution Reject?”
Not so fast! Here are 5 steps you can take to give yourself a better chance of becoming a “Resolution Renegade” and finally follow through with your goals for a more whole and healthier you.
- Be specific. Write your goals down on paper and get as specific as possible. Instead of saying, “I want to lose weight” choose “I will exercise 3 days a week for 30 minutes each day to help me lose 15 pounds.” Put your exercise routine on your calendar and treat it like an appointment that you cannot cancel. Research suggest that people who make specific plans for action are 13 percent more likely to achieve success! #winning
- Get Accountability. Share your goals with a friend, coworker, or family member. Ask them to hold you accountable and check in with you at least once a week. If your goal is eating healthy, plan a shopping list and then shop with a friend who has similar goals. You are far less likely to “cheat” when someone is watching what you are tossing in your cart! Just don’t ask me because I would tell you to leave the Oreos because chocolate is effective therapy. Just saying.
- Find Help. If you are renewing a failed resolution from a prior year or think your goal may be difficult to achieve with the tools you have, you may need a professional to help you stay on track or offer an objective analysis of what is blocking you from achieving your best self. Find a qualified nutritionist, business leader, or mental health counselor to consult for a new strategy and stick to your appointments with them. No excuses. This is an investment in yourself. What better investment? At least several times a day I find myself saying to my own clients, “You can’t give what you don’t have” so start by getting yourself whole and balanced!
- Use Technology. I think it is safe to say there is probably an app for nearly every conceivable resolution you could make. There are apps for weight loss, exercise, prayer time, financial planning, meditation, anger management, productivity, relationships and the list goes on and on and on. Use the power in your palm to help you achieve a more positive outcome for your goals. Many of these apps are free and provide short term solutions for achieving long term goals with specific action plans. Download something useful and stop spending your time following your frenemies on Facebook.
- Reward Yourself. Again, research suggests that when we put something on the line we care about, we are more likely to stay on track to meet our goals and avoid losing something we value. The website stickK.com, launched by behavioral economists, allows users the option to connect a wager with their goals citing that you are 3 times more likely to succeed when the stakes are higher. But, if betting on yourself isn’t your thing you can also set short term goals to reward yourself for your hard work. For instance, at the end of three months of sticking to your new budget, reward yourself with a modest splurge on something you didn’t have in your budget. Just make sure you have the accountability in place to help you get back on track.
Make this year a year where you don’t end up where you started. Because to paraphrase the great philosopher, Julianne Hough of Dancing With The Stars, “If you quit now, you will soon be back to where you started. And when you started you were desperately wishing you were where you are now.” Preach.
But, if you are worried you may not be able to follow through, don’t worry! If you fail and a cheeky adolescent living in your house calls you a “Resolution Reject,” you are in good company (and by good company, I mean me of course.) There is always an opportunity for a fresh start!
Cheers to a New Year! I hope it is filled with abundant blessings that help you soar to new heights.
Until next time…Be positive, patient, and persistent!
(pssst…. if you are just dying to know what my resolution is, come on over to my Facebook page and get in the conversation! )
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