How to Conquer That Resolution (Even If You’ve Failed in the Past)
I think we can all agree that 2020 has pretty much been a dumpster fire from start to finish.
Thankfully, though, it’s all coming to an end. 2021 is on the horizon. You’re ready to clear out all your life-trash and hit the ground running on January 1.
Bring on the New Year’s Resolutions!
There’s just one small problem…
Every year you make a resolution, motivated to make change and improve your life. You’re committed to eating healthy, working out everyday, or paying down that debt — only to have that resolution crash and burn a few weeks later.
Here’s the bad news: according to U.S. News & World Report, 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions end up in the trash by mid-February. (But the good news is you’re not alone, right?)
So why does this cycle of failing resolutions keep happening? Do you just lack the willpower to follow through?
According to psychotherapist and author, Amy Morin, LCSW, your repeated failures probably have a lot to do with that arbitrary start date on the calendar.
“Most New Year’s resolutions don’t last because people don’t go through the stages of change. Instead, they try to create change based on a date on the calendar which may not coincide with a true readiness to transform,” says Morin.
The stages she’s talking about — part of something called the Transtheoretical Model of Behavioral Change (there’s a mouthful for you) — include evaluating your readiness to make the change, formulating a plan, and taking specific action.
In other words, by taking a more strategic approach to your goals, you can improve your odds of New Year’s Resolution success.
So instead of winging it when January rolls around, try using these 5 steps to attack your resolution and make 2021 the year it sticks.
Think it through.
Maybe you’ve made snap decisions on January 1 about what needs to change, but that approach isn’t doing you any favors. You should spend a few days (or even weeks) taking time to really understand what you hope to accomplish.
Remember, this isn’t a race to get started — you need to take time to identify the specifics of what your goal is about, as well as defining a clear finish line. Instead of saying, “I’m going to lose weight”, give yourself a true target like, “I’m going to lose 10 pounds of fat.”
Once you’ve decided on the specifics, it's time to examine the opportunity cost of making it work:
Why are you setting this goal?
Is what you hope to achieve realistic?
What barriers might keep you from achieving your goal?
After taking a closer look, the goal you’ve set might seem overwhelming. That’s okay— don’t scrap it. Take that opportunity to go back, rework the specifics, and make it more manageable.
Starting out with an honest, realistic goal will help to set you on the right path.
Sticking with a resolution isn’t as simple as just deciding to do it and hitting the ground running. Taking time to prepare is a key step for your success.
Write down your goal and draw up a specific plan of action. Know what steps will be required to make it happen.
It’s really important here to be realistic — if you’re currently a couch potato, it’s unlikely that you’re going to suddenly start logging 5-mile runs before work every morning. Remember, you can always set up a series of smaller goals to achieve a larger aim.
The idea here is not to create a crazy routine to beat yourself into submission. It’s to set yourself up with a plan that meets you where you are, and supports your chances for success.
It’s time to get rolling.
Prep those meals. Skip the fancy coffee and save the money. Set the alarm an hour earlier to get your workout in.
Enjoy the feeling that comes when a goal is new and exciting. That feeling might wear off over time, but that’s okay. By using your plan to create the right habits, you’ll create momentum to keep you moving forward, even when the newness wears off.
This is also a great time to tell someone about your goal. Your people are rooting for you to succeed. Let them help give you a boost when you need some accountability or moral support.
Keep plugging away.
You may have heard somewhere that it only takes 21 days to form a habit.
And yeah, there are probably situations where this is true, but it’s not the hard rule — otherwise you would’ve been into the “new you” on January 21, 2020. In the real world, sticking with your resolution is going to take consistent work that doesn’t stop after 2 or 3 weeks.
For the best chance at success, you should have strategies to help you deal with temptation. If you have a plan for the roadblocks, you’re more likely to deal with them and move forward.
Also, consider outlining a few ways to reward yourself — that don’t derail your efforts. (After all, binging on ice cream probably isn’t the most productive way to celebrate sticking to your diet plan).
Resolutions are about staying with something for the long-haul, but that doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself to a little instant gratification when you’ve reached a milestone or avoided major temptation.
Plan to fail.
Here’s the reality: at some point during this process you will hit a roadblock.
Maybe you’ve skipped the gym three days in a row. Maybe some mindless scrolling leads to a pile of Amazon boxes on your doorstep. Maybe you decided to eat the entire birthday cake on the counter at 2 am.
Setbacks are a normal part of the change process — it’s how you deal with the hiccups that ultimately determines your success.
If it’s a single slip-up, get yourself back on track and keep going. But if you find that your slipping is becoming a pattern, it's probably time to actively reevaluate your goal:
Is this still what you want?
Is the plan still working?
Can the goal be revised to make it more realistic for you right now?
Admitting that your goal needs to change doesn’t mean you’ve failed. In fact, revising the plan might be exactly what you need to keep you from giving up.
Resolutions aren’t easy. But with the right strategy, you can make long-lasting changes, even if you’ve dropped the ball in the past.
Give yourself another chance at tackling that resolution — you might just find this is the year it sticks.
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