It is month three of the new year and many are already struggling to stick with their New Year’s resolution(s). It is the same thing every year. You set a goal and begin the New Year with such will power. As time goes by, the resolution is ultimately broken. But you are hardly alone. In fact, according to U.S. News & World Report, 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail by February. Among top resolutions in 2018, as in most years, saving money and losing weight (53 percent of respondents said to save money, while 45 percent wanted to lose weight or get in shape).
Despite best laid plans, often our New Year’s resolutions fail, say psychologists, because either we are overwhelmed by the task or the resolution becomes emotionally irrelevant. So, how do you reinvigorate your resolution and get back on track? Here are some simple ways to do just that.
Be realistic about the past to move into the future
Think about what led to previous resolution failures. Is this resolution something you want to do or is it something someone else suggested for you? You must find an emotional connection to resolutions.
Redefine your resolutions into short-term goals
Don’t try to overhaul your entire lifestyle in one action, because this makes your resolution seem unattainable, leading to frustration until you lose interest. Turn this long-term goal into multiple actions or steps. For example, if your resolution was to give up candy, instead of attempting to do so cold turkey, do it progressively. Short-term goals could be to only buy snack-size candy, to drink a glass of water prior to eating candy, or to refrain from storing candy at home or work. After a set amount of time, those goals may shift to include an alternative to candy such as peanut butter and celery sticks. This example reduces of the amount of candy and can easily lead to eliminating candy intake completely.
If you encounter an obstacle and get stuck, you are less likely to quit because the short-term goal seems within reach. Now you are energized and more determined to stay the course. This emotional stimulation leads to feelings of being energized, and the realization that success is attainable. When you don’t have short-term attainable goals, you tend to feel defeated rather than empowered. This results in a loser-takes-less effect on the brain resulting in the feeling of loss.
Set a deadline for each goal
Setting deadlines will motivate you to move towards a mark. Think of deadlines as pitstops on a long road trip. By stretching your legs and viewing other sites, you enjoy the journey and don’t focus as much on the final destination. The trip doesn’t seem as long, which prevents frustration. Using the same example as before, get a calendar and mark all deadlines. By the end of month one, drink a glass of water before eating candy. Within two months, continue drinking water before eating candy and only buy the 10-pack candy snack size. Each short-term goal builds upon the last goal. Eventually, candy will be removed and replaced with the alternative snack.
Be realistic about your short-term goals
Thinking back to arousal – biased competition, Fecteau & Munoz detailed two factors that determine priority in their 2006 article “Salience, Relevance, and Firing: A Priority Map for Target Selection.” One factor refers to how the individual assigns importance to something and the expectations set. Are the short-term goals putting you in a position to achieve something you care about? The other factor refers to how well something draws your attention. If you think the alternative option to a candy bar is nasty and does not give nostalgic feelings, the alternative solution will always invoke a “negative” emotion and you will continue to fail at that resolution until you change your perception.
Keep at it
Remember two things: celebrate small and big wins, and you will have days when you want to quit. Wanting to quit is normal. Don’t let this become an excuse. You are not alone. Call someone who can help you get through the obstacle and continue on with your plan.