No one captures the futility of making New Year’s resolutions more accurately than Bridget Jones. “New Year’s resolution: drink less. Oh, and quit smoking! And keep New Year’s resolutions,” she sighs in the opening scene of Bridget Jones’s Diary. We all know the feeling.
Much like Bridget Jones, I normally began every New Year’s Day issuing my own resolutions that mainly centered on health and wellness (eat better, lose weight, get in shape). I would also respond to the multitude of infomercials for exercise equipment and diet plans and believe that this new piece of equipment was just what I needed to jump-start my fitness quest. Upon receiving the equipment, I would use it once or twice then become bored with it. They make it look so much easier on TV! Now my home gym looks like a used equipment center. Ugh!
I would always beat myself up for not having enough discipline to maintain my resolutions, but I have found out that many of us are like that. In fact, many resolutions are set up for inevitable disappointment and eventual burn-out. On average, 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by the second week of February.
Causes of failure include not being specific enough, setting unreasonable goals and expectations, and no accountability. For example, vaguely resolving to “exercise more” or “lose weight” doesn’t provide enough motivation throughout the year. Having specific markers and bite-sized goals discourages walking away from attainable achievements.
Good habits, especially ones drastically different from typical lifestyles, are hard to get started and even harder to keep. Research shows that on average, it takes approximately 66 days for a habit to become automatic. So, if you want to work on your resolutions, here are some tips to making and keeping them.
1. Pick just one thing.
If you want to change your life or your lifestyle don’t try to change the whole thing at once. It won’t work. Instead pick one area of your life to change to begin with.
2. Plan ahead.
To ensure success you need to research the change you’re making and plan ahead, so you have the resources available when you need them.
3. Anticipate problems.
There will be problems so make a list of what they will be. Once you’ve identified the times that will probably be hard, work out ways to cope with them when they inevitably crop up.
4. Pick a start date.
You don’t have to make these changes on New Year’s Day. If you really want to make changes then pick a day when you know you’ll be well-rested, enthusiastic, and surrounded by positive people.
5. Go for it.
On the big day go for it 100%. Make a commitment and write it down on a card. You just need one short phrase you can carry in your wallet. Or keep it in your car, by your bed and on your bathroom mirror too for an extra dose of positive reinforcement.
6. Accept failure.
If you do fail and sneak a cigarette, miss a walk or shout at the kids one morning don’t hate yourself for it. Make a note of the triggers that caused this set back and vow to learn a lesson from them.
7. Plan rewards.
Small rewards are great encouragement to keep you going especially during the hardest first days. After that you can probably reward yourself once a week with a magazine, a call to a supportive friend, an afternoon nap, etc.
We all need help and encouragement with New Year’s resolutions. These tips will hopefully help us keep them this year and in the future.