Every year, millions of people make New Year’s resolutions, hoping to spark positive change. The recurring themes each year include a more active approach to health and fitness, improved finances, and learning new things for personal and professional development. Chances are, more than a couple of the top 10 most common resolutions will look familiar to you:
However once the glow of a fresh new year wears off, many people struggle to make good on their plans. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, only 46% of people who made New Year’s resolutions were successful. That means over half of the people who set a goal for the new year will fail!
The study also involved non-resolvers, people who did not make a New Year’s resolution, but had a goal they wanted to achieve that year. Only 4% of non-resolvers were successful at achieving their goals, a far bleaker result than those who did make a New Year’s resolution.
Naturally, we don’t want to be in the camp of folks that fail to achieve their aspirations and dreams for 2019, so we’ve put together an exhaustive plan for following through on your resolution.
If you want to realize your New Year’s resolution this year, follow these 10 steps:
Changing ingrained habits is no easy task, so before diving head-first into your New Year’s resolution, it is important to take a step back and get ready for that impending change.
The first breakthrough in change is taking a personal inventory. Being that it’s the end of one year and the beginning of the next; it’s perfect timing to take stock in the past year’s accomplishments. Think about the following:
Naturally, your resolution may focus on areas that lack progress, but don’t forget to savor the progress made, and find some small way to celebrate. Those happy feelings are useful! If possible, try to associate them with an object or word related to your accomplishment.
You will want to keep upbeat with your new resolution, so you can use that positive association with last year’s accomplishments to remind you of those good feelings when you are feeling challenged.
As you start thinking about the changes you want to implement, make sure to do the following:
You would be surprised how often people set goals that are not for themselves. These goals could be dictated or coerced by a manager, spouse, or parental / peer pressure.
While it’s nice to have some external support, if you don’t share the same passion, the resolution has a small chance of succeeding and could even be dead on arrival.
To do this, you need to make sure the goal you set is important to you and only you and that there is value or benefit for you in achieving the goal. It is these two things that will provide the reason and willingness to take action. This is also known as motivation!
Thus, it’s a safe bet if your resolutions align with the following:
Not only should you align around your inner-most desires, but you should also make sure the resolutions align around your top priorities. This will lead to a “must do” attitude.
A common mistake in resolution setting is having too many and spreading yourself too thin. We all want to learn 25 different languages, 15 new job skills, and eliminate 5 bad habits, but we are not superheroes. We only have so much attention span we can dedicate to self-improvement, so having too many resolutions is a great way not to achieve the many goals you have set out for yourself.
Thus, you should make a short list of resolutions that you can manage in the upcoming year. Knowing that short list of priorities is the hard part. The key here is understanding how to prioritize.
Here is an exercise that you can undertake to help you figure out what is most important in your life. All you need is a post-it pad, a pen, and a wall.
As you might suspect, #8 is the most time-consuming, because it will determine what resolutions you are going to take on this year.
The final piece of the puzzle here is knowing your limitations and personal bandwidth. With that in mind, you should focus on your top priorities while balancing how much attention you can honestly devote to a resolution.
Final thought: It’s better to tackle one resolution well than multiple resolutions poorly.
When it comes to setting resolutions, it’s easy to set bad goals that could lead to poor follow through. Fortunately, SMART goal setting framework can help you craft better goals.
SMART goals are:
A lot of us tend to be over eager and grandiose when it comes to resolutions. We have the best of intentions and may accidentally take on a goal that is too big to achieve. Thus, it’s helpful to divide a big goal into smaller goals that are more achievable.
Let’s say you are the leader of an alien race, and your resolution for 2019 is capturing the planet Earth. That is a huge goal!! You can’t just tell your intergalactic fleet of spaceships “take over planet Earth” and expect success.
You have to chunk up this big crazy feat into smaller more management accomplishments:
Similarly, you can break up your year-long resolution into weekly or monthly goals. And have tasks planned for each month.
By breaking your tactical plan into discrete steps, you now have a pretty good chance of world domination by the end of the year.
Now chunking up a big goal is easier said than done. Here are a few tips to help you make your massive goal more achievable:
While it’s great to have goals, it is critical to document them in some way. Here are six reasons to write down your goals:
Here are a few ways you can document your resolutions for 2019:
“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
It’s great to make a resolution for yourself and maybe even write it down, but if no one else knows about it, it’s easy to forget about or even ignore. And when you don’t achieve it, no one will notice or care.
On the flip side, your counterparts who decided to tell someone about their goal, feel something different. Now that they’ve gone public with their goal, they feel a sense of obligation and accountability. Essentially, if you don’t follow through, they are going to let everyone down.
Crazy as it sounds, this sense of guilt is often more powerful than self-motivation. The upshot here is that when you do succeed, the people you shared with will celebrate with you!
If you want to take goal sharing to the next level, you could organize a mastermind group. A mastermind group is a collection of highly motivated people who share a common goal and are looking to encourage and help each other improve.
How to do it:
Now if you don’t have the time or inclination to do the above, another way to achieve the same result is to make a Facebook post declaring your intentions to all your friends. You can bet people will cheer you on and ask about your progress over the course of the year!
A stitch in time saves nine.
The good news is you probably have technology in your pocket that can help you follow through on your resolution - automation in the form of reminder apps.
Nowadays there are a million different apps and services to help you follow through on your resolutions. These free tools can help provide a constant reminder:
On top of these commonly used apps, there are also “to-do list” and task management apps that have the ability to schedule reminders and milestones. Here are a few popular choices:
Note: All of these apps listed above won’t help you do the work, but they do serve a constant reminder of the work that needs to be done.
Let’s face it, if you are not thinking about your resolution regularly, you are not going to follow through. Thus, a crucial part of realizing your goal is a regular review.
At a minimum, this review should be monthly, but the more frequent the better.
Here’s one way to build in goal review into your routine.
It may seem a little crazy to think about your resolution every single day, but it is those smaller incremental steps that lead to massive changes over the course of a single year.
Rome was not built in a day.
We’ve established it will take time for your resolution to become a reality and we know change is difficult. In fact, we’ve already established we should leave some room for mistakes and setbacks.
Keep the following ideas in mind:
Setbacks can happen, but so long as they are handled correctly, they will not impact the big goal. The key is to avoid a defeatist attitude at all costs, i.e. “Well I screwed up once, why should I even try to do this anymore.”
And if there is a setback, it’s important to understand what lead to that moment, and how you can avoid a similar situation in the future, i.e. "If I play video games after work, I will not go to the gym. Don’t play video games after work!"
Once a mistake is made, own it and move on to the next thing. For example, if you skipped a study session, make it up tomorrow, and keep on moving. A few small mistakes shouldn’t spoil your resolution for the year!
We hope these 10 steps help you follow through with your resolutions and make 2019 your best year yet.