New Year’s resolutions have been huge part of our culture for decades. Despite this, we’re notoriously bad at sticking with them.
However, personal development is extremely important. There's never been a better time to take control of your habits than right now, when it seems like so much of the world is chaotic and out of control.
So, how do you make your New Year's Resolutions into habits for life?
Selecting realistic, trackable, and personally meaningful New Year's resolutions will make them easier to maintain, just like any other goal or habit you wish to form. So what does this look like?
Psychologists know that small goals lead to big success. This isn’t to say that you shouldn't have big, scary, ambitious objectives in mind or aim high; it's just that ambitious goals require a manageable plan to be achieved.
For example, you might want to get in shape this year. This is a big goal but doesn’t include how you’re going to achieve it. Instead, how about saying “I’m going to get in shape this year by building a habit of taking a 20-minute walk every morning.”
This isn’t just a more manageable resolution to being with (which you can adjust later). It’s also specific. As you write your New Year’s resolutions, remember the power of SMART goals: They’re Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
2. Trackable progress
Psychologists also know that we’re more likely to stay motivated to hit big goals if we can see regular progress towards them.
Tracking progress helps you stay committed to goals. It gives you something to celebrate each day. And it helps keep you motivated when your exciting New Year’s resolution starts to feel like a chore.
So, how can you track your 20-minute walk each morning?
You could set up a big calendar near your desk and write a large X on each day you walk, you could also use a fitness tracker. Another method is to create an accountability group with friends who check in with you each day.
The method can be personal to you. The important part is that there is some daily reminder of what you’re working on and how you’re doing.
Finally, psychologists know that you’re much more likely to stick with a resolution if it aligns with your core values. In other words, you’re working towards something you care about for the right reasons.
Researchers have discovered that intrinsic motivation—your core values and sense of purpose—is the most powerful source of drive.
So why do you want to lose weight or get into shape? Try using the Five Whys method below to help you think about this:
For example: I want to start my own business.
Why? I’m sick of my work.
Why are you sick of your work? Because I spend too much time on emails and in meetings.
Why do you spend so much time on emails? Because my manager micromanages us too much.
Why does that bother you? Because I value my personal freedom and autonomy.
Why are those so important to you? Because my parents were entrepreneurs and I’ve always dreamed of following in their footsteps.
After this, you suddenly have a New Year’s resolution that has a deep personal connection which will be much easier to stick with.
The New Year is the perfect time to make a commitment to significant change. Even if your goals aren't realised, the act of working for them is still a positive step.