8 ways to make your New Year’s Resolution (or any goal) stick this year

According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, 41 percent of Americans make a New Year’s resolution, yet only 9 percent are successful in achieving theirs.1 Why? More often than not, they simply don’t have the right mindset, tools, and strategy to stay on track.

So what strategy does work? In this article, I’ll discuss eight evidence-based tips to make your resolution stick this year that have emerged from over four decades of research on health behavior change.

Didn’t make a New Year’s Resolution? It’s never too late to start healthy habits. These tips work for habit change any time of year!

1. Dream big, start small

Let’s face it: if you’ve never exercised before, it’s unlikely that you’re going to run three miles a day or do 50 pushups every day starting January 1st. Instead, commit to a realistic goal, like jogging for 2 minutes every day or even just doing 1 pushup. The key is starting so small that the action seems trivial, such that there is no way you can make excuses not to do it. Once you have the confidence that you can consistently achieve this small goal every day and it becomes a part of your routine, you can increase the intensity over time.

2. Shape your environment to ensure success

If your goal is to exercise first thing in the morning, lay out your exercise clothes before you go to bed. If you want to eat healthier, clear all the junk food out of your house and stock up on healthy snacks. When you have a tough day and are lacking willpower, you’re much more likely to break into your junk food cabinet than you are to go out to the nearest grocery store to find something unhealthy to eat. In other words, reduce the amount of willpower needed for healthy activities and increase the willpower and effort required to do unhealthy things.

3. Make yourself accountable

Find someone other than yourself to be accountable to. Hire a personal trainer, get a health coach, or simply ask a friend to be your accountability buddy. Whoever it is, check in with them regularly to be sure you’ll stay on track. Better yet, take your resolution public. Human support has been shown to increase adherence, especially when you set clear expectations with the person keeping you accountable.2

4. Track your progress

Ever had a streak and didn’t want to break it? Some people find that counting the consecutive days they have succeeded in their resolution is all the fuel they need to continue. Whether you put a big red checkmark on your calendar, create a daily log of the foods you eat, or track your steps with a step counter, monitoring your progress every day significantly improves the likelihood that you’ll achieve your goal.

5. Use technology to your advantage

Today, there are countless apps and wearables that can help you stay on track. Try a few and see if they help move you toward your goals. HeadSpace is a great app for starting a meditation practice, or you can find free guided meditations on YouTube. The Fitocracy app encourages you to accept challenges and compete with your friends to achieve your goals. GymPact is another free app that allows you to set goals and a monetary amount you’d be willing to pay if you don’t follow through. You can also use technology for inspiration. I particularly like “The Quote of the Day” podcast by Sean Croxton as a short daily dose of motivation.

6. Learn from setbacks

Many people fail to reach their goals because they treat one setback as failure. They slip up once, say “Oh well, better luck next year”, and throw any progress they’ve made out the window. If you experience a setback, try to instead analyze what went wrong. Did you sleep poorly and have less willpower? Were you put in an environment where you were destined to fail? Learn from the experience and be determined not to let the same thing happen again. Then get out there the next day and start tracking again.

7. Get to WHY

This is perhaps the most powerful tool of all to help you achieve your resolution. Most people are so busy thinking about WHAT they want to accomplish that they don’t think about WHY they want to accomplish it. In other words, they haven’t identified the reason they should change, so they are ambivalent as to whether they follow through. Linking your goal with an explicit reason WHY you want to accomplish it has been shown to increase the likelihood of achieving a goal.4 Make sure you get to the WHY at the core of your being.

For example: “I will make the time to prepare healthy foods because I want to live to see my grandchildren get married” or “I want to start exercising so that I have more energy to pursue my side hustle and play with my kids”. Remind yourself of the WHY frequently.

8. Visualize achieving your goal

Take a few minutes every morning to visualize yourself achieving your goal. Focus on the positives and the WHY. If you want to lose 30 pounds, focus on how you’ll feel at a healthy weight, not on any negative emotions you might have about your current weight. See yourself fit and healthy, going hiking with your kids, or waking full of energy every day. You’ll find that the more you visualize your goal and subtly etch it into your subconscious mind, the easier it will be to make the daily choices that will help you achieve your goals.

That’s all for now! Did you like this article? Be sure to subscribe to my newsletter for weekly tips on how to improve your health.


Sources:

  1. New Years Resolution Statistics – Statistic Brain. Available at: https://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/. (Accessed: 1st January 2018)
  2. Mohr, D. C., Cuijpers, P. & Lehman, K. Supportive Accountability: A Model for Providing Human Support to Enhance Adherence to eHealth Interventions. J Med Internet Res 13, (2011).
  3. Harkin, B. et al. Does monitoring goal progress promote goal attainment? A meta-analysis of the experimental evidence. Psychol Bull 142, 198–229 (2016).
  4. Rubak, S., Sandbæk, A., Lauritzen, T. & Christensen, B. Motivational interviewing: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Gen Pract 55, 305–312 (2005).

8 ways to make your New Year’s Resolution (or any goal) stick this year

According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, 41 percent of Americans make a New Year’s resolution, yet only 9 percent are successful in achieving theirs.1 Why? More often than not, they simply don’t have the right mindset, tools, and strategy to stay on track.

So what strategy does work? In this article, I’ll discuss eight evidence-based tips to make your resolution stick this year that have emerged from over four decades of research on health behavior change.

Didn’t make a New Year’s Resolution? It’s never too late to start healthy habits. These tips work for habit change any time of year!

1. Dream big, start small

Let’s face it: if you’ve never exercised before, it’s unlikely that you’re going to run three miles a day or do 50 pushups every day starting January 1st. Instead, commit to a realistic goal, like jogging for 2 minutes every day or even just doing 1 pushup. The key is starting so small that the action seems trivial, such that there is no way you can make excuses not to do it. Once you have the confidence that you can consistently achieve this small goal every day and it becomes a part of your routine, you can increase the intensity over time.

2. Shape your environment to ensure success

If your goal is to exercise first thing in the morning, lay out your exercise clothes before you go to bed. If you want to eat healthier, clear all the junk food out of your house and stock up on healthy snacks. When you have a tough day and are lacking willpower, you’re much more likely to break into your junk food cabinet than you are to go out to the nearest grocery store to find something unhealthy to eat. In other words, reduce the amount of willpower needed for healthy activities and increase the willpower and effort required to do unhealthy things.

3. Make yourself accountable

Find someone other than yourself to be accountable to. Hire a personal trainer, get a health coach, or simply ask a friend to be your accountability buddy. Whoever it is, check in with them regularly to be sure you’ll stay on track. Better yet, take your resolution public. Human support has been shown to increase adherence, especially when you set clear expectations with the person keeping you accountable.2

4. Track your progress

Ever had a streak and didn’t want to break it? Some people find that counting the consecutive days they have succeeded in their resolution is all the fuel they need to continue. Whether you put a big red checkmark on your calendar, create a daily log of the foods you eat, or track your steps with a step counter, monitoring your progress every day significantly improves the likelihood that you’ll achieve your goal.

5. Use technology to your advantage

Today, there are countless apps and wearables that can help you stay on track. Try a few and see if they help move you toward your goals. HeadSpace is a great app for starting a meditation practice, or you can find free guided meditations on YouTube. The Fitocracy app encourages you to accept challenges and compete with your friends to achieve your goals. GymPact is another free app that allows you to set goals and a monetary amount you’d be willing to pay if you don’t follow through. You can also use technology for inspiration. I particularly like “The Quote of the Day” podcast by Sean Croxton as a short daily dose of motivation.

6. Learn from setbacks

Many people fail to reach their goals because they treat one setback as failure. They slip up once, say “Oh well, better luck next year”, and throw any progress they’ve made out the window. If you experience a setback, try to instead analyze what went wrong. Did you sleep poorly and have less willpower? Were you put in an environment where you were destined to fail? Learn from the experience and be determined not to let the same thing happen again. Then get out there the next day and start tracking again.

7. Get to WHY

This is perhaps the most powerful tool of all to help you achieve your resolution. Most people are so busy thinking about WHAT they want to accomplish that they don’t think about WHY they want to accomplish it. In other words, they haven’t identified the reason they should change, so they are ambivalent as to whether they follow through. Linking your goal with an explicit reason WHY you want to accomplish it has been shown to increase the likelihood of achieving a goal.4 Make sure you get to the WHY at the core of your being.

For example: “I will make the time to prepare healthy foods because I want to live to see my grandchildren get married” or “I want to start exercising so that I have more energy to pursue my side hustle and play with my kids”. Remind yourself of the WHY frequently.

8. Visualize achieving your goal

Take a few minutes every morning to visualize yourself achieving your goal. Focus on the positives and the WHY. If you want to lose 30 pounds, focus on how you’ll feel at a healthy weight, not on any negative emotions you might have about your current weight. See yourself fit and healthy, going hiking with your kids, or waking full of energy every day. You’ll find that the more you visualize your goal and subtly etch it into your subconscious mind, the easier it will be to make the daily choices that will help you achieve your goals.

That’s all for now! Did you like this article? Be sure to subscribe to my newsletter for weekly tips on how to improve your health.


Sources:

  1. New Years Resolution Statistics – Statistic Brain. Available at: https://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/. (Accessed: 1st January 2018)
  2. Mohr, D. C., Cuijpers, P. & Lehman, K. Supportive Accountability: A Model for Providing Human Support to Enhance Adherence to eHealth Interventions. J Med Internet Res 13, (2011).
  3. Harkin, B. et al. Does monitoring goal progress promote goal attainment? A meta-analysis of the experimental evidence. Psychol Bull 142, 198–229 (2016).
  4. Rubak, S., Sandbæk, A., Lauritzen, T. & Christensen, B. Motivational interviewing: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Gen Pract 55, 305–312 (2005).