It’s hard NOT to have heard about the resolution dooms-day numbers – over 80% of resolutions fail; only 8% of people achieve their resolution goals. Talk about anti-motivation for setting New Year’s resolutions! One source even reported that most resolutions don’t even last 2 weeks!! WTF? How are we so bad at resolutions?!
Well, to sum it up, I’ll reference a JCR Licklider quote, “People tend to overestimate what can be done in one year and to underestimate what can be done in five or ten years.” We have (overly) HUGE expectations for the coming year. We want to lose weight and earn millions all while jet setting around the world, volunteering our time, and writing a best selling novel.
We’re so unrealistic with what we can accomplish in one year that when the end of the year rolls around, we can only check one or two things off our list of a bajillion. Below are a couple tips to get better at setting resolutions for a better chance at success. You’ve still got a couple days to revisit and revise your resolutions so even if you’re only halfway serious about resolutions, it’s worth it!
First Things First
Write them down! Not in the notes on your phone or as a running Google Doc… actually put pen (or pencil) to paper and write them down. For whatever reason things are stickier in our brain more when we write them down. Also, once you’ve written it down, you can have it in front of you constantly (more on that later) by hanging it on the backdrop of your desk or on your bathroom mirror.
Once you’ve got your written list, have it in front of you when you read through this. Take a few minutes between sections to actually evaluate your list – scribble notes, circle things, cross them out, etc. as you’re going through these tips. Getting your brain actively involved in the process with pen and paper helps internalize these new ideas and make them real.
Realistic: having or showing a sensible and practical idea of what can be achieved or expected.
It turns out we make ourselves feel better just by resolving to make a change, without actually doing anything yet. So, in addition to overestimating what can be accomplished in the year, we’re also making ourselves feel better just by telling ourselves we’re going to do this long list of things. Yeah, we’re weird – making a list of 25 things to change about ourselves and we feel better because of it??
Anywho… with your list in front of you and the understanding that your brain is going to try to trick you into setting too many unrealistic resolutions, read over each resolution and determine if it’s ‘sensible and practical’. You can even rank them in order of achievable-ness or priority to you… but get a sense of your top 2-3.
If you’re struggling with what’s possible, consider this scenario: 55% of resolutions are health related so a common one might be to lose 30 pounds (or insert your desired number). Ask yourself if it’s realistic to lose all 30 pounds in one year?
It can be done, for sure. But it means changing your eating (which means grocery shopping habits, cooking habits, eating out habits, meal prepping) and changing your activity (which usually means going to the gym more, which means making time, which means sacrificing other things).
You get the idea – it’s not just one thing that has to change to lose those extra pounds. When considering what’s realistic, don’t forget to evaluate ALL the things that go along with the resolution. And let me just say, you’ll be more motivated if you set your goal to 15 pounds and lose 20 than if you set your goal to 30 and lose 20. It’s ok to ‘trick’ yourself into celebrating the wins – our brain is tricking us all the time!
To increase accountability, you can do tangible things like write down your resolutions, create timelines and add in due dates. But one thing we’re often too shy or ashamed to do is partner up! We think we’re inconveniencing someone else with our goals, or we’re worried about the judgement that may come if we don’t achieve the success we want.
Adding in an accountability coach or partner has been shown to significantly increase the odds of success. This is most likely attributed to the fact that we’re less likely to let down other people than we are to let down ourselves (another issue by itself). So if you’re serious about keeping your resolutions, tell people about it and get their support. Offer to be someone else’s support for their goals in return and experience success together!
Pause here to check out your list of your top 2-3 realistic ones and see if there’s an opportunity for you to have an accountability partner. If there is, that’s the one I recommend attacking first!
Keep It Front & Center
Whether you write it down daily or keep it on your bathroom mirror or get a bracelet made with your mantra, keep the ONE resolution you’re focusing on front and center, every day. We’re only human… we get distracted by shiny stuff and bored with the mundane. Keep your resolution so obviously front and center you get sick of it!
A tip I’ve found really does work is to write it your resolution in the present tense to trick your brain into thinking it’s already a reality. “I weigh 150lbs,” instead of “I will weigh 150lbs.” When we train our brain to think like the person we want to be, we set ourselves up to make decisions and behave as if we already are that person. Again, trick that ole noggin of yours – turnabout’s fair play.
Remember, we’re playing the long game here. And I mean longer than February, which is when most resolutions fail by. By picking one resolution and focus all your attention on it, you’ll get a win and create momentum to take you into the next resolution. Now that you’re privy to the ways your brain will try to trick you, trick that sucker right back into achieving your resolution!