It’s January, which means it’s time to focus on your New Year’s resolutions. Many of us decide to take up a new hobby, stop smoking, or set ourselves new fitness goals. But in reality, very few of us actually stick to our resolutions. This is often because we’re too ambitious, or our goals are too unrealistic, or too vague.
The new year feels like a fresh start, making it a great opportunity to change bad habits, or establish new routines. But statistically you’re unlikely to stick to your New Year’s resolutions. In fact, a recent study by several British Universities suggested you’re likely to give up just 17.8 days into 2022. So how can you beat those odds? Here are our top tips to help you stay on track.
1. Choose specific goals
Every year, millions of us plan to “lose weight” or “get in shape”. But how do you really know how successful you have been? Instead of choosing a vague goal, it needs to be very specific and achievable.
Using the SMART acronym to set your goals will help. They should be SPECIFIC, MEASURABLE, ACHIEVABLE, RELEVANT, TIME BOUND (setting a specific deadline). For example, you might commit to losing half a stone by Easter, or running a 10K in August. Choosing a concrete, achievable goal also gives you the opportunity to plan exactly how you are going to reach it (and stick to it).
2. Be realistic
One of the most common reasons people fail to stick to their goals is because they are unrealistic. It’s a big ask to go cold turkey and never eat your favourite food again, or just stop smoking completely overnight. Instead, choose a goal that is attainable, such as doing something less. Or just make sure the deadline you set yourself is realistic.
You’re not going to achieve all your aims in January — if you do then you’re probably not picking the right goals. You can set yourself long term goals, and plan how you’re going to use short term goals to reach them.
3. Focus on one goal at a time
While you might have a long list of potential New Year’s resolutions, it’s best to pick one to focus your energy on at a time, rather than trying to spread yourself too thinly. Trying to do too much at once can be daunting, and you’ll be in danger of achieving nothing.
Achieving just one small goal can boost your confidence. So for larger goals, consider breaking them down into more manageable chunks so you can work on one area at a time. This is more likely to help you change your behaviour and develop a new routine — a key to long-term success.
4. Make a plan
Choosing your resolutions wisely and planning well are essential parts of achieving any goal. And write it down! You are 42% more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down. It not only forces you to be clear on exactly what you want to accomplish, it also plays a part in motivating you to complete the steps necessary to succeed.
Outline why you have set yourself these resolutions, what steps you will take to achieve your goals, and ways you can keep yourself on track. If you start working towards a goal without a plan, you may quickly find yourself giving up if you face any challenges or setbacks. Planning for any potential obstacles, like injury, will better prepare you and help you stay on target.
5. Start with small steps
Taking on too much too quickly is a sure-fire way to feel burned out and unmotivated. Overdoing it at the gym, or radically changing your normal behaviour is not going to be sustainable. Instead, focus on small steps that will help you reach your bigger goal.
If you’ve set yourself the challenge of running a marathon in 2022, start by going out for a jog two or three times a week. You’ll then be able to gradually increase the number of miles you’re doing. And think about how you can fit runs into your current routine. There’s no point in saying you’ll go for a run every morning at 6am if you know you’re not a morning person. Instead, you could decide to go for a light jog on your lunch break, or invest in a treadmill to use at home.
6. Track your progress
Keep track of each small success so you can look back at it to see how far you’ve come. While setting bite-size goals may seem like you’re not progressing very quickly, each small achievement counts towards your big goals. You’ll also be more likely to create new healthy habits.
If your resolution is to lose half a stone by Easter, try keeping a food diary to help you stay on track. Or if you’ve set yourself a target for the number of steps you want to do each day, why not invest in a smart watch or activity tracker? They come with a variety of different functions, depending on how much you want to spend, and what model you choose to go for. You can get your hands on a basic one for as little as around £15, but you can spend upwards of £500 for something that’s all singing, all dancing.
7. Celebrate successes
If you only focus on the resolution as a whole, there’s a risk that you’ll feel demotivated if progress begins to slow a few weeks into the new year. That’s why it’s crucial to recognise and reward yourself for smaller successes along the way.
We’re not saying you should treat yourself to a whole box of chocolates as a reward for losing a couple of pounds as we all know that would be counter-productive. But do what motivates you. If your goal is to run a marathon, don’t save the party for the finish line. After each long run, reward yourself with a nice latte, a new book, or perhaps a meal out with your partner following a successful week. But above all, make sure you have fun along the way as you’ll be more likely to stick to your New Year’s resolutions.
8. Get support
Don’t keep your resolutions a secret. Tell friends and family members who will be there to support you along the way. Or even better, find a buddy who shares your goal, and motivate each other to keep going — it actually works! You can also join a local club, whether it be a running club, or slimming club, to find like-minded people to help you achieve your goals.
If you’re flying solo, it’s easy to skip a day at the gym, or ditch the early morning run. But if you’re working towards your goals with a friend, you’ll find the motivation to get up and go as you won’t want to let your training partner down. And having a solid support system makes sticking to your resolutions more fun too.
9. Don’t give up
One of the most important things to remember is to never give up! It might sound clichéd, but the key to achieving your goals is to keep trying. Obsessing over the occasional slip up won’t help you. Do the best you can each day, and take one day at a time.
If you feel like you’ve totally run out of steam by mid-February, don’t worry! Just start over again. Take another look at your resolutions and try to determine why you may not have succeeded this time round. Were your goals too vague? Or maybe they were too ambitious? Make sure you’ve used the SMART acronym when setting your goals, and adapt your plan to help you achieve them. Then why not try again in March? It’s never too late to enjoy happier and healthier living.
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