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How Many People Keep Their New Year’s Resolutions?

Jan. 23, 2014
Personal Finance
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Every year, we strive to keep our New Year’s resolutions. According to research conducted by Scranton University, the top three New Year’s resolutions are losing weight, getting organized and spending less and saving more.  Unfortunately, of the 45 percent of Americans who continuously make New Year’s resolutions, only 8 percent succeed in achieving their goals. Unfortunately, breaking resolutions within the first few weeks of January is common knowledge and is often anticipated.

Why is it so difficult to keep a New Year’s resolution? People make resolutions with the general idea to change for the better.  While we may have good intentions behind our goals, resolutions are often made at the last minute on New Year’s Eve, usually under the influence of libations. As a result, people set lofty goals for themselves without putting much thought into actually achieving them.

Instead of making broad goals, try focusing on one aspect of your life that you can change. Rather than setting a goal to lose X amount of pounds this year, don’t focus on the scale as a marker of success and change your resolution to something you will do. For example, begin exercising an hour a day three times a week. Forming a good habit like exercise will not only help you reach your goal weight this year, but it preempts lasting effects that will change your lifestyle. In essence, to make your resolutions that last you need to follow these steps:

Plan Ahead
Focus On One Goal at a Time
Create Actionable Resolutions
Anticipate Obstacles
Trick Your Brain

Plan ahead

Instead of waiting until the last minute to make your resolution, begin planning a few weeks ahead. Start thinking about how you’d like your life to change for the better and construct a realistic plan to achieve that goal.

Focus on one goal at a time

Often, we make a list of things we’d like to see ourselves achieve by the end of the year, but in reality we’ve created a bucket list for our lifetime. Instead of overwhelming yourself with three, four or five different goals, stick to one goal you can and will follow through. Pick the goal that is most important to you and think of how to best achieve it.

Create actionable resolutions

Losing weight is the most common resolution in the U.S. Instead of idealizing your goal weight and focusing on the scale, start an exercise regiment that begins with exercising half an hour a day for two days a week. As time progresses you can increase the amount of time you’re exercising and include other actionable steps such as eating healthier meals a certain number of times a week. By setting smaller goals, you will not only achieve your resolution, you are also forming good habits. Soon, you will not only reach your goal weight, but you’ll be maintaining a health-conscious lifestyle.

Anticipate obstacles

Every goal has setbacks. There may be days or weeks when you are too sick to exercise, or you are not able to resist the urge to smoke another cigarette. It’s important to remember that obstacles or plateauing are part of the process. Don’t let minor setbacks derail you from achieving your resolution. The hardest part about obstacles is forgiving yourself and getting back on track.

Trick your brain

Achieving any goal is hard work. Try tricking your brain into liking the morning jog or lack of nicotine by rewarding yourself. Technically, you’re not tricking your brain, but you’re using the already wired reward systems in your brain. Instead of focusing on nicotine withdrawal, for example, treat yourself to something of equal value to a pack of cigarettes. Or, take a bath after exercising as a reward for your efforts. Using reward tactics will make pursuing your goal less stressful and more enjoyable.

This year, steer clear of enormous goals and bucket lists.  Keep it simple. Instead of making a lofty plan to “get organized,” form good habits and change your lifestyle in a way that will help you satisfy your goal a bit at a time.  By following these easy steps and taking action on your plans, you may be part of the 8 percent that succeeds.

New Year image via Shutterstock