Remember your New Year’s resolutions? Maybe you committed to eat healthier, spend more time with family or quite smoking. Well, with January, February and March officially in the books, let’s take a moment to stop and reflect…. How are you doing? Still holding strong? Maybe you started off great, but are finding yourself fizzling out. Or, if you are one of the almost 90 million Americans who made and already abandoned one or more of their New Year’s resolutions, know you’re not alone! For most people, failure to keep resolutions are almost as common as making them. While 45% of us make New Year’s resolutions, only 8% manage to keep them… Why is this? Here are some ideas from experts who have studied the issue:
– Timing. January is a tough time to start anything new. Holiday eating from Halloween through Super Bowl Sunday packs on the pounds. It’s cold and dark in most of the U.S. and we are less active and less motivated for change. Money is tighter. Stress is higher. Hardly an ideal time to undertake major lifestyle changes.
– High Motivation/No Real Plan. Unlike most things in our lives, New Year’s resolutions do not come with a set of instructions. While making resolutions is to be applauded, it is only the “first step” in making a change. Even with the best intentions, without a detailed plan and expert advice the probability of success is lower.
– Unrealistic Goals. It is a rare person who could actually lose 35 pounds in 4 months, go cold turkey from smoking, tell their boss outright that they won’t be at work as much; or worse yet, accomplish all of these simultaneously?
– Being Too Tough on Ourselves. Big expectations can yield even bigger disappointments. Being intolerant of slow progress or occasional setbacks can undo motivation and cause us to give up on resolutions without ever realizing that we were the culprit.
– Lack of Support/Scrutiny. It’s hard to sustain motivation in a vacuum. As social beings, humans do better with goal attainment when they have support and scrutiny from others. If you’re on a diet and no one else knows a Big Mac is not part of your approved menu, self-control is all you’ve got between you and that Special 600 calorie Sauce.
So, if you are like many Americans who have already given up on your New Year’s resolution, have no worries! Spring is a great time to bounce back! In fact, most experts recommend waiting until spring to restart. So now that the weathers warmer and we are starting to feel more motivated, how do we get back on track? Below are 10 steps you can take to not only set better resolutions, but how to help follow through and achieve success!
– Wait Until Spring to Restart. Sometimes the best way to accomplish a New Year’s resolution is to make it at a time of year of your choosing, rather than the one dictated by the calendar. April 1 is a good alternate date, since the change of season will neatly coincide with the change you are hoping to accomplish in yourself.
– Set S-M-A-R-T goals. S-M-A-R-T goals are ones that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. For example, rather than saying you want to lose weight, create a S-M-A-R-T goal: I will lose 10 pounds over 3 months.
– Don’t Set the Bar Too High. Most New Year’s resolutions are easier announced (or written) than done—but if you set the bar too high, you’re doomed from the start. Instead of a sweeping declaration like “I will lose 30 pounds by April,” target a goal that’s more attainable, like losing 10 or 15 pounds, or better yet changing what you eat and scheduling exercise like walking; ignoring weight loss goal totally.
– Keep Your List Short. It’s difficult enough for the average person to follow through on one ambitious New Year’s resolution; why saddle yourself with three or four? Choose the most pressing issue at hand—losing weight, improving important relationships in your life – and concentrate on that. Trying to do everything simultaneously practically guarantees failure across the board.
– Beef Up Your Game Plan with Proven Techniques. Become an expert on attaining your specific resolution goal(s). Use the Internet. Read everything you can find. Seek out “experts” (personal and profession) who can advise you on what it will take because they have done it themselves. Be flexible and willing to change techniques, tolerate setbacks and lengthen your time-line as necessary.
– Schedule time for your resolutions. If possible, set aside time for your resolutions, just as you would any kind of appointment. For example, if your S-M-A-R-T goal is to lose 10 pounds over three months, block time in your schedule to go to the gym three times a week.
– Share Your Goals. The more people you announce it to, the more people there’ll be to prod you along if your motivation flags. There’s no shame in using a bit of peer pressure to help accomplish your resolutions.
– Chart your progress. For some, making an old-fashioned to-do list with pen and paper works just fine. Others may prefer an online goal-tracking tool. As you track your progress, chances are you may have a few setbacks. Forgive yourself and move forward instead of completely giving up.
– Reward Yourself and Watch Your Attitude. Following through on a New Year’s resolution is rarely easy, so a little mental conditioning goes a long way. If you’ve resolved to shop less, stroke yourself for not buying those shoes by indulging in a low or no cost reward. If you’ve resolved to be nicer to people, use some “positive self-talk” to support your efforts after enduring a tedious cocktail party with some toxic people.
-Speak to The Pros. If you still feel stuck, consider reaching out for professional assistance. Capital EAP is always available for consultation and supportive counseling about New Year’s resolutions or any other topic that may be important to you. Its services are 100% confidential and always available to Capital EAP Employees and family members free of charge. For more information or to make an appointment, contact Capital EAP at 518-465-3813, option 2 and ask to speak to one of our intake coordinators.