“New Year, new me!” is a phrase frequently thrown around this time of year when New Year’s resolutions are on everyone’s minds. But how many people successfully accomplish the goals they set to better themselves? According to one study, about 55% of people reported being successful in their New Year’s resolution. Want to be a part of that 55% this year? We’ve gathered some tips to help you make, and stick to, a successful New Year’s resolution!
SMART is a method of creating goals that set you up for success. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. This acronym is a guide to help you create and reframe your goal to help set you up on the best path of success.
It may come as a surprise that a big part of a successful New Year’s resolution is in the resolution itself. According to one study that looked at types of New Year’s resolutions and their success found that although specific goals are important, flexible goals were more successful than stricter ones. Strict, concrete goals may result in more negative feedback, researchers believe. This negative feedback can lead to frustration, demoralization and even abandonment of the goal all together. Another study found that workout incentives led to more successful results when they were linked to flexible timeframes (eg: participants must workout at some point during the day to receive the incentive) versus rigid timeframes (eg: participants must workout within a specific two hour period to receive the incentive). So, flexible plans and timeframes are important when it comes to planning your New Year’s resolution.
By keeping goals flexible, likelihood of participants quitting when they fall short of completing their rigid goals decreases. For example, participants were less likely to say “screw it” and not work out at all after missing their morning workout. Instead, a flexible goal and perspective led to participation in a shorter, evening workout later in the day. Anything is better than nothing right?
In the same study mentioned above, researchers found that those who created positive or additive goals were significantly more successful in keeping their New Year’s resolutions than those who created elimination goals. In other words those who had a goal of adding something to their life, like drinking more water or reading more, were more successful than those who vowed to eliminate soda or to decrease TV time. This research shows that 59% of those with additive goals reported success in keeping their resolutions compared to 47% of elimination goals. For example, ask yourself, “How can I add more vegetables to my diet?” and focus on answering that question instead of saying “I need to stop eating carbs.”
So you have a resolution in mind. But why did you set this specific goal? What are your motivations for getting in shape, drinking more water, or reading more? Make a pro/con list of your goal and keep it around for when times get hard. “You boost your chance of success when the balance of pluses and minuses tips enough to make adopting a new behavior more attractive than standing in place” states an article published on Harvard University Medical School Health Publishing website. Elizabth Lombardo (a psychologist based in Chicago) told The New York Times that “people typically succeed [at their resolutions] when their ‘why’ is bigger than their ‘but’”. In other words, when you would rather do anything but make up early to work out and excuses like “but I need sleep, I need to be rested for my meeting tomorrow” and “but one day off won’t kill me” you need to have a strong reason why you need to workout and why you set that goal in the first place. People can find their ‘why’ in various places such as financial incentives, peer support, serious consequences of not completing the given goal, etc.
A network of close friends and family can be a powerful tool, especially when you are trying to make a change. Recruit those closest to you to help keep you on track to accomplishing your goal. “Tell them your plan and ask them to hold you accountable,” Katherine Milkman (a professor at The University of Pennsylvania) told The New York Times. Telling people about your goal can also foster a sense of community and make your difficult endeavor feel less lonely.
Associating your new habits with positive reinforcement will help keep you motivated. Create a reward system that you can use when you accomplish an aspect of your goal or to reward your new behavior. For example, if you run everyday for a week, treat yourself to a relaxing bubble bathe or that new book you’ve really been wanting to read. Just make sure your reward is not counterproductive to your goal.
Creating consequences for when you fall off the path is also a way to keep you motivated. Some research even shows that consequences can be even more effective than a reward system. Fiscal consequences can be especially effective. Give money to someone you trust and instruct them to donate it to a charity that you dislike if you fail to accomplish your goal. A website called Stickk can also do this for you.
Woop stands for Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan and is a method backed by research that is shown to help you identify a goal and create a plan to accomplish it. Spend a few minutes asking yourself the following questions and write down the answers. Wish: What do you want?; Outcome: What will the ideal outcome be? What will your life look like when you hit your goal?; Obstacle: What will try and stop you from achieving this goal?; Plan: How will you overcome these obstacles? Answering these questions will help you identify some challenges that will get in the way of your goal, and then make a plan of how to overcome them. Write them down to refer to when times get hard.
The very act of creating a New Year’s resolution can help lead to behavioral changes. One study showed that when two groups that reported at the beginning of the year a desire to see some sort of behavioral change were compared, the group that created New Year’s resolutions was significantly more successful at attaining their goals than those who did not make New Year’s resolutions. The group that created resolutions in January reported a 42% success rate compared to the non-resolution group that reported just a 4% success rate. So if you want to see change, MAKE A NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION!
The Summit Area YMCA creates a strong community that can help you reach your goals and stick to your New Year’s resolution! Through a large variety of fitness classes, workout technology like ActivTrax and InBody, personal training and more, we can help you be your best self in 2021! Power your potential, this year at the Y!
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About the Summit Area YMCA
The Summit Area YMCA is one of the area’s leading 501(c)(3) charitable organizations. Founded in 1886, the Summit Area YMCA has a history steeped in working side-by-side with our neighbors to ensure that everyone, regardless of age, income and background, has the opportunity to learn, grow and thrive. Each year, we serve over 15,000 individuals with our free and fee-based programs and services in an area spanning the communities of Berkeley Heights, Gillette, Millburn, New Providence, Short Hills, Springfield, Stirling and Summit. Through the generosity of our members, donors, and partners, we are able to offer financial assistance for our programs and services to those with demonstrated need.