9 Strategies to Make Your New Years Resolutions Successful

Dec 30, 2016

This episode is all about New Years Resolutions and I’ll share 9 strategies to make your resolutions successful in the New Year!

Are you ready for 2017?

I sure am!

2016 has been a tough year, and while there is so much to be grateful for, this year more than ever, has been difficult and I am ready to leave 2016 behind.

I know I am not alone. 2016 has been a particularly challenging, polarizing time and of late filled with so much loss.

On this episode of In-Session, I’ll talk about making New Years resolutions, sharing some interesting facts about resolutions. And I’ll share 9 strategies to help you keep your New Years resolutions, or as I like to call them, goals.

The New Year can bring about a lot of different reactions for people; joy, sorrow, relief, anxiety, happiness and hope.

Not everyone experiences the New Year the same way.

Many people I know have a mixed reaction about the New Year. Some feel relief a tough year is over, other’s hope the New Year will bring about change and happiness, and some a renewed sense of motivation to set goals and attain dreams. And then there are those who think of the New Year as simply ceremonial; the passing and marking of time from one year to the next. Which leads me to this question:

How do you embrace the New Year?

My family and I have a tradition on New Years Day of eating appetizers for dinner, with black-eyed peas for prosperity and good fortune, a tradition my mom started in my childhood. Then, my family and I go around the table expressing gratitude for what happened in the past year. We also share our top accomplishments or goals we met from the past year. Then we share a couple of goals we would like to accomplish in the New Year. Mind you, the goals can be as simple as learning to ride a bike, swim under water, be in a school play, try a new sport, anything to build confidence and skills.

In my family, we omit using the word “resolution” and instead it our “goals” for the New Year. For us, it sounds more do-able if we set a goal, versus a resolution.

Goals I think are easier to break down into manageable steps, whereas, “resolutions” can sound overwhelming.

Perhaps its a matter of semantics, but for us, it works.

Now, if you make resolutions at the start of the New Year, you are not alone; approximately 48% of all Americans will make a New Year’s resolution.

However, only 8% of those who make a resolution will achieve their goal by the time the next year comes around.

Have you ever wondered what the most common New Years Resolutions are?

Well, a research study published in 2014 by the University of Scranton in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, reported the top ten New Years Resolutions:

  1. Lose Weight
  2. Getting Organized
  3. Improving Finances (Save more, spend less)
  4. Enjoy Life
  5. Becoming more fit and healthy
  6. Learn something new and exciting
  7. Quit Smoking
  8. Help Others in Their Dreams
  9. Fall in Love
  10. Spend more time with family

No surprises on this list, yet its interesting, many of us are striving to be healthy, mindful, enjoy life, reduce chaos, and spend time with family.

The study I mentioned a few minutes ago, looked into how successful people where in keeping their resolutions.

Here are some of the findings:

• 75% of people who made a resolution were able to maintain their resolution the first week after the New Year
• 71% of people kept their resolution past two weeks
• 64% kept resolutions past one month
• And 46% were able to achieve their resolution past six months

As mentioned earlier, only 8% of individuals are successful in achieving their resolutions by the time an another year passes. We all have such good intentions don’t we?

So what makes a new years resolution achievable so you can ensure you are in the 8% who achieve their goal to make a resolution less of a fad and more of a fixture in your life?

I’d like to share with you 9 strategies to making a resolution achievable and successful in the New Year.

1. Define Your Resolution. Before you jump into a resolution, ask yourself what needs to change? Is there one are you’d like to make a change in? As I mentioned earlier, the most common resolutions are to lose weight, get organized, enjoy life, learn something new and spend time with family and friends. Spend time reflecting on the area in your life you;d like to improve. Also ask yourself, is this resolution something you want for yourself or are you feeling pressured to do so because of other reasons or people in your life? In order for change to happen, you have to be ready and willing to make a change and then be ready to put a plan into action.

2. Be Specific About Your Resolution. For example, a common resolution is to be healthy in the new year. But this a broad and vague goal. The more specific you can be, the more manageable it is to set behaviors and goals to achieve your resolution. If you want to be healthy, what part of health do you want to focus on? Diet, exercise, smoking cessation, reduce drinking or improve sleep schedule? I would encourage you to choose one part to start with first. Too many goals can become overwhelming.

If your goal is to exercise, instead of signing up for a gym, ask yourself, how many days a week can I get to the gym. What would be the times I could go? Am I a person who prefers a class, or just using equipment and weights? Will I be getting up earlier to go workout, or use the gym on the weekends?

Now if your goal is to eat healthier, first, you have to assess where your eating is problematic. Are you eating well throughout the day but sabotaging through late night eating while watching television? Are you ordering out three days a week instead of making dinner at home?

My point is this, be intentional and specific about what you are thinking of committing to and plan it into your schedule.

3. Break Your Resolution Into Small, Manageable Steps. If your goal is to eat healthy-first, you have to make a list, or analysis is of your unhealthy behaviors. Then you need to put into place ways to reduce and eliminate the unhealthy behaviors and start adding new desired behaviors or goals. So for example, if your goal is to be healthier with eating, and the problem for you is late-nite eating in front of the television, your first step is to find other things to do during this time. For example, read a book, journal, engage in a hobby, or call a friend. If you don’t want to change watching television, then plan to drink tea or eat a healthy snack instead of mindless bingeing. And a good first manageable step is to not purchase the food at the store you binge on. Which sounds so simple, doesn’t it? But habits are patterns of behaviors we become accustomed to, breaking a habit requires planning and thoughtfulness.

4. Don’t Dwell on Challenges. Starting, developing and maintaining new behaviors takes work, practice and discipline. If you have a rough day or slip into an old pattern, instead of giving up or calling yourself disparaging names, ask yourself, “What can I learn about myself from this setback?” And, ” What could I have done differently?” Don’t dwell on a rough patch or set back, resume as soon as possible. Look as each day a new opportunity to to get back on the path of your goal.

5. Measure Your Accomplishments. Small goals and achievements add up to make meaningful change. One model I find inspiring is in Alcoholics Anonymous, where people are given chips to tokens marking one’s accomplishments in the journey of sobriety. When a person is sober for a day, they receive a 24 hour chip, and then at each milestone, sobriety at 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, six months, a year and beyond, there is a chip given to represent each milestone.

We can learn a lot from this model of change, so when you meet a goal or have an accomplishment, write it down, share it with friends and family, give yourself a reward, bottom line, highlight your success.

6. Know Yourself. Be realistic about the goal you want to achieve. If you want to exercise more, but are not a gym person, joining a gym, paying for a membership you will never use is going to feel discouraging and could make achieving your goal difficult. Spend some time thinking about how to incorporate more exercise into your day-to-day routine. I have a friend who found walking her dog every day, versus joining a gym, was the best form of exercise, and she loved being in nature as well.

7. Limit Sabotaging Thinking. Be mindful of negative self talk, or statements to yourself when challenges arise like,  ” I don’t know why I try, I can never follow through with anything” or ” I should just give up, this is too hard.”

When you have a challenge or a set-back, don’t dwell on it. Instead, keep focused on the big picture, starting a new behavior or eliminating a problematic behavior in your life takes time, energy, and effort.

Ask yourself, “ what did I learn from this setback?” or, “If this situation presented itself again, what could I have done different?”

Starting something new requires perseverance and flexibility to adapt to see how to make the goal work. Remember, making a change is a journey, not a one time event.

8. Be Compassionate and Encouraging to Yourself. Watch the way you talk to yourself. We often say negative things in our mind to ourselves; we would never imagine saying those same statements to other people in our lives. Offer yourself the same compassion and encouragement you would give to a child, family member or friend. If find yourself in a negative place, ask yourself, “If my friend came to me and told me what she was struggling with, how would I respond?” Often we are kinder to other people than we are to ourselves.

9. Reach Out for Support. Reaching out to supportive people for encouragement can help you in the process of change. Whether it’s a support group, friends, family or a therapist, a solid support system can help to achieve personal goals.
There is no right way to approach the New Year.
Only you can decide where your energy lies to make a change.

You need to be ready to make the change for yourself.

I want to close this episode with a quote from best-selling author Melody Beattie, ” The New Year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals.”

Wishing you a healthy and happy New Year!

© Copyright Dr. Claire Nicogossian