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Four Proven Strategies for Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions

by on January 1st, 2007
Four Proven Strategies for Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions

‘Tis the season for making – and breaking – New Year’s Resolutions…

Are you one of the 40-50% of Americans who make a resolution each year? If you are, will you be part of the 20% who keeps them, or the 80% who breaks them?

Fortunately, new research reveals proven strategies that can dramatically increase your chances of keeping your resolutions, and turning year-end ambitions into year-long lifestyle changes.

But first, the facts about New Year’s Resolutions (or, as we will call them, NYRs)…

Just The Facts, Ma’am

  • Each year, as the season rolls around, 40-50% of Americans intend to make a resolution
  • This percentage has roughly doubled since the 1930s and 1940s
  • The vast majority of resolutions fall into three categories: losing weight, quitting smoking, and starting an exercise program
  • NYRs are ancient. Over 4,000 years ago, Babylonians tried to start the New Year “fresh” by repaying debts and returning borrowed items. Two thousand years ago, Romans ended the year by reviewing the one before, resolving to achieve more, and paying homage to Janus, the god of doorways and beginnings (and namesake of the month January).
  • Surprise! The vast majority of people who make resolutions break them. Usually quickly.
  • The Big Question: Do They Work?

    Do New Year’s Resolutions work? Well, sort of. Research suggests that the long-term success rates of NYRs are only about 15-20%. Put another way, 80-85% are not able to keep their resolutions over a one to two year period. For example, at some point in their lives, nearly half of Americans have made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight or change their eating habits; of those, 20% broke their resolution within a week, 68% broke it within three months, and only 15% kept their resolution for a year or longer.

    But the news isn’t all bad. The process of making a commitment like a New Year’s resolution does appear to increase the likelihood of making a life change and sticking to it. In other words, only 15-20% of resolution-makers are able to keep their resolutions, but people who try to make the same kinds of life changes without making a resolution do even worse.

    The Even Bigger Question

    How can you increase your chances of sticking to your resolution? (Or, for you non-resolution makers, making some other kind of life change). Fortunately, research has revealed the success strategies of resolution-keepers.

    1. Start with realistic goals

    Many people make resolutions that are so ambitious, they have little hope of achieving them. Although such ambitious goals can sometimes be motivating and inspirational, they are more often daunting and overwhelming. The result: people give up because they think that “there’s no way to get there from here.” For example, obese people typically set goals of losing three times more than they have typically lost in prior weight loss efforts.

    2. Supplement your annual “resolution” with near-term goals

    A resolution to lose 100 pounds is not only unrealistic, but it is too long-term a goal to be truly motivating. Odds are you’ll find yourself sitting around for 9 or 10 months taking little action, living in denial, or perhaps forgetting about your resolution altogether.

    Try supplementing your annual goals with monthly, or even weekly, goals. Although it’s good to a have a long-term vision of what you want to accomplish, research shows that more near-term goals lead to better performance, greater confidence, enhanced persistence, and more satisfaction with life than longer-term goals.

    3. Create plans for success

    Near-term goals enhance performance because people work harder as deadlines approach, and because they spur the process of making plans for success.

    Let’s face it: most people who resolve to lose weight or start exercising don’t really flesh out strategies for accomplishing their goals. They may buy a diet book or join the gym, but that’s about it. And of course, that explains why millions of diet books are sold, yet we still have an obesity epidemic, and health clubs are overflowing in January but back to normal by March.

    So if you are resolving to lose weight, set some goals to accomplish in the first few weeks of January, and flesh out plans and strategies for accomplishing them. Joining a gym is great, but you are more likely to actually go to the gym if you make plans to exercise with a workout buddy, or commit to twice-a-week workouts with a trainer, or buy a pedometer to measure how many steps you take on the treadmill.

    4. Create a plan for slips and setbacks

    A strategy for setbacks is just as important as a strategy for success. People who maintain their NYRs for at least two years report an average of 14 slips or setbacks during that time.

    The key, of course, is rebounding from setbacks, rather than letting them snowball into full-blown relapses. First, try to avoid the all-or-none thinking that triggers the snowball effect. Then, create a “setback plan” that you will enact at the first sign of a slip.

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    About the Author: Copyright © Dr. Stephen Kraus. All rights reserved. http://www.KeepYourResolution.com

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