If you're like many of us, you may have made New Year's resolutions . . . and already broken them.
You're not alone. According to University of Scranton psychology professor John C. Norcross who has studied resolutions for decades, about 40% of Americans will make New Year's resolutions, and six months later 60% will have failed.
But hey, that means 40% will still be on track in June. Not bad. Here are some tips to help you beat the odds.
1. Turn down the heat
Do yourself a favor and take the pressure off by not making January 1st a do-or-die start date. Good for you for aiming for personal improvement, but the start of the New Year isn’t your one and only opportunity to set goals. You can resolve to alter your habits and improve your life at any time. Putting so much emphasis on an arbitrary date just adds to the stress already inherent in change.
2. Set realistic goals
In resolving to make changes in your life, it’s crucial for you to take your own individual personality and inclinations into account. You’re the the person who’s embarking on this new course, not someone else or some fictionalized version of yourself — so don’t set yourself up for failure by making resolutions predicated on forcing yourself to do things contrary to your nature. In other words, don’t resolve to run a marathon if you hate running! Making the activities in pursuit of your goal as enjoyable as possible will help you stick to your plan. If your goal is to get more aerobic exercise and find running monumentally boring — which I admit I do, try taking up tennis, racquetball or something else that involves constant motion.
3. Make your goals specific and measurable
In a recent article, CNN author Katia Hetter pointed out that people often think they lack motivation when the problem is really a lack of clarity. "If you want to eat better, be specific. Resolve to add a fruit or vegetable to your lunch every day or limit fast food to once a week.” If your goal is to finally write that book you’ve been talking about for years, break it down to a specific, realistically-attainable goal of writing one page a day. Without a clearly defined and measurable objective, how can you tell if you’re getting anywhere? And if you can’t see progress, you’re much more likely to give up.
4. Pursue change one step at a time
If you’re embarking on a major lifestyle overhaul that involves multiple course corrections: let’s say you decided you want to cut down on your sugar intake, reduce alcohol consumption, get more exercise and spend less time in front of the television. Instead of taking on all of those challenges at once, try focussing on one goal a month or every quarter. For example, step one: spend a month adapting to your new limit of two glasses of wine a week. Step two: Stick to the new alcohol limit and add 20 minutes of weight-lifting a day for the next month. Step three: Continue adhering to the new parameters you've adopted over the last two months and cut sugar consumption to one donut a week . . . and so on. Layering change is easier than trying to take on multiple resets all at once.
5. Forget perfection
It’s impossible not to make mistakes from time to time . . . to have a lapse in will- or won’t-power once in awhile. As a matter of fact, the quest for perfection in itself probably isn’t healthy. Besides, if you were capable of being perfect, you wouldn’t have to be making resolutions in the first place, so do yourself a favor, and don’t turn your pursuit of improvement into an all or nothing exploit. Accept at the onset that you are going to have off days and lapses, and above all, don't confuse temporary setbacks with failure. Your goal is steady progress. If you suffer a lapse, put it behind you immediately and go right back to checking off the specific, measurable, incremental steps that will lead to the longterm improvement you're after.
Well, that’s it for today from your friends at Tucker Law. Now I’m off to put in my half hour of cardio followed by writing one more page of my book.