Millions of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, but sadly, very few manage to keep them. Research by Strava, a social network for athletes, has pinpointed the date that most people give up. By analyzing over 31.5 million global January activities, Strava designated the second Friday of January (for 2022, that’s January 14th) as Quitters’ Day. That’s the bad news. The good news is that there are steps you can take to help you keep your resolutions well past that baleful date.
New Year’s resolutions fail for different reasons. The most common is that your resolution isn’t specific enough. If you want to “exercise more,” “get healthy” or “save more money,” for example, that’s great. But without focused steps to accomplish any of those goals, it’s nearly impossible to reach them. Other reasons for failure include trying to do too much at a time and making resolutions for social reasons (“everybody thinks I should go to grad school”) or what you “think” you should be doing rather than what you want to be doing.
Here are some ideas to help you stay on track in 2022.
Break your goal into pieces. If your goal is to “exercise more,” break that down into measurable steps. To start, try “exercise 20 minutes a day” or “take the stairs four times each week.” Those goals are specific, repeatable, and measurable for success. Decide how much you can handle and then set a schedule with periodic upgrades of your routine. Follow your plan and you’ll stay on track. Small steps add up to big results.
One change at a time. Yes, it sounds wonderful to fix your exercise routine, save more money and do better at work, but let’s not go overboard. That’s an awful lot to do all at once. Pick the one goal you want to focus on first and stick with it. Don’t get overwhelmed with trying to change everything. Once you master one thing, you can add a new goal and plan to the to-do list.
Write it down. You’re more likely to stick to a plan if you put it on paper. Writing keeps you focused and motivated; it helps you set realistic time frames and makes it easy to celebrate your progress. Nothing like a big red check to show you’ve completed a step! Put your plan on the fridge or your bathroom mirror. Seeing it every day will keep you on track.
Get support. Talk about your goal with friends and family who will encourage you. Consider a support group if you’re trying to quit smoking or an exercise class at the gym. Grab a few friends and set up a Resolution Buddy Group to help each other stay on track. Even if you have different resolutions, sharing your goals will help you hold one another accountable—making you all less likely to fail.
Renew your motivation. Once you make it past Quitters Day, it’s not all downhill. Staying focused on a long-term goal is a job in and of itself. Set a time every month to check in with yourself. Make sure you can celebrate what you’ve already done and forgive your mistakes to keep yourself primed to continue. Renew your motivations and tweak your goals as you make progress. You may find that the first goals you set were too ambitious—or not ambitious enough. If you only lost a couple of pounds when you wanted to lose 10, you’ve still achieved something. You may need to up your exercise, or perhaps extend your time frame for your weight goal. If you’ve lost your 10 pounds by the end of February, maintain your healthy eating, but you might start to add in small steps toward your second goal of the year…keeping it off.
Celebrate your success. Grab a few minutes every few weeks to celebrate the milestones. If your goal was to walk an extra mile every week, congratulate yourself when you get there. Set up a reward system to acknowledge your successes—one that doesn’t involve high-calorie snacks! Some ideas: a walk with a friend, a pedicure, a massage. Rewards will keep you motivated and looking forward.
Don’t beat yourself up. Everyone slips. That’s just life. Just don’t let a setback derail you from your goal; you can recover. You set your goal for a reason. Remind yourself of that reason, get back up, dust yourself off and keep going. You can do it!