One of the pleasures of celebrating the New Year is making resolutions. Having a fresh calendar offers the opportunity to turn over a new leaf and make this the year you finally become the person you want to be.
Unfortunately, a 2007 study revealed that 88% of New Year’s resolutions fail — and according to a 2013 survey, 53% of resolutions are abandoned before Valentine’s Day.
That depressing news may be enough for you to feel like you should just walk away from whatever resolutions you made for yourself. But there’s no need to. Simply by making some tweaks to your resolutions today, you can ensure this year will look exactly as you hoped it would when you were watching the ball drop.
Here are three ways to get your New Year’s resolutions back on track:
1. Make your resolution SMART
One of the common problems with resolutions is that they’re vague and over-ambitious. You may have decided on January 1 that this would be the year you “took control of your finances” or finally “got in shape.” But what exactly do those goals mean to you? How will you know you’ve succeeded? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, then you’re setting yourself up for failure.
If you’ve been floundering for a month with your resolution, it’s time to reframe it as a SMART goal. SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely — the traits that your goal should have.
By making your goal specific, you know exactly what success will look like. If it’s measurable, then you can keep the momentum going as you incrementally work toward your goal. You should only pick goals that are realistically attainable and relevant to your life, or you’ll get easily discouraged. (For instance, deciding to do a triathlon when you’re 50 pounds overweight and hate swimming, biking, and running is neither an attainable nor a relevant goal.) Finally, your goal should be timely, meaning that you have a deadline for completing it.
2. Set up small habits
Even with a SMART goal, it’s human nature to revert back to old habits. So no matter how committed you are to getting your bills paid on time and eliminating late fees from your life, it can be incredibly easy to ignore your cable bill until it’s past due — simply because that’s what you’ve always done.
The secret to making a big change in your life is to make it habitual. But creating new and good habits isn’t easy — unless you make your new habit something very small and non-threatening. According to BJ Fogg of Stanford, creator of the application TinyHabits, breaking a big goal down into a small habit that can be done for 30 seconds or less allows you to start forming the larger habit you’re looking for.
For instance, you could decide that every day after you check your email, you’ll log into your online bank to check the balance. That will take you less than 30 seconds, and once you have that habit in place, it’ll become easier and more natural to pay your bills as soon as they come in.
3. Hold yourself accountable
One of the tricks of a successful resolution is accountability. If you don’t have to answer for falling off the resolution wagon, then you have no motivation to stay on it. This is something that both weight loss and get-out-of-debt bloggers understand well: by letting the wider internet in on their struggle to achieve their goals, they have a great motivator to stay on the straight-and-narrow.
An easy way to hold yourself accountable is to tell your family and friends about your goal. If you’d rather keep things private, take a few minutes to set up a weekly alert to check in on your progress. During those weekly progress checks, write down what you’ve done and how it’s going, since researchers have found that writing down your goals makes you much more likely to succeed at them.
The Bottom Line
It doesn’t have to be January 1 to start anew. Use these tips to make over yourself this year, no matter when you get started.
How are things going with your resolutions? Will you be using any of these tricks?