Author: Donato Fanelle, MA
Each January brings with it the excitement, potential, and opportunities of a new year. We are energized by a fresh start, and imagine the possibilities that will come when we finally start doing that thing we have been meaning to do for so long. We tell ourselves “this year I am going to have a healthier diet, exercise more often, read more books, and spend less money. New year, new me.” But by the time we finally remember to write the date as “2020” instead of “2019,” we’re back to our same old bad habits from last year.
According to U.S. News & World Report, 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail by February. There’s a number of reasons why our resolutions fail, such as unclear goals, insufficient motivation, and emotional burnout. But rather than focusing on all the reasons why they fail, let’s focus on how to make them succeed. Here are 5 tips to stick to your 2020 New Year’s resolutions:
1. Know your “why”
First of all, it’s important to know why you are committing to this resolution. So what’s your motivation, right? Well, not entirely. The problem with motivation is that it’s fleeting; sometimes you will feel it strongly, and other times you will not feel it at all. Commitment is far more powerful than motivation. You will not always feel motivated to wake up an hour earlier to workout in the morning. You will not always feel motivated to order a fruit-cup instead of fries as your side dish. You will not always feel motivated to stay in on the weekends rather than going out so you can save a few dollars. But if you are committed, then you will push through on those challenging days. Now, commitment does not just happen magically – there has to be some sort of motivation to spark the fire. But the key is to find intrinsic motivation in order to keep that fire burning throughout the year. Intrinsic motivation comes from internal sources – such as a sense of pride, feeling of accomplishment, or self-fulfillment. Extrinsic motivation comes from external sources – such as money, trophies, or clout. Although extrinsic factors can be very motivating, they are usually out of your control, so it might not be enough to generate the level of commitment you need to succeed in the long-term. You have to look deep within yourself and know why this resolution is important to you, and then lean on that why on the tougher days. “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” -Friedrich Nietzsche
2. Focus on the process, not the outcome
Setting a New Year’s resolution is similar to setting a goal. You determine an outcome you wish obtain, and then set out to achieve it. Although the outcome is important to you, if your focus is solely on the end result, then you are not focused on what you need to do and how you need to do it. Instead of worrying about an outcome that is months away, direct your attention onto the process. In order to help you focus on the process throughout the journey, set performance and process goals that will help you achieve your resolution. Performance goals (what you need to do) are goals that concentrate on the steps to accomplish the desired outcome; they measure the progress you are making towards achieving the outcome. Process goals (how you need to do it) concentrate on the little things that you can do in a short amount of time that will help you achieve your performance goals. Rather than just setting a goal at the beginning of the year, consider setting monthly performance goals and weekly process goals so you can focus your attention on the day-to-day details of the process and monitor your progress along the way.
3. Visualize success
Imagine yourself at the end of 2020, accomplishing all of the goals you set out to achieve at the beginning of the year. What do you see? What do you feel? What do you hear? If you want to successfully stick to your New Year’s resolution, then visualize yourself being successful! Here are a few reasons why visualization works:
- Allows you to understand potential challenges and deal with them ahead of time
- Imprints trust and belief
- Imprints proper strategy and/or technique
- Builds confidence and motivation
- Results in subliminal neuromuscular patterns that are identical to the patterns used during actual movement – It reinforces the neuro pathways because the muscles fire in the same way, whether you are physically doing the task or visualizing the task (psychoneuromuscular theory)
Be sure to make the images as vivid and detailed as possible – the more realistic they are, the more effective they will be. To get started with visualization, you can listen to your favorite song, close your eyes, and imagine yourself going through the process of accomplishing your resolution.
4. Keep a growth mindset
A growth mindset is the belief that skills and abilities can be improved with hard work and dedication. A fixed mindset on the hand, is the belief that skills and abilities are innate; you either have them or you do not. If you set a worthwhile New Year’s resolution, then it will not be easy to achieve. You will most likely face challenges, obstacles, and setbacks along the way. And that is okay! Use your setbacks as feedback for ways to improve. You will also experience successes and victories. And that is great! But don’t let those small accomplishments allow you to become complacent. The key is to keep a growth mindset throughout the journey. A simple way to have a growth mindset is to consistently reflect on three questions: Well? Better? How? Ask yourself what you are doing well. Ask yourself what you can be doing better. And ask yourself how you can do that better.
5. Seek guidance
Get an expert to help you! If you want to improve your diet, speak to a dietitian. If you want to save more money, meet with a financial adviser. If you want to exercise more often, workout with a personal trainer. If you want to feel happier, get support from a counselor or a therapist. If you want to develop and improve your mental toughness, meet with a mental training & peak performance specialist. You do not have to do it alone, it is okay to ask for help!