Did you know that 80% of New Year’s resolutions will fail by February? That’s a pretty depressing thought to start a new goal, but it doesn’t have to be so grim. In fact, a little bit of knowledge about the psychology behind our habits can go a long way towards making sure that your resolutions are more than passing dreams for 2019!
Tip 1: Make Good Resolutions from the Beginning
The best thing that you can do is make good resolutions from the very start. Have you already made your resolutions? That’s okay! You can adjust them if they don’t fit the definition of a good goal.
What do you want your goal to look like? You want it to be S.M.A.R.T. This is an acronym that productivity experts use to make goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. If you know you want to focus on fitness in 2019, you shouldn’t make your goal “work out more.” That’s not specific or measurable or time-bound. You’d want to say something like, “run three days a week starting January 14th” or “hit 10,000 steps a day five days a week all year long.”
The hardest part about making a S.M.A.R.T. goal is picking something achievable. There’s something magical about January that makes us feel like we can do anything, and we often set our goals with that hypothetical person in mind, but remember, it’s you who has to do this work. The same you who has to make dinner and chase kids and work long hours and do laundry and wash dishes and grocery shop. Be kind to future you and set a goal you actually stand a chance at reaching!
Tip 2: Focus on Your Habits
Experts in productivity and changing your behavior agree that it’s the little things that count. Research has shown that up to 40% of our total daily activities are habits that we perform the same way every day. Our brains are really, really good at doing things once they’ve become habit. We often do them without even thinking about it at all. Your morning routine probably has some of these habits. If you make the same commute every day, you’ve probably found yourself making the turns automatically. You probably have some habits you’d rather not keep every day, too. Maybe you start scrolling Facebook as soon as your alarm goes off in the morning or toss your mail in a big pile on the kitchen counter as soon as you grab it out of the mailbox.
Whether it’s a behavior you want to start doing or one you want to stop doing, understanding the psychological pull of habits is really important. It’s much easier to change our habits if we stack them with existing habits that our brain has already established. Find the things that you already do with ease and connect your new habit to the old one.
One of my New Year’s resolutions is to drink more water, so I’m sticking a bottle of water next to my alarm clock. When the alarm goes off, I’m going to drink first thing in the morning until it becomes just as natural as sitting up to turn off my alarm.
Tip 3: Focus on Each Day Individually
Is it Sunday night and you’re only one day into your three-day-a-week workout goal? Well, you failed. So you obviously ought to give up on the whole thing.
Do you ever find yourself thinking like that? I do. But it’s ridiculous. Of course not reaching a goal in its entirety isn’t a reason to give up on making the progress that we can make, but when we frame resolutions as some kind of all-or-nothing game, we can fall into this thinking trap. If you miss a step (and you’re going to miss a step), then just focus on getting back on track as soon as possible. If you’ve set an achievable goal that starts with changing individual habits, it won’t feel overwhelming to try again tomorrow.
What goals have you set for 2019, and how do you plan to make sure you stick with them?