Let me guess, you haven’t quite lost the 30 pounds you wanted to, or filled out your new 2016 agenda? Yeah, me neither. According to a study done by the University of Scranton, 49% of people who make New Year’s resolutions have infrequent success. Yikes. Joseph Strand, M.D., instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, adds that the make-up of our brain doesn’t help either. Dr. Strand points out the oldest and less evolved part of our brain keeps rewarding us with dopamine for eating chocolate cake instead of for being productive (more on that here). Shoot, where’s dopamine when I finally clean out my car or transfer $50 to my savings account?
New Year’s resolutions require quite a bit of self-motivation to be successful. Here are four simple steps to revamping, maintaining, and benefitting from your resolutions this year.
- Do you need resolutions?
Within the top 10 New Year’s resolutions in 2015, the majority were the usual lose weight, stay fit, save money, or get organized. Instead of just telling yourself that this year will be different, take time to evaluate your performance from past years and truthfully determine if those are the goals you can and genuinely want to accomplish. Ask yourself, are my usual resolutions going to improve aspects about myself that I want to improve or are they going to satisfy aspects other people feel need improvement? If you had a stellar previous year, who says you have to have resolutions? Maybe this year is about appreciating how far you have come and learning to celebrate yourself.
- Be S.M.A.R.T.
Whether or not your resolutions require physical activity or are purely internal, they can’t get done if you don’t schedule them into your life. A quick and easy way to set realistic goals is to follow the SMART model. Are your goals specific in that you have a clear objective? Can you measure the success of the goal such as tracking how many pounds you’ve lost, or counting the extra hours you spent with your family? How attainable are your goals – because as much as I know you want to fall in love this year, some things are out of your control. Make your goals realistic in that you don’t just have the motivation to accomplish the goal, but you also have the tools to accomplish said task. Lastly, please tie those goals to time. Set life checkpoints where you can evaluate and adjust course as you journey on through 2016.
- Phone a friend.
As DJ EZ would say, “It takes two to make a thing go right.” A loved one can keep you on track, check your progress, and even accompany you as you go. Often, resolutions aren’t easy, and having someone on your side who can remind you of your original intent can come in handy.
- Know when to give up.
Realistically, the journey is what changes you, not necessarily the destination. As you work at your resolutions throughout the year, don’t be afraid to admit defeat if it means prioritizing your goals. “New” years don’t just begin and end on January 1st. Anniversaries come and go with birthdays, romantic relationships, school years, births, deaths, etc. If you wake up every morning putting your best foot forward, you’re already succeeding.
As Megan Bowling, Associate Director of Marketing at Education at Work, likes to say, “The world is our classroom.” So my final piece of advice is to think of life as an extremely prolonged lesson. Good luck!