It's that time of year again when most people start thinking about all the changes they want to make in their lives. Whether it's a resolve to lose weight or a desire to save money, many individuals are hoping that 2016 will be the year that their New Year's resolution sticks.
But the sad reality is, most resolutions don't last. According to research by the University of Scranton, 25% of people can't even make their resolution last a week. And sadly, only 8% of people are successful at making their New Year's resolutions stand the test of time.
If you're hoping that 2016 will be the year you actually keep your New Year's resolution, these strategies can help create lasting change:
1. Create a Goal, Not a Resolution
Declaring that you want to become healthier or that you want to find a new job is a resolution. Saying you're going to work out at the gym three times per week or that you're going to apply to five jobs per month turns those resolutions into goals. Create a measurable goal-such as losing 30 pounds-rather than abstract resolution-like getting in shape.
2. Don't Start Your Goal on January 1st
Too often, people establish a last minute resolution because they're feeling pressured to do so by the date on calendar, not because they're actually committed to creating positive change. Establishing a resolution before you're ready only sets you up for failure.
Change is hard and you have to be ready to do the work. Be willing to delay your new goals until you're prepared to take action. Instead of forcing yourself to commit to a goal in January, create a successful plan for change in a few weeks-or even a few months-down the road.
3. Establish Short-Term Objectives
While you're overall goal may be to lose 100 pounds, attainable objectives will help you stay on track. Short-term objectives, like losing two pounds this week or five pounds this month, are vital to staying motivated for the long-haul.
Write down the concrete action steps you're going to take to meet your goals, such as trading 2 soft drinks a day for water and walking for 30 minutes 3 times per week. Stay flexible and be open to altering your action steps as needed.
4. Establish a Way to Track Your Progress
It's impossible to gauge how well you're doing unless you track your progress. A wall calendar with check marks that denote each time you went to the gym or a financial app that tracks your spending can help you monitor your behavior. An accountability partner, such as a friend who exercises with you or a spouse who works with you on the budget, can also help you stay on track.
5. Plan Ahead for Times When You Lack Motivation
There will be days when you're going to lack motivation and times when you feel like giving up. Plan ahead for those days by writing a list of all the reasons why you should stick to your goal, despite how you feel. Reading a list of the top 10 reasons you should go to the gym today will boost your motivation when your inner critic tells you to give up.
You can also plan ahead for decreased motivation by modifying your environment. Leave your gym shoes next to the bed if you tend to use the 'I can't find my sneakers' excuse to avoid running in the morning. Or, freeze your credit card in a block of ice if you know you'll be tempted to make an impulse purchase. Take whatever steps you can to resist temptation during a future moment of weakness.
When you do make a mistake-and it will happen-cut yourself some slack. Declaring 2016 a failure because you didn't stick to your resolution faithfully will give you an excuse to put your goals off for another year. Practice bouncing back from failure and decide that a misstep or two won't hold you back this year.