Around this time of year, we often make resolutions for self-improvement. Sadly, although more than 40 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, only about 8 percent follow through, according to a study by the University of Scranton.
Making resolutions is good, but it’s just the first step. You still need to form a game plan if you want to succeed. Habits and behaviors like trying to lose weight, quit smoking, exercise and reduce alcohol consumption are very difficult to change, and without a carefully thought-out plan on how you hope to accomplish these changes into your lifestyle, it can lead to failure. In other words, what you need to accomplish such tasks is a blueprint: a map to show how to reach these goals. Here are some essential tools you’ll need for your blueprint:
1. Have motivation
Psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan developed a theory of motivation that describes people as being driven by a need to grow and feel fulfilled. Deci and Ryan’s self-determination theory shows that motivation is best with intrinsic, not extrinsic motivation (such as money and acclaim).
2. Get support
Studies show that social support is critical, especially after the first few weeks when your motivation lags. Some people find support through an online support group (like AA if you plan to quit drinking). Others do better through a face-to-face contact. Ask yourself out what kind of support will help you through tough times.
3. Establish mini goals
It’s more sensible to set “small, attainable goals throughout the year, rather than a singular, overwhelming goal,” said psychologist Lynn Bufka.
Remember, it is not the extent of the change that matters, but rather the act of recognizing that lifestyle change is important and working toward it, one step at a time.
4. Eliminate excessive options
According to the Harvard Business Review, if you want to maintain long term discipline, it’s best to make fewer decisions. So the more open your goals are, the more choices, the harder it is to enforce.
5. Make it tangible
Be specific. Don’t say you’re going to get more exercise 2015; instead, set a clear goal, such as attending a weekly zumba class or going on a 5 mile run every Tuesday or Saturday.
“We say if you can’t measure it, it’s not a very good resolution because vague goals beget vague resolutions,” said John Norcross of the University of Scranton.
Part of having a smart goal includes anticipating situations in which you’re likely to slip up. For example, if your goal is eating healthy, anticipate what to do in the event that you’re stressed, eating at a restaurant, or traveling. In other words, plan ahead. Again, if your goal is to eat healthy, you can plan by packing a meal or carry healthy snacks with you when you’re traveling on the plane so you don’t just grab anything because you are starving.
6. Build accountability
Many recommend solidifying your goals by making to-do lists, using “vision boards” or keeping journals.
Nowadays, it’s easy to to share your goals with your friends and family especially in the social media era. For instance, a woman named Anna Newell Jones ran more than $23,600 into debt, so she launched a blog called “And Then We Saved” to publicize her journey to pay off her debt. In less than a year and a half, she had the debt paid off.
Rivka told Forbes that sharing the resolutions was a good way to hold herself accountable.
In our increasingly [public] lives, social media can be used as a motivator.
“The Little Engine That Could” was on to something with the “I think I can” mentality. As cliche as it sounds, believing that you can really is the key to success. Oftentimes, people who can’t to keep their resolutions often do so because of their own lack of willpower. Forbes reported that one study led by a Stanford University psychologist showed that people did better or worse on tests depending on their belief in their willpower. Forbes also reported that you have as much willpower as you think you have, so self-improvement essentially is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
My 2015 Resolutions
Based on what I’ve learned, I’ve provided my own list of goals for the New Year:
- Write a blog post at least once every month.
- Take a trip with my family to Utah in spring or summer break ( to Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, Canyonlands National Park, or Park City).
- Learn to cook 10 new recipes.
- Eat healthier and eat more home-cooked meals.
- Exercise at least 3 times a week at the gym or by going on a run.
Best wishes for a happy, healthy new year! May 2015 be a joyful year for all around the world where all of us get one step closer to be the people we want to be.