How to make and keep your New Year’s resolutions

It’s 2021 and most of us are about to resolve to be better. We want to lose weight, get fit, quit smoking, find a job or get over a phobia. You know the drill. We all dust off our running shoes, join online fitness classes, write lists and tell ourselves that this is going to be the year! Really it is.

But come March-the majority of us will give up and settle back into old habits. And if you quit-well hey — you are in good company. US News and World Report-states that 80% of us will fail by mid-February. We will tell ourselves that this is just not our time. We have COVID and the cold of winter to deal with, so it’s not really our fault. Honestly-who can blame us for failing when we have all this crap on our plates.

Undoubtedly, change is hard. We know this. Yet-we go ahead and make our resolutions to do just that. So why do so many of us fail before we get ahead? And what can we do to make this year different.

Set Realistic Goals and Adjust Them over Time

You may want to sum up your resolutions in a word or a series of sentences. It really doesn’t matter. What matters is that they are realistic. The biggest mistake people make is setting goals and resolutions that are too hard or take too long to achieve.

Want to lose 20 lbs? Whatever you do-don’t start with this number. Start with something much smaller and build. It might be cutting out dessert after dinner 3 days a week and going for a walk in the evenings. Add to this once you have achieved this goal. Chunking out goals helps because not only is the change more manageable-it’s more attainable. And we all feel good when we attain our goals. It’s what keeps us moving in the right direction.

Make a List of All Your Triggers and Blockers

Trying to quit smoking? Write down all the times you feel like having a cigarette. Maybe it’s after a meal or when you are drinking. Maybe it’s when you are out with friends. Knowing your triggers helps you plan for these times so you can either avoid them or find a good alternative.

It’s also equally important to be aware of your blockers. These are the things that prevent you from doing whatever it is you have resolved to do. So maybe you’re worried that you will gain weight if you quit cigarettes. If this is the case-be sure to address this head on. You either need to make peace with the fact that you are going to gain weight or add a resolution to your roster that ensures you don’t eat your way to a smoke-free life.

Make it as Hard as Possible to Stick with the Status Quo

What do I mean by this? Well, literally it’s too easy to quit. In fact-oftentimes we don’t fully commit to the change we want to make unless we really, really need to. I should know. I’ve lived this first-hand. Following a series of concussions — I found myself first unable and then afraid to look at manmade lights. Not exactly easy in this day and age. And so, I had to spend the last year re-training my brain to be okay with light. It was hard. But I was at rock bottom and oftentimes this is what it takes to find the commitment you need to change-no matter how long it takes.

Now I’m not saying you need to be at rock bottom when you come up with this year’s resolutions. It helps-it definitely does. But what’s important here is that you make it harder for yourself to want to live with the status quo. Taking your resolutions and writing down all the things you can’t do today but want to-is a good place to start. It’s a reminder of why we need to change and what we are missing out on by not moving forward.

On the flipside, creating a picture board of what life will look like when we succeed is a great way to motivate yourself. These success boards can have cut-outs of words and photos of people doing what you aspire to do. Think of this as your own personal Pinterest board that you pin up in your room so that every time you wake up-you see it. My board had pictures of Christmas lights, well-lit restaurants, cafes and families watching movies. Hopefully you get the idea.

Tell as Many People as You Can

If we make resolutions and don’t tell anyone — then no one will know if we fail, right? Yup. And that is precisely why we need to tell as many people as we can. One-so they don’t tempt us with the things we are trying to give up or change. And two so they can hold us accountable. Make sure your friends ask you how you are doing with your resolutions and heap praise on you when you achieve your goals.

If you want to take it one step further — find a friend to partner up with on your goals. But make sure it is someone as committed as you are. Set up regular times to connect so you can give each other an update on your progress. Hold them accountable and make sure they do the same. Think of this as your own personal support system.

Don’t Expect Success to be Linear

I don’t care what anyone tells you — reaching your goals is never a linear process. There will be days that you can’t get out of bed for that run. There will be desserts that are too good to pass up. There will be times you feel like despite all that you do — that your weight is going up and not down. And that’s okay. What’s more important is the trend line over the long haul.

I saw days where I felt too awful to look at light. Or others where I felt like I was taking a step back into darkness. We all have those days. We just need to recognize that one day does not make or break us.

Recognize Progress Regularly and Reward Yourself

When my kids were younger-I often found myself bribing them with ice cream as a reward for good behavior. Or screen time. Yes-I was that kind of mother. But honestly-this always worked. If there was a reward at the end of an ask — my kids stood up and listened.

Adults are no different. Rewards motivate us. So- it’s important-as you meet each milestone-to reward yourself. Rewards can be small but be sure to choose something meaningful that you can truly get excited about. And when you finally get to your end goal — pull out all the stops. Because you deserve it.

In the End

We all make New Year’s resolutions with the best of intentions. It’s a long-lived tradition. But make this year a little different. Start small and build. Slow and steady wins the race. And with a little luck and a whole lot of hard work and determination — you can and will get there.

Courtney Burry is a mother, marketer, traveler and writer. She was born in New York but grew up in Canada, Japan and the Philippines. She now resides in the Bay Area in California with her husband, two kids and their giant bernadoodle Toffee. While she has suffered her fair share of health setbacks-she doesn’t let this define her. When she is not writing or working, she can be found hiking, watching movies and playing chess. She rarely wins but she has fun trying.



Image courtesy of YURI MANEI.