We are the 8%: How to Succeed in your Resolutions Any Time of Year
I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions for 2016. In fact, I haven’t made a New Year’s resolution in years. I stopped buying into the “new year, new me” thing because though the idea of New Year’s resolutions is obviously well-intended, it’s not the best system for making big changes and improvements in your life. In fact, only about 8% of people actually achieve their New Year’s resolutions by the end of the year. Some of you might already be in that 92% having given up on whatever lifestyle change you resolved to make a month ago.
Because things like working out, quitting smoking, cutting back liquor consumption, getting organized, or adopting a more positive attitude are hard. If these things were easy, people wouldn’t wait until January 1st to attempt them. I can’t begin to tell you how many people I’ve heard resolve to make major life changes for the new year, only to see them having completely given up by February or March. I’m not judging. I’ve been totally guilty of this myself. A few years back, I resolved to stop procrastinating. Considering I’d been scrolling my Instagram feed before I wrote this paragraph, you can tell how well that resolution worked out. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have success. We just need to approach it a little differently. So if you’ve fallen off the wagon, keep reading.
1. Don't Fail to Plan
Whatever it is you’ve resolved to do this year, you need to have a plan. Good intentions don’t get much done. Planning and action do. I’ll give you an example. Being something of a gym rat, I’ve gotten to witness the interesting phenomenon many gym regulars refer to as the “Resolutioners.” Every January, the gym gets absolutely full of confused-looking people pumping away on the cardio machines or fiddling with the free weights. These people actually account for 12% of new gym memberships each year. But by mid-February, about 80% of them—and I’ve watched this happen— will quit showing up. The problem? A lot of them don’t know diddly squat about working out. Whatever your resolution, you need a plan. If you’re trying to lose weight, find a fitness program you’ll actually be interested in and research alternatives to your favourite fatty foods. If you want to save more money, set up a tax-free savings account that automatically withdraws from your checking account monthly and enforce a daily spending limit that you can realistically stick to. No matter your goal, you’ll have much better success if you don’t wing it.
2. Fall Down 7 Times, Get up 8
There’s a good chance you’re going to screw up. You’ll miss a gym session, have one too many drinks, buy those shoes you didn’t need, or lose your cool in an argument. And it’s going to suck, especially if you’d been doing well for a bit. But don’t beat yourself up. Chances are, you’re trying to break a bad habit you’ve had for years or learning to adopt a new and unfamiliar attitude, outlook or behaviour. So go ahead and forgive yourself for not being perfect. After all, the goal is improvement, not perfection, right? The key is to not let one screw up turn into two, or three. Because before you know it, you’ll be back to square one, and mad at yourself. You want to have more good days than bad ones, and that’s in your hands. If you get derailed, just start fresh. Failure is part of the process. Giving up isn’t.
3. Supplement Your Willpower
This is the missing ingredient in a lot of people’s resolutions. They make the decision to change, but aside from their own flimsy willpower, they’ve got nothing to keep them from slipping back in to the old routine. Having someone or something in place to hold you accountable to your plan is a huge help, especially on days when you just don’t feel like it. There’s no one-size-fits-all method for accountability so find a system that works for you. Whether it’s a supportive friend who will dish out pep talks when you need them, an online community like HabitForge, or just scheduled reminders on your phone or calendar, find someone or something that’s going to keep you on track.
If your New Year’s resolution has been a bust so far or you feel like quitting, don’t. Get back on track. Not tomorrow, not Monday, not next week, and definitely not next year. Do it right now. Commit right now to making whatever change it is you want. Don’t stand in the way of your own success and happiness. You set the goal because it would make your life better, didn’t you? So go and get it. Because you deserve the best.