Every year, millions of Americans make at least one New Year’s resolution. And, every year, around 80 percent of them surrender the fight within six weeks. There are a number of factors at work here, but two items have the greatest impact. First, few of us train our brains to adapt to change. Second is how we approach our resolutions. Specifically, we fail to set SMART goals around the resolution. In this post, we walk you through best practices to help you keep your New Year’s resolutions.
Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life
According to psychologists, stress is the main reason we abandon our resolutions. In this context, stress is the “emotional friction” our minds experience when we attempt change, such as feelings of frustration, anxiety, and, depression. These feelings are the main reason we fail in our attempts at change. In our desire to not feel that way, we abandon our quest to lose weight, save money, quit smoking, or whatever our resolution was. But, you can train your brain to power through that “emotional friction” to achieve your goals. The first five steps help you train your brain for success. Following all six steps will help you keep your New Year’s resolutions.
1. Start Small
Regularly meeting small challenges offers two benefits. First, you get that little endorphin hit your brain craves, which helps you power through when things get tough. You may even work harder to get that next hit. Second, it helps build the habit to keep enduring when you’re tempted to give up.
If your resolution is a cleaner, more organized home, an example of starting small might be immediately washing a dish when you finish using it. Want to eat healthier? Add a single serving of fruit and/or vegetables to each meal. Those types of small changes lead to big results.
2. Build Trust in Yourself
You live your life with integrity so that others always know they can trust what you say. The goal here is to do the same thing with yourself. As you meet those small challenges in step one, you learn that you’ll always do what you say you will. Accomplishing this means making self-promises that you know you can keep. In other words, if you’ve never gone to the gym, don’t promise yourself you’ll go five days a week. Instead, start with something more realistic. A walk during your lunch break. A weekly dance class. If your mind is made up about the gym, set a schedule you know you can maintain.
3. Challenge Yourself
Create small challenges for yourself throughout the day. No fun time until you finish your daily task list. No dessert until you exercise or eat your daily allowance of fruits and vegetables (five to seven servings, by the way).
The more small challenges you meet, the faster you build that self-trust. And, the better you get at powering through those feelings of wanting to throw in the towel.
4. Focus on the Good Stuff
Everyone’s life has its share of negative stuff. The goal is to focus on the positives in your life. One rule in our house is that, before you can complain about your day, you have to say three good things that happened. Sometimes, the bad can feel overwhelming. But, by consciously reminding ourselves of the good stuff, the bad tends to fade into the background. Once we implemented that rule, we found the kids often couldn’t remember the little annoyances that piled up to make it feel like a bad day. It helped the grown-ups, too.
Some people accomplish this with a gratitude journal, choosing to start and end their day by listing three things they’re grateful for. It’s a good technique to help train your brain to focus on the good stuff.
5. Develop Self-Awareness
So few people seem to truly know and understand themselves. Or, they make decisions based on who they want to be rather than who they are. Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses. Then, act accordingly. If you can’t resist ice cream, don’t keep a carton of it in your freezer and expect willpower to save you. When you’ve earned your treat, walk to the ice cream shop (a bit of exercise to help burn off those calories). Or, buy single-serving treats at the grocery store.
Are you trying to save money but love to shop? Then put yourself on a cash diet, leaving the credit cards at home. Want an organized home but focus too much on what you’re doing to put things away? Keep a clutter basket in the living room and fill it every night before bed. Then, put each item away. It’ll take about five minutes yet give you the satisfaction of one more goal met.
6. Set SMART Goals
Finally, make it easier to keep your New Year’s resolutions by framing them as SMART goals instead of the nebulous “This year I’m going to X.” SMART goals are:
SMART goals are very precise in describing what you want to achieve. Examples:
Save $1,000 by December 31 (instead of save money).
Weigh 150 pounds by December 31 (instead of lose weight).
Have a credit score of 740 (instead of improve credit rating).
Then, break your overarching goal into smaller goals. And, yes, they all need to be SMART goals. If your goal is to save $1,000, list all the ways you can “find” extra money in your budget. Exchange cable for Netflix. Break up with Starbucks. Order takeout once a month instead of once a week.
If you follow these steps, by this time next year, you’ll be one of the 20 percent whose New Year’s resolutions came true.
Can Medicare Help?
Medicare covers a variety of services to help you keep New Year’s resolutions, such as smoking cessation counseling. For more information about your Medicare coverage, call us toll-free at 855-350-8101. One of our licensed agents can help.