Before the New Year even starts, many people have already been planning their New Year's resolutions for weeks. Unfortunately, a lot of people end up making the same New Year's resolutions year after year because they haven't been able to stick with it in previous years. Common resolutions include exercise more, lose weight, get organized, save more money etc. Research shows that almost half of Americans make New Year's resolutions and only 8% achieve them.
Saying you want to change something and actually putting in the effort to make that change are two different things. Change is hard, especially when you try to make multiple big chances at once. Forbes spoke to behavioral psychologist, Dr. Paul Marciano, who specializes in the area of behavior modification and motivation. Here are seven pieces of advice Dr. Marciano gave to help us reach our goals in the New Year.
1- Define your goals.
Many Americans rang in the New Year and told themselves that they're finally going to be healthier. "Being healthier" can refer to a variety of things. Is the person trying to lose weight, go to the gym more often, eat less processed foods, cook with organic ingredients, or run a 5K? Dr. Marciano recommends being real with yourself and having goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (SMART). He said that the first step to changing your behavior is to clearly define what your goal is.
2- Measure and keep track of your progress.
One fundamental principle of psychology is "if you can measure it, you can change it". It's important to track your progress so that you're aware of the changes you're making. You'll be able to see how much you've changed since you started and the results will provide you with motivation to keep you going. You will also be able to identify patterns and plateaus, which you can use to adjust your efforts.
3- Be patient and give it time.
Everyone's journey is different. If you have a friend who is also trying to lose weight and they lost twice what you have lost in a month, understand that progress is never linear. Some may see a lot of progress when they first start and then hit a wall down the road. Others may have to work twice as hard at the beginning but then achieve faster progress later on. You can't compare your progress to others. Focus on yourself and your personal progress. Set goals that are realistic and attainable.
4- Share your goals with your loved ones.
For some, this may be easier than others. It's not always easy confessing to others something personal you want to change about yourself. Dr. Marciano says that social support is critical. Although you may be embarrassed putting yourself out there, it could be very beneficial in the long run. The support from family and friends could be what helps you achieve your resolutions.
5- Put it on your calendar.
Most people are very busy and have limited spare time. How you choose to spend your time is up to you, whether it be binge-watching your favorite series with an extra large pizza or going to a Pilates class. We say "I don't have time to workout" but in fact we usually do, we just choose to do something else. Make your goals a priority. If your resolution is to hit the gym more, actually jot it down in your calendar. If you want to stay more organized, set aside time to do so. Dr. Marciano said to think of these time blocks as doctor appointments. You wouldn't schedule something over it and it has to get done.
6- Stop thinking that it is "all or nothing".
I know that I am guilty of this one. It's easy to say "I had pizza for lunch so there's no point in going to the gym today" or "I ate a really unhealthy meal last night for dinner; I might as well start over next week." The problem is, while you keep stalling and procrastinating, you could be making progress. Even if you're short on time and don't have time for a full hour workout, use the time you do have and fit in a quick 20-minute workout. All of these small choices will add up to big results. If your goal is to put 10% of your paycheck into a savings account and one month you find that you're spending more than usual, still put away what you can, even if you can only put away 5%. Dr. Marciano said something is always better than nothing.
7- Get back up.
Sooner or later, you may struggle and want to give up. It's crucial that you don't let relapses completely throw you off track. If you do mess up, acknowledge it, and move on. Dr. Marciano said that achieving our goals isn't about willpower. He said to focus on developing the right skills and strategies that, with patience, will lead to success.
By following these seven tips you will be setting yourself up for success. Stay motivated, optimistic, and continue to work hard and you will see the results you want.