According to a study by the University of Scranton, 45% of Americans usually make New Year’s resolutions, but only 8% of people are successful in achieving them. But why? We tend to be a little too optimistic on January 1st and give up on our lofty resolutions in a month or so. Then we look back on the past year and count our failures instead of recognizing our achievements. This year, instead of setting resolutions you’ll give up on, try these tips for creating goals that you could actually achieve.
1. Don’t make too many
The longer your list of resolutions, the less likely you are to complete them all. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself with resolutions within the first month of the new year. A few resolutions are probably best. And hey, you can always add more later in the year if you find yourself completing them. Self-improvement can last all year, you don’t have to set all your goals on December 31st!
2. Be specific
“Cook two meals a week” is much more concrete than “cook more often.” The former gives you a specific goal to work towards, and the latter ends with you trying to tell yourself boiling ramen counts as cooking and that you definitely eat it more often than you did last year. If you’re specific with your New Year’s resolutions, you have a tangible goal to work towards and can you can make a plan to help with your success. You can plan out the two meals you’re going to cook a week before you go to the grocery store, instead of wandering the produce section trying to decide if kale is really edible before giving up and buying a frozen meal. Make your resolution “go to the gym twice a week” instead of “get fit,” because after a month of holiday parties, “getting fit” will just seem like too large a task. A vague goal will probably be given up on by March.
3. Write them down
It’s easier to hold yourself to a resolution if it’s written down and not just drunkenly shouted to your friends after the ball drops. If you’re worried you might lose your list, make a note on your smart phone or save it as a word doc on your computer! Maybe set yourself digital reminders to go to the gym, or to call your mother every Sunday. And if you’re really determined, tell a friend or two your New Year’s resolutions so they can help you work towards them. Good friends will encourage you. Plus, you may have the same resolutions, and then you’ve found a new gym buddy.
4. Be realistic
“Travel the world” may sound like a good resolution when it’s January 1st and the year is full of possibilities, but do you really have the money to travel? Setting unrealistic goals is a surefire way to get discouraged and give up on all of your resolutions before you even really get started. You know yourself, is 2015 really the year you’re going to suddenly get organized, when for the past decade of your life you’ve had a problem with seeing your bedroom floor? Make resolutions that you actually have a chance at achieving, like “Visit a new city” or “Keep my desk organized.”
5. Examine why you’re making them
Why do you want to lose that five pounds? Is it because you want to be more physically fit and have more energy? Or is it because you want your cute coworker to ask you out? Self-improvement should be for yourself, not for anyone else. If the only reason “Find a new hobby” is on your list is because you’re tired of friends bugging you about your Netflix habits, maybe you should change that resolution to “Find more accepting friends.” This advice applies year round. Self-improvement is for yourself, so it’s your opinion that matters most here!
Try making the most of 2015, but don’t beat yourself up about not accomplishing much in 2014. Try to look back at the little accomplishments—so last year you didn’t lose five pounds, but maybe you did go the gym five more times than you did in 2013. I don’t know about you, but I’m my own worst critic, so I have to make a conscious effort to see how I’ve grown each year, but this effort is worth it. New Year’s resolutions should be fun ways to improve yourself, don’t stress out about them!