Perhaps you made a resolution last January to exercise every day. It’s just as likely that you stopped doing daily workouts somewhere in early February. Turns out, it’s really tough to stick with a New Year’s resolution, and the research bears this out. In a recent study conducted by the University of Scranton, experts revealed that fewer than half of those who make New Year’s resolutions have kept them six months later.
So why do we still try setting goals for the new year? “I think people like a marker during the year,” says Karen Elizaga, an executive coach in New York City. “And January is a big catalyst if you want to make changes.”
Here are five tips for following through with your resolutions.
1. Connect to the ‘Big Why’
Before saying “I want to lose 10 pounds this year,” focus on the deeper reason for your goal — or what certified health coach Chanelle White calls the “Big Why.” “Connect to your emotions and identify your biggest motivating factor,” suggests White, who works in West Cape May, N.J. “So, instead of wanting to lose 10 pounds to fit into a pair of jeans, the ‘Big Why’ might be that you want to feel confident and reignite intimacy with your spouse or partner. By connecting your intention to something meaningful, you’re more likely to stick with it.”
2. Write it Down
Once you know why you want to make these resolutions, write down your plan of action. “By writing it down, you’ll see it regularly and can reflect upon it,” says Elizaga. Consider jotting down your resolution in a two-column grid. The first column should be your goal (“Spend more time with my best friend”); the second should be a list of ways to make it happen (“See a movie once a month; plan a girlfriend getaway”). Once you’ve met your goals, be sure to check them off the list.
3. Start Small (Ridiculously Small)
Instead of going global with your resolutions, pare them down, suggests Maria Brilaki, a certified personal trainer in San Francisco. “Most people start with a lofty goal like exercising five times a week or going to yoga three times a week,” she says. “Instead of starting big right away, start small. Then connect this small activity to something specific in your daily routine.” For example, you could do two pushups after getting out of bed, three squats while brewing your morning coffee and go up and down the stairs five times after you send your kids off to school.
“The beauty of starting small is that you’re likelier to keep adding more and more exercise, not because someone is pressuring you, but because you feel like doing more,” says Brilaki. “Remember: The exact activity you do isn’t as important as actually getting started. Before long, you’ll look forward to it.”
4. Make Sure Your Resolution Has Legs
Before kicking off your goal, ask yourself whether your resolution is something you can do in the short-term and over the long haul. “Create a goal with a specific action that can be done consistently,” suggests Jenny Westerkamp, a registered dietitian-nutritionist at CJK Foods, a Chicago-based prepared healthy meal delivery service. “For example, doing a juice cleanse for three days is short-term. A better goal would be to have a fresh-pressed juice every morning, which can be done every day, is sustainable, and has no end date.”
5. Be Your Best Cheerleader
Sounds elementary, but for any resolution to stick, you have to develop your own internal strength. “I use this strategy with my executives,” Elizaga says. “I urge them to be their own best support system. And, by finding love for yourself, you’ll be more productive, happier within yourself and more apt to keep your resolutions.”