How to Make (and Keep!) a New Year’s Resolution | VA Benefits Team

Ever wonder why the resolutions you make in January don’t stick around after March? You aren’t alone! Studies show that only 8% of people keep their New Year’s resolutions. Why? And how do people achieve their goals set at New Year’s? We’ve broken it down for you so you can identify your goal-breaker as well as give you some tips on how to make those resolutions stick.

There are three main reasons that New Year’s resolutions fail. The first goal-breaker is taking on too much (too big of a goal) and expecting it to happen too fast. Researchers have found that it takes 66 days to break a habit. That’s much higher than the previously published 21 days. It conversely means that it also takes 66 days to form a new habit. So, battle your goal-breaker by setting smaller, achievable goals to focus your energies on rather than spreading yourself too thin on lofty goals.

The second reason you fail to keep your resolution is you don’t have anyone supporting you. This could be because you simply didn’t tell anyone that you have new life goals. It could also be due to fear of accountability. You need some life-cheerleaders that root you on to victory. These cheerleaders also call you out when you are riding off the tracks. Their support isn’t tied to your achievement of your goals but instead their support is firmly tied to you and they want to see you succeed.

The last goal-breaker setting a goal that is too vague.  You can’t get to your destination if you don’t know where you are going.   A goal like “I want to try harder at work” or “I want to save more money this year” is too general a notion that does not give you something specific to work towards or a well-defined path to follow.  And if you can’t provide specific benchmarks, you can’t measure your progress.

Now, let’s steer this ship back on course with some tips on KEEPING your New Year’s resolutions.

Plan Ahead

To ensure success, plan ahead so you can have the resources available when you need them.  Then, you won’t have excuses for why you can’t follow through.  Here are a few things you can do to prepare:

  • Read up on it – Get books on the subject. Whether it’s taking up running or becoming a vegetarian, there are books to help you prepare for it.
  • Plan for success – Get everything you need so things will go smoothly. If you are taking up running, make sure you have the clothes, shoes, and playlists so that you are ready to get started.
Reward Yourself Along the Way

Small rewards are great encouragement to keep you going during the hardest first days.  After that, you can try to reward yourself once a week with a lunch with a friend, a nap, or whatever makes you tick.  Later, you can change the rewards to monthly and even pick an anniversary reward!

Write Your Goals Down on Paper

Writing establishes intention but action needs to be taken to achieve your resolution.  Have a written account of your goals is a constant reminder to take action.  Mark Murphy says Writing things down doesn’t just help you remember, it makes your mind more efficient by helping you focus on the truly important stuff. And your goals absolutely should qualify as truly important stuff.” 

Start When You’re Ready

When you launch your resolution on January 1st, you are making a change based on a calendar date.  What are the chances that you’re going to be ready for a life change at exactly the same time the calendar rolls over to a new year?  There’s no need to launch your resolution on January 1st or even in January.  Start working on your goal when you’re ready.  That’s not to say that you need to wait until you feel fully confident before starting (that may never happen).  Delaying your goal a few weeks or a few months is better than abandoning it altogether.

Identify Your Purpose

Knowing your “WHAT” (goal) is important but knowing your “WHY” can be just as important when it comes to following through on your intentions. Why do you want to lose weight in 2022? When you put the why to the what, you are truly focused on what matters. “I want to lose weight so that I can play with my children without getting tired and show them that hard work is worth it.”  Now, THAT’S a great goal.

Identifying goal-breakers and goal-makers are equally important pieces to achieving what you set out to accomplish, especially with regards to New Year’s resolutions. Commit to making this year the year that your resolution is going to stick!