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Checking In On Your New Year's Resolutions

Written by Adrienne Wolter, Community Blogger | Feb 18, 2014 10:18 AM

Ah, the illustrious New Year's resolutions. On that magical night where anything is possible and the future is paved in gold, we make great plans for ourselves to improve our lives and well-being. We join gym memberships, throw our cigarettes away, focus on actually learning to cook healthy meals, cut sweets and junk food cold turkey, and even put a padlock on our wallets.

Let's face it, the first week is easy. We feel motivated and want to be a catalyst for change. We purge our old lifestyle and share with our friends and family our goals and aspirations. At the end of the first week, we feel good. However, breaking a habit is not as easy as 1, 2, 3. Unfortunately, for many of us, we often see ourselves regressing, because as the saying goes, "old habits die hard."

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Photo by David on Flickr

Losing weight and exercising more are some of the most common New Year's resolutions.

The Cold, Hard Facts

According to the University of Scranton's Journal of Clinical Psychology, only 8% of people that make New Year's resolutions are successful in achieving their goals for the duration of the year. Typically, trending statistics reveal that as time passes, the percent of people holding fast to their resolutions becomes marginally smaller. For example, as the study suggests, approximately 75% of resolutions are kept within the first week, yet when hitting the six month checkpoint, only 46% of resolutions remain intact.

Old Habits Die Hard

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Photo by Adrien Sifre

As mentioned earlier, one of the main reasons why resolutions tend to fizzle out is that we slip back into our bad habits. Since it takes about thirty days to make something a habit, it takes about twice as long to wean off.

Consider one of the top 5 common New Year's resolutions from the University of Scranton's findings of eating healthy and losing weight. It's easy to throw away junk food, but maybe you struggle making good choices dining out or saying, "one piece of chocolate is not going to do anything." Then, that one piece becomes five by the end of the week. We begin to make excuses.

Similarly, many of us make giant leaps to changing a dangerous habit to begin a new life. For example, if getting caught up in an addiction to alcohol has been one of your biggest demons, facing this and gaining control can be extremely daunting. Unfortunately, just a declaration of change is not enough. Breaking a habit like this is a hard road to travel, full of struggle and the threat of failure.

Shedding Some Light

While it's very disheartening to see these unfavorable statistics, there is still hope. Instead of becoming a pessimist, keep your resolutions in check by reviewing your goals one month out from declaring these changes. It will not be easy, but persevere and you will have a greater chance of success. Not sure where to start? Follow some of these simple, manageable tips to keep you on track.

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Photo by Corie Howell

1. Refine Your Goals

Ask yourself, do your goals seem a bit lofty? With the anticipation of the New Year, we tend to become ambitious and dream big. While there is nothing wrong with this, it's best to reevaluate your goals so that they are more realistic and achievable. For instance, if you want to be a happier person, don't just say, "I will be completely happy with everything I do." Wake up call: that's not realistic in the slightest. We are never going to be 100% happy.

However, taking baby steps is your best bet. Sure, you can strive for holistic happiness, but take things one step at a time. The 100 Happy Days project is a great way to start as it only requires you to upload one photo that makes you happy every day. This puts your resolution in perspective and allows you to see that even on a bad day, you can find happiness. Therefore, your new goal may be "find something that makes me happy in each day."

2. Make Your Goals Explicit

According to the statistics, the University of Scranton deems that "people who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don't explicitly make resolutions." Thus, it is vital to not just provide lip service. Instead, make your goals loud and proud. Write them down and keep them visual. A creative way to display your goals is to create a vision board; a collage of pictures displayed to motivate and constantly visit. Go ahead, place it next to your mirror and see results!

3. Develop A Plan of Action

Keep a journal, Word Document, note on your phone or sticky notes everywhere writing a step by step plan of action. Include a start time and projected end date to achieve your manageable goals. Maintain a strong, positive attitude by motivating yourselves with incentives or small rewards along the way to keep you on track. One of the best ways to keep this plan in place is to create your action plan in synch with a calendar. That way, you can see progress.

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Photo by Laura Taylor

It can be hard to resist tasty treats at first, but after practicing moderation, it gets a lot easier to say "no" or "maybe next time."

4. If You Don't Succeed, Try, Try Again

Failure is synonymous with success. Be prepared for set-backs and a bit of regression. For example, if you are trying to quit smoking and you've weaned off of them, but had a really tough day and slip up, don't call it failure. You had a set-back. Take it for what it is, gather yourself and chant your motivational mantra, "I can do this." Do not put your hands up and say, "forget it. I'm done." Martin Luther King Jr. didn't say that when things got tough. He had a dream and he stuck it out through thick and thin.

5. Don't Do It Alone

Enlist a trustworthy and encouraging friend or family member to help you on your road to success. If you know a motivational friend that knows their way in and out of a gym, seek their advice and help in showing you the way to success. If they don't have time to walk you through the process, plan to have check-ins for a couple minutes to track your progress. Or, maybe you have someone with the same resolution...do it together. Accountability is everything and it helps to know you're not alone.

You CAN Do It

Stay positive during these trying months and change the statistics. At the end of the day, remember that you are making changes to improve your life, one step at a time. You are doing this for you and not anyone else. With these thoughts in mind, anything is possible.

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