The year is a quarter over—have you kept your New Year’s resolution?
Nearly 2,100 New Balance fans shared their resolutions with us in January as part of a contest to win a pair of NB Minimus or 890s. If, like more than a quarter of contest participants, you resolved to lose weight, is the scale still going down? Or if, like more than 170 entrants, you vowed to run a half or full marathon, are you tackling ever-increasing distances?
But there’s good news! Research has also revealed that just making a resolution at all puts you way ahead of the curve. In two studies at the University of Scranton, 40 to 46 percent of New Year’s resolvers were successful at the six-month mark. When you compare that to the zero to four percent of non-resolvers who went on to make positive changes, it’s pretty impressive.
Think about where your goals stand today. If the resolutions you made in January haven’t quite rooted, or even if you didn’t make one at all, take a look at the following questions and see if you can figure out what adjustments might help you achieve the changes you’re looking for. Now is the perfect time to do a quick assessment and make some course corrections to get yourself on track.
Do you feel overwhelmed?
Many resolutions fail because they’re too ambitious, psychologists say. Maybe you’re tackling too many things at once. Did you vow, for instance, to lose 25 pounds, run a half marathon and pay off all your debt? Narrowing your list to just one of those things will lessen your chances of getting overwhelmed and throwing the whole lot out the window. Try assigning yourself a single goal for the next couple months and reassess the rest of your list once you’ve met it.
Next, make sure your goal is something you can actually achieve. Lose 10 pounds by the weekend? Not healthy. Train like Jackie Joyner-Kersee? Unlikely—after all, she was a professional. Never eat chocolate again? That’s crazy talk! Walk for 20 minutes three times a week? You can do that!
And the more specific you are, the better your chances for success. We loved contest participant Alex H.’s resolution to “start running away from fast food” (like more than 100 others who wanted to eat healthier), and Suzanne G.’s vow to “get my butt back.” But accomplishing those fabulous goals will require doing more specific things—like making the time to pack a lunch daily or doing 200 squats a week. A study (pdf) in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Compass suggests that it’s also helpful to be specific about when you’re going to do these things. For instance, exercise on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays right after work. Or reorganize one messy closet shelf every Sunday.
Are you finding it hard to get motivated?
The same study in Personality and Social Psychology Compass points out that if you’re someone who loves to sleep late, resolving to get up early to exercise will leave you frustrated. Similarly, if you live and die for Jon Hamm, you shouldn’t resolve to go to Weight Watchers meetings when Mad Men is on. In both of these cases, your motivation to sleep or drool at the TV may be higher than your motivation to stick to the resolution. Contest participants Mary B. (“walk to the grocery store for one or two items”), Eva A. (“take the stairs at work”) and Tee T. (“add on 15 minutes to my workouts”) have the right idea: since they’re altering activities they’d already be doing, they’ll be more likely to stay motivated.
Another great motivator? Peer pressure! The more people who are aware of your goals, the more accountability you’ll feel. A Quirkology study of 3,000 people found that this is especially true of women, who were much more likely to stick to their resolutions when they told their friends and family members about them. Also, working out with a friend has been shown to vastly increase the chances that you’ll do it. The same goes for almost any resolution. If you haven’t been motivated to cook at home by yourself, start a dinner group and hit the farmers market with your friends, then make a social event out of preparing healthy dishes from those fresh ingredients.
by Gretchen Rubin
Are you all about instant gratification?
If, like most of us, you like to see results immediately, you might be more successful if you break your resolution into steps and give yourself rewards along the way. Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire in England, led a 700-person study about keeping New Year’s resolutions. A common factor among those who succeeded? They broke down their goals into smaller segments. If your goal—like dozens of the NB fans who submitted their resolutions—is to lose 20 (or 30, or 50) pounds this year, you might instead aim to lose eight pounds in two months. And when you reach that goal? Treat yourself to a new pair of jeans as a reward and incentive to keep going.
Another way to see your progress is to literally put it somewhere where you can see it. In her book The Happiness Project, author Gretchen Rubin says she’s never been more successful at sticking to resolutions than when she measured her progress on a chart. She looked at it every day and put either a check mark (if she kept to her resolution) or an X (if she ignored her resolution).
Do you get frustrated when you experience a setback?
Don’t give up—even if the Xes on your chart are starting to outnumber the checks. The Quirkology study mentioned above found that women are more likely than men to give up if they slip and revert to old habits. However, the study also found that when women are encouraged to view lapses as merely temporary setbacks and to persist, they are 10% more likely to succeed.
As Henry Ford said, “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.”
Or, as NB contest participant Kelly P. said, “Stop making excuses and RUN, RUN, RUN!”
Have you kept your New Year’s resolution? We’d love to know your secrets: how do you keep motivated?