With the New Year upon us, it’s time to take stock and set goals for 2015. rbb is joining the resolution wave with our 2015 New Year’s Breakout Resolution Project. Post your New Year’s resolution with the hashtag #BreakoutResolution and rbb will make a donation to City Year for every post we receive.
We all know that following through on resolutions can be challenging – 33 percent of resolutions will be abandoned by the end of January, and as many as 80 percent will be given up on eventually.
Here are a few ways to make sure your 2015 resolutions stick.
1. Choose your New Year’s Resolution with care
Many goal-setting experts recommend starting small and making sure your goals are attainable.
But what will really make a difference, according to Stanford psychologist Kelly McGonigal and author of “The Willpower Instinct,” is to choose a goal or resolution that you really want, not a goal that someone else desires for you, or a goal that you think you should want.
Don’t be afraid to think big, but take the time to examine the motivations behind your resolution. Why do you want to lose weight? The answer may have more to do with outside influences rather than internal desires.
Choose a positive goal that truly comes from within and contributes to something important in your life.
2. Make a Plan
Sadly, resolutions are not like wishes. They won’t come true on their own. You have to figure out how to make them happen. Creating clear, measureable goals and writing them down is the key to success.
To get started, post your goal with the hashtag #BreakoutResolution. Then think through each step required and put it down on paper. For example, if you’re planning to eat better in 2015, you’ll need to look up recipes, go grocery shopping and make time to cook. If you want to get your finances in order, you might start by researching money apps or find a consultant.
Whatever your goal, break it down into manageable steps.
3. Start Today
While it’s tempting to start your transformation after the New Year, you’ll have much better results if you get going today or even right this moment. Instead of waiting to hit the gym until the first Monday of the year, go for a walk today.
According to Dr. McGonigal, most people have more willpower at the beginning of the day. Plan to accomplish challenging tasks first – exercise, budgeting, writing – and work to reduce temptation in the evenings – snacking, smoking or drinking – when willpower naturally weakens.
Getting started now also breaks through the inertia of procrastination, gives you momentum and builds confidence.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking things will be different in the future. Everyone thinks they will have more willpower, energy, time and motivation tomorrow.
4. Think Negative
Not to be a Debbie Downer, but you’re going to run into obstacles. Dr. Neil Fiore, author of “The Now Habit,” advises that you plan for setbacks by mentally rehearsing how you will work through problems or temptations that are sure to come up.
What will you do when faced with the next office birthday cake? What is your backup plan if a work deadline keeps you from getting to the gym?
5. Breathe Deep
Stress and willpower are incompatible. When you’re under stress, your “fight-or-flight” response kicks in, zapping energy from more important decision-making processes.
Fortunately, there are extremely simple ways to manage stress. Going for a five-minute walk outside can reduce your stress levels, boost your mood and help you replenish your willpower reserves.
Breathing and meditation are effective at managing stress. I use Dr. Fiore’s one-minute, 12-breath centering exercise. This quick and easy exercise helps you let go of worry and stress about the past and future, and helps your brain focus on being creative in the present.
If you’re interested in reading more about willpower, procrastination and goal setting, I highly recommend checking out both “The Now Habit “by Neil Fiore and “The Willpower Instinct” by Kelly McGonigal.