With New Year’s quickly approaching, people all over the world are setting their New Year’s Resolutions.
What resolution did you choose? Did you choose more than one? Are your well-meaning resolutions the same as last year’s and the year before that?
Whether it is to lose weight, get out of debt or take more vacations, as many as 71 percent of people fail at their New Year’s Resolutions within the first two weeks of a new year. Of those that make it past the two-week mark, 64 percent fail after one month.
Failing on your New Year’s Resolutions is not entirely your fault. There is a scientific reason why you continue to set New Year’s Resolutions year after year — and ultimately fail.
The Science Behind Why Resolutions Don’t Work
According to Psychology Today, your brain is hard-wired to continue with the habits ingrained in you. As you continually make choices, these choices become habits and create neural pathways and memories. If you set a New Year’s Resolution to stop smoking, for example, your brain will strengthen the neural pathways and memories already associated with smoking. This can make quitting cold-turkey impossible. To change the neural pathways and memories, you have to begin making decisions on a smaller scale.
Small changes in habits make larger change possible.
Setting unrealistic resolutions can backfire psychologically when these new goals are not in line with your priorities and values. This is known as the “false hope syndrome.” If your goal is to lose 50 pounds in the first 90 days of the year, you may accomplish this by exercising more than the average dieter and eating extremely healthy.
The problem is that many people are too busy to work out at the gym for a few hours every day away from their family and work or to break the fast food or junk food habit all at once. Trying to overhaul your life in the form of a New Year’s Resolution and failing can damage your self-esteem and self-worth.
This can make you give up faster.
Should you bother setting any goals at all when science proves that so many people fail at their New Year’s Resolutions?
Experts agree that people that set goals and reach those goals by creating new habits are ten times more likely to make those goals a reality.
How to Turn Those New Year’s Resolutions into Habits
How do habits differ from resolutions?
Resolution: Lose Weight this year.
Habit: Start working out for 30 minutes 3 days a week.
Both are focused on the same goal, but forming habits helps wire your brain to want to achieve it. Forming new habits may seem daunting, but if you break each step down further, it’s doable. You can add habits as the new ones solidify and become second nature.
If working out using a 90-minute video seems too hard, then begin with a shorter program of 30 minutes. Less time is also okay. The point is that you reinforced the habit. After you gain the strength, stamina, and confidence from continuous workouts, then move to a longer program.
Each baby step builds on the last, giving you a strong foundation.
The following is a list of ways you can turn your resolution into a habit:
- Focus on only one resolution or goal.
- Make a checklist of baby steps you can take to eventually reach your goal.
- As you master each baby step, move on to the next.
- Reward yourself as you move to the next baby step.
- Keep going to form new habits — even on bad days.
By addressing the habit behind your resolution, you are giving yourself an extra edge to stay resolute.
How to Not Fail This Year With Your New Year’s Resolution
In order to create new memories and neural pathways while avoiding the overwhelm of a life change, you want to choose a SMART goal. This means when choosing a goal, make it:
Simply stating that you want to lose weight next year is not a specific goal. You will need to dig deeper. Stating that you want to lose 20 pounds in the first 90 days of the New Year is a better SMART goal as it is a specific amount. It’s 20 pounds measured by a scale. It’s an attainable and realistic amount to lose within a 90 day time period.
Be specific with how you can get to this goal. To get started, you could choose to eat a healthy breakfast every morning and exercise for 30 minutes three days a week for two weeks. By doing this, you’ve just created two new habits you can build on to reach your goal.
You can apply this goal setting technique to a New Year’s Resolution and then make a list of baby steps to get started. Achieving your goals and dreams is possible when you create new habits one step at a time.