Setting and keeping new year's resolutions

Three tips to setting your New Year's resolutions

The beginning of the New Year brings the hope of a fresh start and the opportunity to set new goals.  Millions of people will participate in the tradition of setting New Year’s resolutions including: getting in shape, losing weight, quit smoking, start meditating or just getting up earlier every day.   While there’s nothing wrong with setting goals at the beginning of each year, many people find that it’s tough to keep up with the resolution. In fact, a 2015 article by U. S. News & World Report states that 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail.

“We all have high expectations for ourselves.” said Jeff Hubbell, GraceMed Director of Behavioral Health.  “We dream big which usually translates into high expectations and high ambitions.” That high expectation is what causes most New Year’s resolutions to fail.

How can you improve your chance of success?  Jeff Hubbell gives the following three tips.

1. Change the focus of  your goal to something you value.

“If you reflect on your true values and develop goals as they relate to what you believe in, you are more likely to follow through,” said Jeff.

Here’s an example:

Instead of resolving to work on your temper this year, shift the focus to a value.  “I value my relationships with others so I will choose to step away when I feel myself getting frustrated.”  The goal is more meaningful because your motivation for change (maintaining healthy relationships) is linked to something you value, the people in your life.

Before you set a resolution, think long and hard about what you are willing to commit to. Find your motivation, then set your resolution.

2. Set big and smaller goals. 

Change doesn’t happen overnight. Expecting an overnight transformation ends in disappointment and failure.  Your goal should be realistic, achievable, and able to be accomplished with small, steady actions that will develop into habits.

“Resolutions are intimidating when we start too big,” said Jeff.  “James Clear, author of the Atomic Habits, encourages us to aim for getting 1% better every day and it works!”

This is an example of James Clear’s advice in action:

If you want to lose, say 36 lbs, divide 36 by 12 (12 months in a year), making your goal a more attainable loss of 3 lbs a month. Losing 3 lbs a month is a lot less daunting than to lose 36 pounds.

3. Plan for setbacks.  

Change is hard and expecting perfection isn’t realistic.  “Be optimistic about your goals or resolutions,” says Jeff, “but cut yourself a break if you have setbacks, because they will occur.”   You may get sick, throwing off your new routine or diet. Life may throw you a curveball.

Small setbacks don’t make you a failure, they make you human. Balance self-compassion with your expectations.  The best strategy isn’t to avoid failure- it’s to plan for it.

Obstacles are part of the package, don’t let that temporary setback discourage you, just get back on track and try again.  You’ll learn from the setback and be better prepared for the next obstacle.

If you start the year without a firm resolution, don’t worry.  Jeff says, ”I believe it is important to have and set goals, but I do not frame goals as New Year’s resolutions. Instead, I set specific goals year round.”  By setting monthly goals, you’ll avoid the pressure of following through on a New Year’s resolution and set yourself up to succeed all year long.