Last week we talked about some of the reasons why only 8% of people are successful with New Year’s resolutions. If you haven’t read it yet, go here before you read any further. Today, I am going to give you some tools to help make your resolutions a success, and help you become a part of the 8 percent.
1. Start out Slow and Do Something You Love. We talked about self-efficacy. When adopting a lifestyle change, how you feel about your ability greatly determines how much success you will have. For example, exercisers who do not believe they have the skills to exercise have dramatically higher attrition rates, than those people who have a greater belief in their ability to perform certain skills. The same can be said for people who do not believe they can make other changes to their lives. Here are two easy ways to help get you started in making healthy life changes.
First, start out slow! Be realistic about what you are capable of right now. You do not have to shoot for the ultimate goal right now. Once you have established a certain comfort level, begin to slowly implement bigger changes. You should be challenging yourself, but it is ok to start where you are comfortable. Second, do something you love! No one said resolutions had to be a bad thing. Make two resolutions: one to do more of something you love, the other to make a healthy lifestyle change. As you find success doing more of what you love, you will feel more confident about being successful in other aspects of your life.
2. Set Goals. Goal setting has been shown to be an effective tool in helping to establish new habits and behaviors, and guide people to positive outcomes.
There are a few things to consider when making your goals. Your goals should be….
Specific: Be precise in what you want to accomplish.
Measurable: Goals should be quantifiable and measurable on some scale.
Attainable: It needs to be possible!
Realistic: Start where you are now; be rational and pragmatic.
Recorded: WRITE THEM DOWN.
Timed: Goals need to be on a timeline.
I intentionally misspelled “SMART” because that is how important it is to write your goals down. Post them on your mirror, on your refrigerator, or on the visor of your car. Make sure they are someplace you are going to see and read EVERY DAY. They do not hold any weight if they are not a tangible reminder of what you want to accomplish.
Follow up and adjust your goals accordingly. Your goals should be living, and growing, and changing with you! Were you too ambitious in your goals the first time around? That’s ok! Set new goals more appropriate to where you are right now. Evaluate the reasons behind not reaching your goal, and take what you find into consideration for your next set of goals. (Here’s a goal setting worksheet to get you started!)
3. Self-Monitoring: How will you know if you are accomplishing your goals? Keep track! My favorite method is old school: get a notebook. Write down what you accomplished that day that contributed to your resolution. Keep the notebook accessible and update it regularly. Write down how you felt that day, what was going on in your life, and what you did. Keep your goals in here, too. A notebook is a great, tangible reminder of your progress and the work you have put in. If you are diligent with keeping track, your notebook will provide a good source of accountability. (I am obsessed with this Habit Tracker, it makes keeping track and holding yourself accountable SO easy!)
4. Set Yourself Up for Success: In the land of psychology, we call this “stimulus control” which in this context means changing your environment to make it more conducive to making healthy choices. To me, “stimulus control” sounds too clinical; “set yourself up for success” has the same implication without the lingering smell of a doctor’s office. Small changes to your environment can make a big difference in your resolution “stick-to-it-iveness”. Is your resolution to get more exercise? Set out your exercise clothes the night before. Are you trying to spend less money? Only grab your Starbucks on Monday mornings. Are you eating healthier? Clean out the pantry (you’ve meant to do it for months now, anyway!) Making these changes will help to make your environment more conducive to change, and help to better encourage success.
5. Involve Significant Others: Incorporating people you like into your resolutions can help you to be more successful. You don’t have to splash them all over social media, but telling the people you care for about your goals can help to build your support network, giving you someone to turn to when you have a challenge, and someone to celebrate with when you have success! Involving other people in your goals also adds another level of accountability.
6. Change your Mindset: Attitude is everything! Remember what we said about being mentally ready for change? This is where that comes in.
Find Your Motivation: Motivation is a dynamic concept; it changes on a daily basis. Think about WHY are you making this resolution? Make a list of your personal reasons for change. Take time to really think about it. Why this? Why now? Really dig in. You have a purpose; everyday you should be living it. Make a list of the reasons why you get out of bed in the morning. Put that list with your goals. Make a dozen copies; keep one in your wallet, put one in your gym bag, have one in your phone. Anytime you think “I’ll do it tomorrow,” pull out that list. Read it. Reread it. Keep reading it until you remember why you are here and why you strive to make these changes.
Tackle Obstacles: Let’s face it: life happens. We make mistakes; we fall off the wagon; we lose focus. Obstacles are not what define us; it is how we overcome them that make the difference. Address your challenges through problem solving. Look at the problem in detail, break down the series of events that led to it, brainstorm a solution. Make a pros and cons list. Choose the best solution, and give yourself a deadline to complete it (Grave et al., 2010). Write everything down; include your challenges in your journal. Above all else, do not be discouraged by obstacles and challenges. (Yup, there’s a worksheet to help you Take Down Your Obstacles, too!)
Positive Self-Talk: Your thoughts greatly influence your moods and behaviors. We all have a constant monologue running through our minds. This self-talk; “positive self-talk” is literally affirmative comments you are making to yourself. Keeping your inner monologue positive will help you to face down your obstacles, and build your confidence in your abilities. “I can do this.” “Great job, keep up the good work!” Statements as simple as these can work wonders on your outlook. Maintaining a positive, rational, and functional way of thinking can greatly improve your adherence to a healthy lifestyle.
Establishing a behavioral change is difficult. Find your motivation. Set goals. Do something you love, involve people you care about, improve your environment. Be patient and optimistic. Accept challenges; learn from failures. Grow. Celebrate your success. Implement these tools and you will be part of the 8 percent of people who find success in their resolutions.
You’ve Got This!
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