We all want to accomplish our New Year’s resolutions, but often we miss the mark. It’s exciting to embark on a adventure, but when the shine wears off we often drop the ball. Why don’t you make 2024 different?
The following are 7 tips to help you stick with your resolutions and succeed!
Tip #1: Stick to One Goal
As a cognitive behavioral therapist I almost always assign my clients homework. At the beginning of our work together we design the exercises to be very small. Once someone gains traction moving forward is much less effort and almost organic, so keep this in mind.
When deciding on a New Years’ resolution, stick to the one thing and keep it achievable.
- Use the feeling of overwhelm as a helpful guide.
- When you feel overwhelmed, you get discouraged.
- When you get discouraged, you are more likely to quit at the first sign of difficulty.
Try to find a goal that is small, and cut it by half. You will most likely build momentum as you move forward.
Tip #2: Keep Resolutions Measurable
The best way to keep your resolution measurable is to start small. Begin by taking baby steps once a day. If your resolution is to hydrate, drink one more glass of water a day. If you want to stop drinking soda, start by drinking one less a day. Over time, these little changes add up to help you reach your goal. In addition, try to be mindful of your goal throughout the day. When you remember, take a micro-step toward achievement.
Tip #3: Anticipate Barriers
Before you even try to enact your resolution, make a list of the barriers you anticipate in the process. Ask yourself what self-defeating roadblocks you have encountered in past efforts. Then, ask yourself what you see as impeding your future efforts.
- These could sound like thoughts such as, “I don’t feel like it” or “I don’t have time”.
- You may also notice yourself engaging in sabotaging self-talk such as, “I deserve a break” or “I’m not motivated”.
- Now, write down your personal barriers.
Afterward, record what you are going to do the next time this barrier rears its head. In your quest for a change, you are bound to hit upon this resistance. At its root, resistance is a reaction founded in fear. Taking little steps are the best way to get to where you are going.
Here are some ways to cope with the fear of change
- Replace negative self-talk with positive self-talk
- Practice makes perfect, so practice until you are less afraid
- Figure out the worst possible outcome, then figure out how you will cope in a strong, cop
- Nip fear of failure in the bud by becoming okay with any possible criticisms or embarrassment. Consistent failure is what leads to success.
Tip #4: Make an Advantages Card for Maintaining Your Resolution
Why do you want this? What is the benefit? There are going to be some hard times throughout your journey of change, times when you need to remind yourself of the why. Therefore, an important step in keeping your New Years’ resolution is making an advantages card.
An advantages card can be made of anything you want. Some people like to use a notecard, while others write on mirrors or dry erase boards. The content is simple. Just make a list of all the reasons why you want to accomplish your goal. Maybe you want to lose weight to become healthier, or maybe you have a specific clothing size you want to hit.
Read your list twice a day, really reflecting on why you want to accomplish your goals. In times of extremely self-defeating thoughts, it is recommended by cognitive behavioral therapists that you read your advantages card as needed.
Tip #5: Accept You Will Have Bumps
It is important not only to realize but also to accept you will slip up along the way. There are instances when you will be barraged with berating thoughts and crumble under the pressure. However, do not use a mess up to engage in all or nothing thinking! When you encounter a bump in the road, do not give up! For example: when you smoke that cigarette and you break the resolution once, do not throw in the towel and buy a whole pack. We will all lapse, but we don’t have to relapse. In order to make a habit your small behaviors will take a minimum of 3 weeks. Those small behaviors will lead to reaching your resolution goal by the end of the year. Be patient and practice self-compassion, especially when you inevitably mess up!
Tip #6: Ask Someone to Hold You Accountable
This tip sounds as though it would be easy. However, it can be the most difficult, especially if you are allergic to criticism. That is why it is important to find someone you trust and respect to hold you accountable to reaching your resolution. Although you may want to fight them, you will be more likely to listen when you know they are giving advice with good intentions. A good CBT therapist holds their clients accountable by assigning homework and expecting follow-through, so don’t be afraid to seek out professional guidance if you are having difficulty finding external support.
Tip #7: Make a Plan
When you make your plan, focus on the small steps and not the goal. Instead of writing down “I will lose 20 lbs this year”, break that larger resolution down into more manageable steps. This could look like, ‘I will drink more water’ and ‘do 10 jumping jacks a day’.
After you accomplish small successes, find a way to celebrate! Don’t skip this step, because it is extremely important. When you reward yourself, your brain will remember the dopamine rush and be more willing to do your bidding. Keep in mind the reward does not have to be big- many of my clients will say out loud ‘gold star!’ when they do something good. That’s the cognitive behavioral way of imprinting the good stuff into our brains in a fun and positive way.
Check out this blog from TED to give you some motivation!