The odds are against you. Out of every 100 people with a New Year’s resolution, 80 will have thrown in the towel by February.(1)
But don’t despair! Below, you’ll find seven powerful and scientifically proven methods you can use to make your New Year’s resolutions stick! Let’s dive in!
1. Start With Realistic Expectations
It’s always tempting to start the new year with added zeal and good intentions. And you should, because having something to strive for boosts both motivation and productivity.
But this doesn’t mean you should chase pipe dreams! It’s essential to remain realistic because if you struggle with your goals during the first few days, it’s more likely that you’ll give up swiftly when life gets in the way.
One study on obese people, for example, found that participants who expected to lose the most weight were the most likely to drop out of a weight-loss program.(2)
The best practice? Go for New Year’s resolutions that are out of your comfort zone but still attainable.
2. Write Your Goals Down Every Day
As various studies have shown, writing your goals down is a straightforward but powerful way to boost the likelihood of success.
Dr. Matthews from the Dominican University conducted one such study. She found that writing goals down increased success rates by 42%.(3)
To get the most out of this act, write down your goals twice a day – once when you wake up and once before going to bed.
3. Optimize Your Surroundings
Researchers from the Harvard Medical School found startling results when they observed body-weight changes among 12,067 people over 32 years.(4)
Namely, you’re 57% more likely to become obese if one of your friends becomes obese. (It doesn’t matter if this friend lives next door or hundreds of miles away.) And this risk rises to 175% if a mutual friend becomes obese.
Why is there such a strong link? According to Dr. Christakis, one of the study’s co-authors, this is because "You change your idea of what is an acceptable body type by looking at the people around you."
So, to optimize your surroundings, spend less time with people who might hinder your goals and more time with those who move you closer to triumph.
4. Find a Like-Minded Accountability Partner
Since your surroundings have such a significant impact on your success, one of the best things you can do is to find an accountability partner – someone who will hold you accountable for your actions.
The ideal accountability partner is a family member, close friend, or spouse because they can provide optimal support. But if those people can’t or won’t help you, online support groups have also shown to be helpful.(7)
5. Track Your Progress Often
If you’re serious about reaching your New Year’s resolutions, then you owe it to yourself to set aside some time each week to track your progress. Doing so boosts your success rate significantly.
One meta-analysis of 138 studies involving 19,951 participants found that the more often people track their progress, the more successful they are at goals such as weight loss and quitting smoking.(8)
To track your progress effectively, check how you’re doing at least once a week. Write these evaluation times on your calendar or set a notification on your phone so that you don’t forget them.
6. Make Sure You Get Enough Sleep
Unless your New Year’s resolution is to sleep more, you may wonder how getting enough shut-eye will help you reach your goal.
The answer lies in the fact that sleep deprivation reduces both focus and willpower.(9) Failing to get enough sleep makes you more likely to give in to impulses and toss your resolutions out of the window.
The optimal amount of sleep for each individual depends on numerous factors such as age and genetics. But between seven and nine hours each night, as recommended by The National Sleep Foundation, is about right for most people.
7. Follow Through Until Your Behavior Is a Habit
Most New Year's resolutions aren’t a quick set-and-forget kind of task.
Instead, they’re life-enhancing behaviors you want to turn into habits so that you'll not only reap the benefits this year but also for many years to come.
To turn a behavior into a habit, focus on maintaining that behavior for at least 66 days – that’s the average time it takes to form a new habit.(10)
After that period, the behavior becomes automatic, and you’ll likely maintain your resolution for the rest of the year.
The New Year gives us an opportunity to start fresh, reflect on the past year and set new goals for the year ahead. Just remember to take it one day at a time!.