Come January, it’s typical for us to take a step back, reflect on the previous year, and consider what we’d like to change about our lives over the course of the year ahead. From college obligations to family matters and everything in between, there are many opportunities to make resolutions that better our future selves—you know, like that year you swore off of fast food completely and kinda, sorta stuck to it.
But before you get ahead of yourself, allow us to drop some knowledge on you. Research reflects that a whopping 80 percent of resolutions fail by February. Yep, you read that correctly – most people’s resolutions only last as long as that lingering fruit cake that no one wants to touch. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with setting big goals for ourselves, a lot of us fall into the trap of simply speaking resolutions into existence, rather than working towards successfully fulfilling them.
As much as we’d love to easily declare our #LifeGoals and stick to them faultlessly, it takes a bit more than that to make a lasting change. Hey, it’s not your fault – if anything, there are quite a few reasons at play regarding our inability to stick to resolutions for more than just a few weeks. For starters, many of us create resolutions that aren’t clear enough. We make sweeping generalizations about maintaining a healthier diet, getting back into tip-top physical shape, or finally beating our roommates at Fortnite. However, we fail to reflect upon why these goals are important to accomplish to begin with. This only creates confusion and indifference, which is “no bueno” for your progress.
If sincere reflection doesn’t play a key in why a majority of New Year’s resolutions fail before we hit Valentine’s Day, then discouragement certainly does. Humans are accustomed to instant gratification—don’t ask us why. We only know it’s worsening as technologies progress and expectations heighten. There’s just no denying that when we don’t see instant progress, it makes us want to throw in the towel altogether. The reality is that any goal worth achieving takes hard work to bring to fruition, but it doesn’t make it any less worthy of accomplishment.
Luckily enough for you, there are scientifically-backed ways to fight the obstacles that come along with change and keep your resolutions going strong all year—whether you’re seeking a major life change or simply want to start returning your library books on time! (Those fees could go to something more useful after all, like your iced lattes.) So, before you begin setting those big goals for 2019, you might want to read up on uCribs’ suggestions for keeping your New Year’s resolutions going strong after January comes and goes.
Focus on Developing Good Habits
Unsurprisingly, good habits are key to any #NewYearNewMe resolution. Sure, you may think it better to jump into action and figure out the rest as you go, but science says otherwise. Instead, focus on developing healthy habits by recognizing cues and allowing yourself rewards when you pass up your chosen vice. It may seem silly at first, but hey – if it works for top psychologists, it will surely work for us!
Let’s say that you really want to break your Hot Cheetos addiction and tend to crave them while you’re catching up on your favorite TV show. When those opening credits start to roll (the cue), reach for a veggie-based snack instead, and if you’re successful, follow it with an extra thirty minutes of TV time (the reward). Before you know it, your brain will expect to receive tasty veggies over the tempting cheese snack. Don’t believe anything could tear you away from Hot Cheetos? Well, just try this method for developing a new habit and see!
Get Rid of Triggers
Time and time again, we’re reminded of the many ways in which our environment affects us. Ever notice how sticking to your new, healthy diet is always extra hard when there’s candy, cookies, and other sweet temptations lying around? Even if healthy eating isn’t your resolution, the same mentality applies to a variety of goals. Triggers are everywhere – we just tend not to notice them when we’re indulging in our favorite bad-for-us behaviors!
If you’re hoping to kick bad habits, or pick up some good ones, you’ll need to remove any triggers that could derail your efforts. Looking to work out on a more consistent schedule? Consider going to the gym before making your final journey home for the day. This way the beck-and-call of your couch (and Netflix!) doesn’t interfere with your plans. Looking to reduce screen time? Try seeing what life is like without your smartphone within arm’s reach. Pretty heavy stuff, we know, but removing temptation is one of the most solid ways to jumpstart your New Year’s resolutions and remain consistent.
Create a Support Network
You couldn’t imagine surviving that philosophy class without your awesome study buddies or completing those hours of required community service without your friends at your side, right? When it comes to keeping your resolutions, the same type of support system is necessary. Trust us, you’ll definitely want a few people on your side when the Chipotle withdrawals are starting to push you over the edge. Not only does a support system do exactly what it states in its “support” of you, but those same people will also help keep you accountable when you “accidentally” order the burrito anyway.
Plus, psychologists agree that people who publicly announce their goals and intentions have an easier time adhering to them than those who don’t. That’s because voicing our goals creates a layer of accountability that bonds us to our aspirations and encourages others to check in on our progress. All the more reason to find a few friends and family members who will encourage you— and maybe even join you— in your quest for self-improvement!
It’s true that many resolutions fail shortly into each New Year, but with the right approach, yours don’t have to meet an untimely demise, followed by weeks— if not months— of self-doubt. By recognizing the reasons why resolutions fall through and learning the best tricks to keep them going strong, you’ll be well on your way to a fulfilling year full of new beginnings. Sure, change is hard, but just think about how awesome it will be to look back come December and say, “I did it!”