It’s that time of year again when we vow to live differently in 2012. As January rolls around New Year’s resolutions are the hot news item. And while it may seem that setting resolutions is an exercise in futility, clinical psychologist Dr. John Norcross explains that New Year’s resolutions may be more helpful than we think.
According to longitudinal studies performed by his research group, 40 to 46 percent of New Year’s resolvers will be successful at six months out. OK, so whether you see the glass as half empty or half full this may or may not be encouraging. But consider this, according to Norcross, people making resolutions are 10 times more successful at changing a desired behavior than adults who don’t make resolutions.
So how do you make sure your New Year’s resolutions survive well past February? Here are a few tips for making New Year’s resolutions that last.
Don’t try to be a superwoman (or superman)
Our lives are busy and complicated as it is. Yet, we try to heap more onto our plates with a laundry list of New Year’s resolutions. Successfully fulfilling a resolution requires intense energy and commitment. That’s why it’s better to complete a few resolutions than to fail at completing several.
Don’t try to accomplish everything in a year. Examine your resolutions and pick out the single one or two that will most dramatically affect your life. Then focus your energy on accomplishing them.
Make your resolutions specific
Many of us vow to save money, exercise, spend quality time with family, or go back to school in the new year, but these types of resolutions rarely succeed. The problem? They’re too vague and vague resolutions lack power. Ensure you fulfill your resolutions by making them specific.
Consider these as alternatives:
I will save $300 a month and place it into an emergency fund.
I will exercise for 45 minutes three nights a week.
Our family will go on a family date night at least once a week.
I will research new job opportunities and their educational requirements and enroll in at least one evening class by the beginning of the Fall semester.
When your goal is specific it becomes measurable and you have a clearer idea of the progress you’re making.
Remind yourself constantly
With the hustle and bustle of life, it’s easy to forget about your New Year’s resolution in the middle of March. The key to success is to remain committed when everyone else has long forgotten their resolutions.
Consider writing your resolutions down and reviewing them nightly before you go to bed. But don’t stop there. Place reminders of your resolutions everywhere so they are not easily forgotten.
If your goal is to save a $7,000 down payment for a new home, for instance, cut out a picture of a house from a magazine and tape it to your bathroom mirror so that every morning you’ll see it as a reminder.
Recruit a support network
An accountability partner can be tremendously useful in helping you fulfill your New Year’s resolutions. Find a person who loves you, or who has your best interests in mind, and tell them about your resolutions. Not only can they act as a cheerleader, they can also ensure you remain accountable to your own resolutions. Better yet, find someone who has similar resolutions as yourself. This allows you to serve as each other’s support network.
Too often people let a few setbacks derail their resolutions. Perhaps you vowed to save $300 a month but haven’t saved money in the last two months. Don’t give up. Just resolve to save money this month. Failures and setbacks are to be expected but are no reason to discard your resolutions. Don’t stop when you hit a roadblock. Dust yourself off and get back on the horse.
BMWK, What are your New Year’s resolution? What tips or strategies have you used to fulfill your resolutions in the past?