Five Psychology-Backed Ways to Keep Your Resolutions

Here we are again, in a new year that is filled with much new hope and many new aspirations. As is quite commonplace, many people set resolutions for the new year. These resolutions range from those that are more health-oriented (such as healthy eating or smoking cessation) to those that are more personal in nature (such as spending more time with loved ones). Despite what your resolution may be, here is a grim reality: research suggests that about 64% (or two-thirds) of people abandon their resolutions within a month.

While the odds may be against you, there are ways to naturally turn them in your favor with the help of a little bit of psychology. 

Start small. We as humans love to create lofty goals and we wait on the start of the new year to change everything. This is great, right? Not quite. While having a lofty vision is great, keep your goals and resolutions small as you are likely to become motivated by the small wins. For example, instead of having a resolution of eating completely healthy every meal, perhaps start small by incorporating one healthy meal per day. After becoming accustomed over time, you will be able to do more if you wish while being able to celebrate small victories along the way. 

Focus on doing, not avoiding. All too often, resolutions are framed in light of avoidance (e.g., stop smoking, stop complaining, etc.). However, research shows that you are more likely to accomplish a goal that is focused on performing as opposed to avoiding a behavior. For instance, returning to the healthy eating goal: Instead of setting the explicit goal of avoiding all processed sugar, consider framing your resolution in terms of incorporating more healthy eating into your daily routine. 

Stay SMART. We have spoken at length over the years about the importance of SMART goals. These are goals that are: Specific (focused), Measurable (quantifiable), Attainable (realistic), Relevant (personally important), and Time-bound. By drafting each one of your resolutions in light of the SMART goal schema, you can be sure that you are setting yourself up for success. 

Stay grounded in your values. Your personal values serve as a compass. That is, our values dictate not only if we are performing the correct behaviors, but also the why. Why is this important? Well channeling the why helps us to sustain motivation. For example, perhaps on the surface you have the goal of reaching a certain goal weight. However, by tapping into the reason behind this goal (such as to live a long life for your kids), you are likely to stay on track. 

Be kind (to yourself). Despite how much we try, sometimes we fail—and this is OK as no one is perfect. Even if you have a minor misstep and end up eating that delicious brownie, don’t beat yourself up. As the old adage says, if you fall off a horse, get back on. 

Consider the above five tips to turn 2023 into a year of much success.  Best of luck!