It’s a New Year and Time to Get Back on Track

— Written By
Post-it Notes of things you are going to do in the New Year

When making resolutions, be specific and set step-by-step goals.

Happy New Year — 2019 has officially arrived, and it is time to begin again on a clean slate. Before I started writing this article, I checked the current themes for New Year resolutions and found they haven’t changed.

The recurring themes each year include a more active approach to health and fitness, improved finances and learning new things for personal and professional development. Below you will find this year’s top 10:

  • Exercise more
  • Lose weight
  • Get organized
  • Learn a new skill or hobby
  • Live life to the fullest
  • Save more money/spend less money
  • Quit smoking
  • Spend more time with family and friends
  • Travel more
  • Read more

However, once the glow of a fresh new year wears off, many people struggle to make good on their plans. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, only 46 percent of people who made New Year’s resolutions were successful. This means over half of the people who set a goal for the new year will fail.

The study also involved non-resolvers. Of those, only 4 percent of non-resolvers were successful at achieving their goals, which is a far bleaker result than those who did make a New Year’s resolution.

No one wants to be on a losing team if they can help it. So, here is a plan that will assist you in following through to achieve success:

1. Mentally prepare for change

Changing ingrained habits is no easy task, so it is important to take a step back and get ready for that impending change. Waking up on New Year’s Day and starting an intense workout may last a few weeks at best, but if you first take a personal inventory, your results may be totally different.

As you start thinking about the changes you want to implement, make sure to do the following:

  • Stay positive
  • Try not to make big/quick changes
  • Change should be gradual
  • Build on smaller changes
  • Allow a little room for error

2. Set a goal that motivates you

To do this, you need to make sure the goal you set is important to you and only you and that there is value or benefit for you in achieving the goal. It is these two things that will provide the reason and willingness to take action – motivation.

Thus, it’s a safe bet if your resolutions align with the following:

  • Your goals
  • Your priorities
  • Your dreams
  • Your aspirations

Not only should you align around your innermost desires, but you should also make sure the resolutions align around your top priorities. This will lead to a “must do” attitude.

3. Limit resolutions to a manageable amount

A common mistake in resolution setting is having too many and spreading yourself too thin. Thus, your list should be short — a short list of resolutions that you can manage in the upcoming year.

Here is an exercise you can do to help you figure out what is most important in your life. All you need is a Post-it pad, a pen, and a wall.

  1. Write anything you want to accomplish for self-improvement purposes on a Post-it
  2. Place each Post-it on the wall
  3. Group together similar Post-its
  4. Place the topics you feel strongly about at the top of the wall
  5. Spend a lot of time thinking about the order of the first three-five Post-it groups

The final piece of the puzzle is realizing your limitations and with that in mind, you should focus on your top priorities while balancing how much attention you can honestly devote to a resolution.

4. Be specific

When it comes to setting resolutions, it’s easy to set bad goals that could lead to poor follow through. Fortunately, SMART goal setting framework can help you craft better goals.

SMART goals are:

  • Specific — Articulate the resolution as clearly as possible. For example, quitting smoking is better than being healthy.
  • Measurable — Quantify your resolution if possible, i.e. I will lose 10 percent of my body weight.
  • Attainable — Choose a goal within the realm of possibility but yet challenging.
  • Relevant — Keep it relevant to your priorities and goals.
  • Time-sensitive — Give yourself a time-frame in which to achieve a goal. A deadline will instill some urgency and provide a time when you can celebrate your success.

5. Write down your goals

While it’s great to have goals, it is critical to document them in some way. Here are six reasons to write down your goals:

  1. They are easy to forget.
  2. Writing down your resolutions helps you clarify what it is you want to achieve.
  3. Writing establishes intention, but action needs to be taken to achieve your resolution.
  4. Written goals can act as a filter and guiding light for what opportunities to pursue.
  5. Documented goals will help you overcome resistance to progress.
  6. Finally, written goals are a reminder of how far you have come and what you have achieved.

6. Review your resolution regularly

At a minimum, this review should be monthly but the more frequent the better.

Here’s a way to build goal review into your routine:

  1. Schedule a monthly “big picture” review during the first week of each month.
  2. Do a weekly check-in to check progress on the monthly goal.
  3. Set a daily reminder for smaller resolution tasks.

It may seem a little crazy or a lot like overkill, but it is those smaller incremental steps that lead to massive changes over the course of a single year.

7. If you fall off track, get back on quick

Rome was not built in a day.

Keep the following ideas in mind:

  • Skipping an intermediate task is not a complete failure.
  • Missing a goal by 10 percent or even 80 percent is not a complete failure.
  • Finishing a task late is not a complete failure.
  • A moment of weakness is meaningless in the grand scheme of things.

Setbacks can happen but as long as they are handled correctly, they will not impact the big goal. The key is to avoid a defeatist attitude at all costs, such as, “Well I screwed up once, why should I even try to do this anymore.

And if there is a setback, it’s important to understand what led to that moment and how you can avoid a similar situation in the future.

Once a mistake is made, own it and move on to the next thing. A few small mistakes shouldn’t spoil your resolution for the year.

Again Happy New Year to you! I hope you are able to reach your goals.

Toi N. Degree is Family & Consumer Education Agent with North Carolina State University & North Carolina Cooperative Extension. Toi may be reached by phone at 704-216-8970 or by email: toi_degree@ncsu.edu.