New Year's Resolutions and the Power of a New Start
How to turn something most people fail at into a success
There's something special about the new year. It is a time of hope, opportunity, and the joy of new possibilities. For many, the new year symbolizes starting fresh, a chance to turn over a new leaf and pursue new goals. No wonder New Year's resolutions are so popular.
About half of Americans make resolutions each year. However, less than 10 percent of them actually achieve the goals they set. In fact, Strava, a fitness app with access to millions of user profiles, was able to pinpoint a “Quitter’s Day” based on its data points. (In case you were wondering, it’s the second Friday of January.) This date signifies when we are most likely to give up on the fitness goals we set in the new year.
Other studies have shown that two-thirds of people will give up on their New Year’s resolutions before the beginning of February (ref). The takeaway? Resolutions are feel-good moments, but they all too often fall by the wayside—and quickly.
I have made, kept, and failed at New Year’s resolutions for 20 years. I still can’t believe I’ve done it for so long, but it has been a long-held tradition for me. Each year, I write my goals down and post them to my social networks. Then, at the start of each new year, I grade myself based on how well I achieved those goals and set brand new ones. Some of my resolutions I keep and turn into daily habits, while others I discard in favor of other things. Thanks to these commitments, I no longer drink sugary drinks (18 years), floss daily (15 years), work out every night (10 years), eat less sugar (6 years), practice intermittent fasting (5 years), write regularly (4 years), cook for my family (3 years), maintain a blog (2 years), and get more sleep (1 year).
New Year’s resolutions have changed my life in a multitude of positive ways. That said, they aren't easy to keep, and I haven’t always been successful at keeping mine. I have made several mistakes over the years, and I’ve had to adjust my approach each time to ensure that I am successful.
As 2023 kicks off, I want to share some of the best tips I’ve found for committing to a New Year’s resolution—and then sticking with it.
Find a buddy
As with most things in life, your probability of success increases when you have someone to take on a challenge with you. New Year’s resolutions can be hard to keep when you don’t have anyone to hold you accountable. This is why partnering with someone else can be the perfect hack to keep yourself on track.
When we started practicing intermittent fasting, David and I did it together. With both of us fasting, we were able to resist the temptation of evening snacking and hold each other accountable. Now that I am adding weight training to my fitness routine, I’ve asked my girls to do it with me for 10 minutes in the evenings. Knowing that someone else is invested in the same goal helps to carry me when things feel hard.
Going at something alone means you can give up without anyone else knowing. This year, look for someone to make the commitment alongside you. When you have to answer to someone if you fail, it changes the way you look at your goals.
When one of your resolutions is to do something you don’t enjoy, sprinkling in rewards can make it much more palatable. For example, I let myself play my favorite online game only on the exercise machine, and I allow myself time to write only after I have finished everything else I need to do for the day. Both of these things—the game and the writing—are rewards for me. By linking them to a goal that I find less fulfilling or interesting (housework or exercise), I’m able to turn something that feels like a chore into the path to a reward.
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