One NAU professor’s opinion: Making your New Year’s resolutions stick

New Years Resolutions

By Tom Filsinger
Psychology Instructor

Resolutions have been made. But do they work? The common view is most New Year’s resolutions are broken very quickly. But why strive to better yourself only in January? Shouldn’t this goal be a regular part of our lives?

Approximately 40 percent of people make New Year’s resolutions. Of those people, 23 percent have failed. That number goes up to 50 percent within three months. And after two years, well, forget it. A full 81 percent abandon the resolution. Discouraging, isn’t it?

On the other hand, let’s look at this from the opposite point of view—a more positive one. Nearly 20 percent of people are in fact successful with their New Year’s resolutions after two years. That’s a lot of people improving themselves. The fact is, people who at least attempt to make positive changes in their lives are more likely to do so than people who don’t try in the first place.

The most common resolutions are to lose weight, exercise more, quit smoking and save more money.

What are the keys to success?

For starters, persistence. I have written about hardy personality (also known as grit). People who succeed in life have this trait; they don’t give up after setbacks. Keeping resolutions won’t be a clear and straight road. There will be setbacks. Getting back on track is the key to success.

Looking to change your behavior for the better? Here’s a list of strategies that will make you more likely to succeed.

  1. Set realistic goals. Vague goals like, “I will exercise more” usually don’t cut it. You need to be more specific. If you aren’t exercising at all, then it should start with, say, exercising twice a week, and then working your way up to more.
  2. Keep track of how you are doing. Mark your progress on a calendar or a journal with silly smiley faces or stickers of your choosing when you are successful. This will help keep you focused. You need to make yourself accountable for how you are doing.
  3. Reward yourself for success. When you have completed a month or a couple months successfully, buy yourself that thing you always wanted just for the sole reason that you are meeting your resolution goals.
  4. Tell people about your resolution(s). This will help make you publicly accountable for your successes and, if you have the right kinds of friends, they will encourage you to be persistent and they will support you. There’s nothing like good friends (or family) to support your efforts.
  5. Make one resolution at a time. One reason resolutions fail is because people try to do too much and get overwhelmed. Focus on one and only add another one when you’ve consistently been successful. Success in one area breeds confidence to do more.
  6. You can improve yourself at any time during the year. If a New Year’s resolution fails, pick another milestone day and start over. It may be your birthday or perhaps the day you move into a new place, which can represent the start of a new life and new ways of doing things.

Changing yourself for the better can happen any time! Remember, don’t give up. Researchers find that even people who are successful with resolutions have setbacks. The difference is, they don’t let failure get them down and they redouble their efforts. They are persistent.

Persist and you too can be successful. Good luck!

NAU Communications