A brief look at some strategies and tips for staying on track with New Year's resolutions and achieving long-term goals.
If you're feeling less enthusiastic about your New Year's resolutions or goals in general than you did a month ago, you're not alone. According to some estimates, 80% of resolutions fail in the month of February.
For many people, abandoning resolutions is often the result of setting poor goals in the first place. For example, instead of saying "get healthier," you can set a weekly exercise target or create a running schedule that will build up to the half-marathon you want to tackle in the fall. Another important point is to start small and make sure your goals are achievable. If you haven't worked out in a while, start by putting on your workout clothes or shoes. Gradually progress to taking a step outside. If you want to start flossing your teeth, begin with flossing just one tooth. These may seem like very small and even ridiculous steps, but they are supported by science, as highlighted by BJ Fogg's book "Tiny Habits" and James Clear's book "Atomic Habits," among others.
However, if you have set actionable targets that are important to you and you find yourself falling behind, there are three strategies that might help you get back on track.
Have you ever had to resort to a "swear jar" to improve the language in your household? A similar strategy can help you enhance your resolution routine. Money can be a powerful motivator. Seeing your cash accumulate in that jar due to missed workouts or neglected online classwork will serve as a visual reminder that you're hindering your goals and impacting your finances. There are even online services that require you to donate money to charity if you fail to meet your goals. Alternatively, you could assign yourself tasks such as doing the dishes for a week or taking care of the laundry.
On the other hand, if you have a successful week or surpass a specific short-term target, treat yourself to your favorite take-out meal or a night at the movies by dipping into the jar.
Many goal-tracking apps and services use gamification to make your goals more enjoyable. They reward you with digital status symbols that you can showcase on social media. For example, earning a new outfit for your online avatar or advancing to a higher level in a fitness challenge can motivate you to keep winning and achieving.
However, if your goals don't align well with these types of games, there are other ways to make them more enjoyable. For instance, if committing to a daily study session with a stack of books or a long queue of online lessons for your web design certification seems challenging, try pairing your study sessions with a favorite snack or beverage. Allow yourself to indulge in these treats only while studying. This way, putting in the hard work will also give you something to look forward to.
Is your new gym membership going unused? Load up your tablet with the latest episodes of your favorite TV show, but only allow yourself to watch them while you're on the treadmill. This will not only motivate you to exercise but also make the experience more enjoyable.
One of the benefits of joining a gym or using a goal-oriented app is the sense of community it provides. Being surrounded by people who are achieving results and comparing yourself to today's leaderboard can be a great source of motivation.
Accountability becomes even more powerful when it comes from the important people in your life. If you share your goals with your friends and family, they will likely keep asking about your progress. Even better, find a buddy who is also working towards the same goal. The fitness trainer you watch on YouTube won't care if you skip a workout, but if you start bailing on too many bike rides with your best friend, you can expect to hear about it.