We’re two weeks into the New Year, and, if you’re like 45 percent of Americans, you’ve already dropped the ball on the resolutions you’ve set.
But, given that failure only makes you stronger, slipping up this early in the year is no reason to give up on achieving your goals entirely. In fact, as Karen Malkin—one of the first board certified health and wellness coaches in the U.S.—teaches, falling short isn’t the end of the road, but the beginning. If you get off track, part of the growth is in how you find your way back.
Or you maybe you’re slaying it so far. Maybe you’re knocking it out of the park day by day, but you’re just worried about how to keep your success going in the long term. No matter what side you happen to be on, a little help can go a long way.
Our Lab with Malkin on Thursday, January 9 unearthed the reasons people abandon their resolutions so early in the year, or fail to stay motivated all year long. From those lessons, we’ve put together these four tips for turning your New Year’s resolutions into a successful start to the decade.
Maybe you ended 2020 feeling stressed about your work/life balance. You might have felt like you were spending too much time away from the office or too much time focused on work projects. So, January 1, 2020, perhaps, at the top of your resolutions: “better work/life balance”
And it’s not a bad thing to want. The problem is that it begs the question, “sure, but what does that mean?”
The more specific your goals are, the more likely you are to accomplish them. Instead of “better work/life balance,” say “leave work on time.” Better yet, set a deadline. “Leave work by 5pm every day.” You don’t want to “be grateful;” you want to “express gratitude to one friend every day.” Being specific gives you clarity and makes it possible to track your own progress, which is essential for holding yourself accountable (and celebrating your successes).
Obviously, you should set goals that you can accomplish, and most people actually do a good job of this. You can definitely watch less television, eat more vegetables, be more present at home—whatever it is you set out to do. Insurmountability tends not to be the problem people have setting goals.
What you have to be realistic about is your capacity to make your resolutions happen given your existing habits. For example, if you want to “read more,” you’re also making (whether you realize it or not) the resolution to “watch less television” (or whatever commitments you have that would take up the time you would rather devote to reading or running or being gracious, etc.).
Being realistic truly means knowing where you’re already really at in terms of the time and resources you can devote to your progress. Keep in mind: to add something new, you have to give something up.
Let’s say you’re going to learn a new language in 2020 (great resolution). So how are you going to make that happen?
Don’t be broad. Don’t say, “I am going to use Duolingo.” That’s too general to be helpful. On any given day, it behooves you to be able to answer specific questions about how you will work towards your resolution: when are you going to practice it? how long will you spend practicing? what room of your home will you practice in?
Being as specific as possible not only puts you in the headspace to be effective, but it also lets you think of potential, reasonable roadblocks and develop appropriate contingencies. Maybe your kids will need extra help on homework—how will you adapt? Maybe dinner will take longer to get together than you expect—how can you plan for this? There’s always a risk of the unexpected, but trying to account for predictable hurdles will give you a leg up on whatever might keep you from putting in the work to improve.
Have an Accountability Partner
Tell people about your goals, post it on your Instagram, shout it from the proverbial rooftops.
But don’t just send up a flare to the world.
Find someone you talk to regularly and who cares about your wellbeing, and make your resolutions known to them. This is your accountability partner.
Their job is to check in and make sure you’re keeping yourself on track. Obviously it’s up to you to bring your goals to life, but having an accountability partner brings a vital outside dimension to your success (and failure). These partners aren’t only there to pick you up when you slip a bit; they’re also there to celebrate your wins.
It’s easy to say that resolutions are hard. On average, nine out of 10 people fail to achieve them. And really there’s no silver bullet. It helps to bear in mind that resolutions are as much about the journey as they are about the destination—which is ultimately what makes anything worth accomplishing—but if you integrate some of these tips, and give yourself grace to be both gentle and serious about your goals, you might just close the year with new habits. You just have to resolve.