David Susman, Ph.D.

The Recovery Coach

When Your New Year's Resolutions Falter

10 steps to keep on track with your goals.

Posted Jan 02, 2019

If you’re like most of us, you’ll struggle with maintaining those well-intentioned New Years resolutions. In fact, one study shows that less than half of us (about 46 percent) will maintain our New Years Resolution for six months.

So what can you do when your resolution starts to falter? Here are 10 quick steps you can take to assess what’s going wrong and to get back on track.

PixelsAway/CanStockPhoto
Source: PixelsAway/CanStockPhoto

1) Think “goals” instead of “resolutions.”

The term “resolution” has more to do with the intention to do something than how to do it. Instead, think “goal,” which involves careful planning, outlining action steps and monitoring your progress over time as you gradually achieve your desired outcome.

2) Forget about “New Years.”

It’s a mistaken belief to think that all goals have to start on New Years Day and once they lapse, we’re done until next New Years. Realize that you can start a goal on ANY DAY of the year. Today, next Tuesday, Valentine’s Day—pick a day, they’re all fine.

3) Be specific.

Goals such as “exercise more,” “lose weight,” or “be a better person” are great in spirit, but they’re too general to know if you’re making progress. Make each goal specific and measurable by adding time frames, amounts, and frequency. For example, “I will walk for 30 minutes three times per week,” “I will lose 15 pounds by June 30,” or “I will go out on a date with my partner every Friday night.”

4) Take small steps.

Make sure each goal is broken down into small, easily doable steps. For example, on the “walk for 30 minutes three times per week” goal, perhaps the first step is to buy walking shoes or to walk 30 minutes just once this week. Build a little momentum with an easy first step and then make it a little more difficult next time. Easy wins increase your momentum to keep going.

5) Track your progress.

Record your progress and note how you’ve done each week. Some weeks you will meet your goals, other weeks you won’t. That’s okay! Not meeting the goal doesn’t mean you just give up on it. Recognize it was a tough week and start fresh next week.

6) Reward yourself.

Build in simple and consistent rewards to recognize your progress. For example, each day or week you meet your goal, give yourself an inexpensive and accessible reward such as time with a friend, reading your favorite novel, going to the park, or watching an episode of your favorite “guilty pleasure” TV show.

7) Include some achievement goals.

A lot of our goals are focused on stopping or reducing bad habits like “I won’t eat fried food,” “I’ll cut back on my drinking,” or “I’ll stop smoking.” Nothing wrong with those, but don’t forget to include a goal or two that focuses on working toward a new positive habit or achievement. Examples include running a 5K, reading two books a month, spending more quality time with friends and family, and so on.

8) Build in support.

You don’t have to go it alone when working towards a goal, and in fact, you shouldn’t. Your chances of success are better if you have at least one or two people you share your goal with so they can support you, provide feedback, and help keep you accountable. Support can include friends, family, and professionals, so use any of these if they’re available and helpful.

9) Write everything down.

Write down your goal, the steps you are taking, your progress, rewards, time frames, support system. Everything. This crystallizes the process; plus, it’s far too much information to try to remember. Use a notebook you can keep handy or try one of the many “goal setting” apps if you prefer an electronic format.

10) Don’t beat yourself up.

There will be days or even weeks when you make zero progress. Don’t call yourself a loser or a failure when this happens. Instead, analyze what’s keeping you from making progress, seek support, regroup, revise, and just try again. Change is a process of trial and error to find out what patterns and routines will be most effective for you. Most importantly, don’t give up.

Let me conclude by saying that I’m not opposed to making resolutions. About half of us can successfully sustain resolutions over a six-month period. That’s pretty darn good! But if you employ these proven and effective strategies I’ve outlined, you stand a better chance of sustaining your progress and ultimately reaching your goals. Good luck and stick with it!

Copyright David Susman 2019

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