As a licensed clinical psychologist experienced in both in-person and online therapy, I know it can be tough to stick to your New Year's resolutions throughout the year. Yes, it's easy to set these goals—but to attain them, you need to understand what's holding you back and find ways to move forward.
I'm here to help you keep your resolutions on track, whether they're related to health, career, or personal growth. Stay motivated and remember: transforming yourself requires patience and perseverance. Let's make 2024 a year of meaningful and lasting change.
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New Year's Resolutions vs. Goals
New Year's resolutions are promises you make to yourself for change starting January 1st. They're often made up of smaller goals that help you reach your main resolution. Say you decide to live healthier; your goals could be things like running three times a week or eating more greens.
Sometimes, the tradition of setting resolutions can make them feel rushed or forced—like you're just going through the motions. Sure, starting fresh is thrilling, but creating resolutions because you think you have to can make it more challenging to stay committed.
Benefits of Setting New Year's Resolutions
Many people make New Year's resolutions, but it's common not to achieve them completely. In fact, only 8% of people actually stick to their goals throughout the whole year. Don't let that discourage you, though—setting these resolutions can lead to many positive changes.
There's a lot of optimism out there, with 57% of Americans expecting the upcoming year to be as good as or better than the last. Here are some benefits of New Year's resolutions:
- They provide motivation and focus: A clear goal or intention for the new year can give you direction and motivation to work towards something specific.
- They help break bad habits or start healthy ones: Resolutions are an excellent way to identify habits you want to change and commit to making positive lifestyle shifts.
- They boost self-improvement: Setting challenges and goals for yourself helps build self-confidence as you work to better yourself. Plus, achieving resolutions can give you a sense of accomplishment.
- They inspire self-reflection: The new year provides a natural opportunity to look back at the previous year and evaluate what you did well and what you could improve.
- They encourage trying new things: Stepping outside your comfort zone by taking on a fresh experience, skill, or adventure can be exciting and rewarding.
5 Expert Tips for Reaching Your Goals
Make Meaningful Commitments
Instead of vague resolutions like "be a better person," consider something meaningful, like improving your communication skills to enhance your relationships or volunteering regularly to give back to the community.
Set SMART Goals
Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals offer a clear and organized way to increase your chances of success by helping you set specific objectives and actionable steps. Here's how:
- Specific: Define your goal clearly.
- Measurable: Break it down into measurable steps.
- Achievable: Ensure that your goal is attainable.
- Relevant: Make it relevant to your overall resolution.
- Time-bound: Set a specific timeframe.
An example of a SMART goal could be: "I plan to lose 20 pounds in five months by exercising for 30 minutes five days a week and cutting down on junk food." You can track this by regularly weighing yourself and noting your progress towards the 20-pound loss over the set period.
Opt for Intrinsic Rewards
Choose goals with intrinsic rewards, like feeling healthier and more energized through a regular exercise routine. This will increase your motivation and help you stick to your resolutions. Another goal could be to practice gratitude daily. This will ultimately lead to a greater sense of contentment and fulfillment.
Be Prepared for Obstacles
Anticipate challenges, like work-related stress, and plan strategies like deep breathing exercises or time management techniques to stay on track. Avoid comparing yourself to others, and stay focused on your own personal growth and progress.
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7 Steps to Make Your New Year’s Resolutions Stick
1. Keep Your Resolution Specific, Relevant, and Achievable
Take the time to consider your New Year's Resolution carefully. Focus on what truly matters to you and what you can realistically accomplish. Ensure your goals are SMART. Instead of a broad goal like "get fit," opt for something specific like "jog for 30 minutes three times a week." If you struggle, don't hesitate to adjust your goals.
2. Devise Your Plan for Success
Have a specific plan for reaching your goals; don't leave them vague or undefined. Along with your sub-goals, think about concrete steps for success. If you want to eat healthier, choose a wholesome appetizer when dining out with friends.
Decide whether to cut back on such outings or enjoy them while making more nutritious choices elsewhere. Flexibility is key; not denying everything can help you stick to your goals.
3. Commit and Set Regular Check-Ins
You have your resolution, goals, and plan, but are you committed for an entire year? I know it can feel daunting. Instead, consider giving it your all for a shorter period, like a week or even a day. Pick a number between one and 30, like 23, and on that day each month, assess your progress and commitment.
Or you can choose a number between one and seven for weekly check-ins. These regular assessments will increase your awareness of your successes and challenges, allowing you to adjust your plan.
4. Unlock Positive Thinking and Reframe Your Goals
Don't get stuck in thinking traps that negatively affect your mental health. Instead, reframe your goals. Go from saying, "I won't drink as much," to something like, "I'll limit myself to three drinks per week," or "I'll choose non-alcoholic drinks over alcoholic ones three times out of five."
It's easier to work towards something you can have rather than what you're depriving yourself of.
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5. Celebrate Your Achievements
Now that you've set realistic, meaningful sub-goals you're committed to and are holding yourself accountable for, it's time to reward yourself for your successes. Think of small prizes like a relaxing bath, an extra TV show, cozy socks, or extra time at the gym. Remember to prioritize self-care.
Create a list of rewards for small, medium, and big achievements. These bonuses can remind you of your successes, boost your mental health, and help you stay committed.
6. Seek Support From Your Network and Professionals
Identify someone in your support network who shares similar goals or is willing to assist you in achieving your New Year's resolutions. Form a group to hold each other accountable. Discuss challenges, brainstorm solutions, and celebrate achievements.
Additionally, consider online therapy platforms like BetterHelp or Cerebral, which offer cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to reshape negative thoughts and provide stress management techniques to support your journey.
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7. Use Apps to Stay on Track and Accountable
You can use various online tools to support your New Year's Resolutions, helping you stay accountable and find creative solutions to overcome challenges.
Goodbudget: Ideal for saving money.
24me: Perfect for getting organized.
Meditation apps like Headspace or Calm: Useful for becoming more mindful and present daily.
Maintain Your Goals Throughout 2024
By setting specific goals, staying accountable, and embracing the journey of self-improvement, you can make meaningful and lasting changes. But don't be too hard on yourself during setbacks; instead, use them as opportunities to learn and grow.
With determination and the right mindset, you can turn this year into a transformative and successful chapter.
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