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The third Monday in January is known as Blue Monday (the day of publishing this article) which claims to be the most depressing day of the year. This is “calculated” based on low levels of motivation due to the failing of New Year’s resolutions and other factors.
This has been confirmed to be pseudoscience, however, the data on New Year’s resolutions shows that we tend not to keep them.
Research shows that while 45% of Americans claim they make New Year’s resolutions, only 8% are actually successful in reaching their goals.
The problem with New Year’s resolutions is that many of us do it the wrong way and make mistakes in setting them.
So what are some common reasons New Year’s resolutions fail?
1. Setting unrealistic resolutions
The popular self-help narrative tells us to set BIG goals. We can feel motivated and inspired when we set them, but can get easily overwhelmed when it comes to taking action.
2. Too many resolutions at once
Just like setting unrealistic resolutions, setting too many at once can be overwhelming. When you’re pulled in many different directions at once, you end up not getting very far in one direction or not moving anywhere at all. Setting one or a few resolutions makes us better able to prioritize and focus to reach our goal.
3. You lose hope when you don’t see results fast enough
You have unrealistic expectations when it comes to speed of results in reaching your goal. If you expect results too quickly, you easily lose motivation.
4. You don’t believe in yourself
It’s easy to have big goals, dreams, and desires, but if you don’t believe in yourself, you’ll engage in self-defeating behavior and won’t put in any effort.
5. You don’t have a plan
Creating a plan makes your goal actionable. You don’t have to know everything you have to do to reach your goal, but you should have an idea to take the next steps to keep you moving closer to your goal.
6. It’s not a priority
If you don’t care and it’s not important to you, you’re not going to want to work towards it. Many of us spend our time focused on what’s urgent or habitual rather than what’s important. Learning to say no, planning ahead, and setting boundaries is essential in prioritizing the important goals.
7. You don’t have a strong enough why
Having a shallow why can quickly lead to a lack of motivation. The more intrinsic the motivation (the more it matches your inner values and purpose), the more likely you are to achieve your goal.
8. Life gets in the way
It happens. Obstacles will always come up. We should expect and plan for them in advance. This is why it’s important to include potential obstacles and a strategy to overcome them in our plan.
So how can we set ourselves up for success and make our New Year’s resolutions stick?
It’s okay to have a big goal, but make sure that it’s only one or two big goals and that you’re breaking up your goal into smaller goals that make it easier to take action. If there is too much resistance, break your goal down even smaller. Value consistency over intensity.
If you can’t run 3 miles, run 1 mile. If you can’t run 1 mile, walk 1 mile. If you can’t walk 1 mile, walk around the neighborhood or your apartment. If that’s still too much, put on your running shoes and call it a success.
Start as small as you need to so that the change is so easy you can’t say no.
When you start with small changes, you’re more likely to stick to the change. The small changes will also be able to snowball into bigger changes once habits are set.
Create a plan
Many of us set a goal and then get stuck in indecision. We have a goal, but we don’t know how to get there. List out all the action steps you need to take to achieve your goal no matter how small.
You don’t need to know every single step, but you need to be able to take action on at least the next steps. If you don’t know, commit to learning, research, and figuring it out.
Once you have your list, schedule it and put it in your calendar. Putting it on your calendar makes you more likely to act on your plan. All you need to do is honor your calendar.
Have a strong and deep Why
Connecting with a strong and deep why keeps you motivated and makes you more likely to reach your goal. You want to be both intellectually and emotionally connected to your goal.
Write out your Why and then ask yourself why. With each answer, ask yourself why. Do this five times. Doing this helps you avoid having a shallow why. Your goal should be meaningful to you and align with your core values.
Once you’ve created a strong and deep Why, keep it in front of you as much as you can. Remind yourself and reconnect with your Why when you lose motivation.
Track your progress
If possible, turn your goal into a habit. Focus on the process instead of the results. The process and habits is what will lead to the results.
Track your habit using a habit tracker. Schedule regular reflections and reviews to regularly assess your progress and make any adjustments if necessary.
If you don’t track your progress, you won’t be able to measure your goal. Tracking your progress helps you become more self-aware and notice what’s going well, what’s not going well, and what you can change. It allows you to be brutally honest with yourself and act accordingly in creating strategies to create more progress quicker.
When we see progress, even small progress, we’re more likely to stay committed and motivated in reaching our goal.
Celebrate the small wins
When you track your progress, you’re able to celebrate the small wins. Research shows that celebrating the small wins keeps us motivated and increases our confidence in reaching our goals.
You want to make sure you’re consistently rewarding yourself even just for showing up. This also helps create habits and behavior change for reaching your goal.
Make it a part of your identity
Instead of focusing on the goal and the change itself, focus on the kind person you’re going to become.
Let go of limiting beliefs and old narratives and scripts.
When you start to believe you’re a certain kind of person, you start to act and behave as that kind of person you believe you are.
Change your story to serve you. Telling yourself you’re not a morning person when you’re trying to wake up earlier doesn’t serve you.
Start practicing being the person you want to become.
Instead of telling yourself you’re trying to quit smoking, tell yourself you don’t smoke.
Research shows that changing your identity to fit with your desired goals and behavior change is more likely to create lasting change in your behavior.
Expect mistakes, obstacles, setbacks and failure (And plan for them)
Don’t expect quick success. If you do, you’re likely to lose motivation, get discouraged easily, and quit when it gets tough.
Be aware of potential obstacles and weaknesses. If you already know what you struggle with, plan ahead and create a strategy to deal with this.
Remember that even if you fail or don’t hit your target, you’re still taking a step in the right direction by setting new year’s resolutions and working towards them.
Research has found that those who set New Year’s resolutions are ten times more likely to achieve their goals than those who don’t.
When you make mistakes and fail, learn from them. Keep looking forward and use it as an opportunity for a fresh, new start. You can always try again.
Failure is never fatal. The more you’re able to reflect, practice self-awareness, and learn from your mistakes and failures, the more likely you are to be successful in the future.