So, we are well into the new year and it may be a good time to review or re-assess our New Year’s Resolutions. If 2018 is anything like every other year, your resolutions this year are likely to have focused on things like losing weight, exercising more, learning new skills, and generally enjoying life more.
The problem with resolutions, of course, is that as time moves along, we tend break them. The research indicates that only a small number of people (about 8-12%) report sticking to their resolutions.
Intentions are easy; following through is hard. The research tells us there are three basic issues
- Our resolutions are too vague, lacking in clarity of direction.
- lack clear incentives, measures and rewards to keep us on track.
- They require too much willpower.
Here, then, are 12 ideas for resolutions that science suggests, might actually work.
1. To lose weight
We do better at maximizing (well, in this case minimizing) metrics we track. Setting a specific goal in pounds, however, is setting yourself up for failure. Instituting a system and Focusing on processes to keep yourself healthy (diet, rest and exercise), while giving yourself regular numerical feedback — is more likely to get results.
I will lose X number of pounds…
I will check my weight every morning.
2. To exercise more
The lowest-effort, highest-impact thing you can do to get more exercise is to start walking more. And we’re much more likely to exercise when we plan when and where ahead of time.
I will join a gym.
I will take a walk for at least 30 minutes every day.
3. To save more
Don’t leave saving more money up to end-of-each-month you. Do all of your saving for the year in one fell swoop, taking advantage of the powerful principle of pre-commitment.
I will save 10% more of my income.
I will make a deposit to my savings account of at least x amount on a monthly basis.
4. To learn a language
Learning a new language is the beginning of a long journey. So, here’s a way to stay on track. Studies have found that rewarding yourself along the way is one key to following through on your resolutions. So plan to reward yourself for skill practicing (like learning to play the piano) along-the-way.
I will learn Italian this year.
I will study x language for x minutes every day — and, I will reward myself at the end of each month with an additional savings deposit of x amount.
5. To get a more adequate amount of rest
On average, we should all be getting seven to nine hours of sleep. Easier said than done. However, one specific thing you can do is respond to the research showing how bad it is to watch TV ahead of bed time.
I will get more sleep.
I will put away my laptop and tablet computers for a minimum of two hours before bedtime.
6. To feel less stress
One of the biggest sources of stress in modern life is email. Research has found professionals spend as much as 13 hours a week checking it. Experiments have shown that limiting the number of times per day you check your email reduces your stress level significantly.
I will try to relax more.
I will turn off email notification on my phone and only check my accounts and messages only three times a day.
7. To be happier and at peace with myself
Directly trying to be happy tends to have a backfire effect. But there are plenty of indirect changes you can make that have happiness as a side-effect. A big one: practicing gratitude.
I will try to be happier and at peace with myself.
I will write down three to five things per-day for which I am grateful.
8. To travel more
One of the most effective ways to keep a resolution is to break it down into pieces and to have a plan. Take something like the common, but vague, resolution to travel more. While you can’t just take a trip on an impulse, it is important to make explicit notes about travel that you are planning.
I will travel more.
I will plan out and make travel arrangements to visit a specific destination at a specific time.
9. To cook more
Another important factor in keeping resolutions is to give yourself cues to encourage a change in your behavior. If you’re trying to eat better — what could be simpler than signing yourself up for an enticing cooking class?
I will cook more.
I will sign up, on a certain day, for a cooking course and do my own cooking at least x number of times per month.
10. To volunteer more
Volunteering has been linked to positive outcomes for mental and physical health. However, making the time in a busy schedule is always a challenge. Linking up with a group of people who have in interest in volunteering is a good way of creating the motivation to follow-through.
I will volunteer more.
I will join this specific charitable organization.
11. To find a new job
Writing down “find a new job” on your annual to do list (procrastination typically wins that game). Instead, take concrete-but-achievable steps that will increase your likelihood of success. Networking a great way to invest your efforts — remember that most jobs are never advertised.
I will find a new job.
I will engage in at least one networking lunch or coffee every week.
Don’t tell anyone your resolutions! Research shows it can create a premature sense of accomplishment. Also, pick one, two, or three resolutions at most; too many resolutions take up too much brain space and increase your odds of failing at all of them.