So what gives?
Find One Important Thing:
Stew Friedman, writing for the Harvard Business Review, writes that "Resolutions for a new year often fail because they don’t matter enough. Take some time to invest in thinking about what matters most in your life. Keep it specific, simple, and important, and you’re much more likely to take realistic action." So many New Year's Resolutions center around vague, difficult-to-achieve, and unimportant goals that don't fit in with our lifestyles, no wonder our success rate is so tiny.
If you want to make real, lasting changes, focus on something specific that you are passionate about. There's a huge difference between saying "I want to lose weight and maybe get a new job this year," and having a plan that really matters to you and fits your life.
Make It Specific:
"I am going to lose one half pound a week, on average, this year by cutting down on sugar and carbs and walking 10,000 steps a day" is a tangible, solid goal. You have small, positive steps throughout the year, tiny weekly goals, that will add up big by the end of 365 days. While you might not lose 26 pounds by the end of the year, you'll have made a change that will help you to be healthier for life. There's a huge difference between having your resolution be "I want to write a novel soon," and "I'm going to write 500 words a day, six days a week." The first is setting you up for failure by not having specific, quantifiable goals. The second is a plan to get you closer to success. Make sure your plan involves weekly checkpoints that are something you can count or see or measure,
Try Mini-Goals Instead:
Most resolutioners throw down a big challenge to themselves at the beginning of the year, but falter because the challenge is so drawn out and the final product so far away. “You can make very, very small changes that are consistent with your big goals without having to understand how you’re going to get to the endgame,” says Stanford University psychologist Kelly McGonigal in an interview about resolutions with TED. Instead of having one big yearly goal, break it down to something you can succeed at once a week, or once a day. If your goal this year is to earn a certification in two different subjects then find a new job in those subjects, break it down into pieces. Goal 1 might be to save up the money for courses needed to get the certification. Write out a plan, and give yourself leeway for emergencies. Goal 2 might be taking the first certification course and getting a certain grade. Goal 3 could be passing the certification test. You'll be able to celebrate reaching your goals more often, and celebrations are great motivations.
Give Yourself Little Goal Parties:
While goal completions should be rewards unto themselves (if you don't care about it enough to celebrate that it's done, why are you doing it in the first place?), a separate reward system will help to build habits when finishing goals. "If I write a blog post every day this week, I will be allowed to order pizza on Friday." "If I finish this certification test the first time through, I will treat myself to a weekend at the beach." "If I walk just 3000 more steps this week than last week, I will reward myself with some movie tickets." The rewards don't have to be big or expensive, but they should be meaningful to you.
Although keeping your goals at the forefront of your mind can be difficult (especially when the couch or that piece of chocolate cake is right there), remember that any goal worth attaining probably won't be easy. Forgive yourself for errors and move on. But don't give up! Even tiny step toward your goals is better than no steps at all. With a little hard work and some planning, 2016 can be your best year yet!