Resolved to change your health? Unfortunately, only around 20 percent of New Year’s resolutions actually stick. (1) The good news is there are ways to support your goal-setting and attainment to get the results you want. Here’s 10 ways to turn New Year resolutions into real results.
1. Start with Vision
The majority of New Year’s resolutions focus around health-promoting behaviors like diet and exercise. In one study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, 29% of people who had made resolutions had already fallen off the wagon by the second week. (2) How do you stay the course? The first step is to know exactly where it is you’re going.
Create an optimal vision of health. If you met your goal, what would it look and feel like? Envisioning the future you’re seeking isn’t just about cultivating positive emotions for the sake of warm fuzzies. Positive emotions get the brain ready to access creative solutions and build resilience. (3) These are essential tools needed for when setbacks occur. Still, the vision is just one piece of the goal-attainment puzzle.
2. Begin with Behavior-Based Goals Instead of Outcome Goals
If your ideal vision of health is the ultimate destination, then the path is lined with achievable goals. Which goals would you be more likely to stick with over time?
- “Run a 5k” or “Run each weekday”
- “Eat healthy” or “Limit takeout to twice a week”
- “Fit into those jeans” or “Do my workout video 3 x week”
Often, health goals fail because we focus all our attention on the final destination instead of the steps needed to achieve the outcome. Having small behavior goals gives us the reward of accomplishing just what we need to do for the time being, strengthening self-trust. Success in one small goal sets us up for success in the next larger goal.
3. Involve Others
Telling someone else about your goal can help you stick to healthy behaviors. Also, when you verbalize these reasons, you can literally talk yourself into change. Finding ways to engage with others pursuing similar goals can boost motivation, longevity and support.
Exercise: Take a walk around the block with a neighbor. Turn the garage into a fitness center and compete against a family member.
Sleep: Trying to get in bed by 10? Text a friend for accountability.
Weight loss: Sign up for a plan with built-in support. The SHAPE program includes an online community for recipe ideas and encouragement.
4. Acknowledge Ambivalence
Many goals fail because someone hasn’t convinced themselves that it’s worth changing. Ambivalence is simultaneously wanting and not wanting to change. You may really want to reap the benefits of an anti-inflammatory eating template, but you may feel frustrated or fearful about missing favorite foods. You may know putting your phone in another room at night could help with sleep and positively affect your stress and energy levels, but you may have trouble giving up the late night social media scroll.
Giving voice to all the reasons not to change and all the reasons to change can be helpful to clarify a path that aligns with your values and abilities. Tools like a Decisional Balance, a type of pro’s and con’s list, can alleviate ambivalence.
5. Use SMART Goals
When you notice yourself thinking about when and how to change more than whether or why, it could be a clue that your motivation has reached a threshold of readiness for action. The SMART goal method can increase the likelihood of meeting your goals by including specific metrics. Consider these goals:
- I want to get in shape.
- I will walk on my treadmill at 3.5 mph on Mondays and Wednesdays from 7:00-7:30 p.m. for the next 90 days.
You can make your own goal SMART by asking these questions:
Specific: Exactly what is it that you want to accomplish?
Measurable: How will you know when you have reached this goal?
Achievable/Action Steps: Do you have the resources you need to achieve this goal, and if not, how will you get what you need? Is achieving the goal realistic with effort and commitment? Does your goal have specific action steps?
Relevant: Does this goal align with your ideal vision of health? Why is this goal important to you and your life?
Timed: What are your start dates and end dates?
6. Increase Confidence with Brainstorming & Resources
Goals that stick are ones that you have a high level of certainty around your ability to follow the plan. Brainstorming a list of possible ways to achieve your vision can provide insight and confidence. During the expansion phase of brainstorming, no idea is off-limits. Then, when all ideas are on the table, see what resonates most. Brainstorming can be an ideal time to consider new resources. Maybe you want to investigate services or technologies that could support health.
Stress management: Noticing emotional eating? Try an online food-mood journal to see when and why you eat. Need to get a handle on stress to protect your heart? What meditation apps could help, or how could you creatively structure your day for a few moments of mindful breathing?
Energy, weight & whole-body health: Consider something besides standard protocols. How might Ozone Detox Chamber support your goals for resilience, body composition, better blood pressure, strong immunity and cardiovascular health?
7. Leverage Past Success
Mastery experiences build self-efficacy, a belief in ourselves and abilities. Think of success in different areas of life, not just health. What changes have you successfully made in the past at work, school or in a relationship? Can you give an example of something you managed to do that you weren’t sure you’d be able to accomplish? How were you able to do that? What can you learn from past successes to bring into your current health goals?
8. Avoid Common Traps
A common trap is to make your plan for better health too complex. Overlooking potential obstacles is another misstep. Taking time to trouble-shoot your action-steps can increase success. If you have a goal increasing movement, what are your backup plans for inclement weather? If you find yourself turning to the fridge when stress runs high, what will your next step be after the sugar high? Planning for barriers can keep you on course.
9. Reframe Setbacks
If you struggle with an all-or-nothing mindset or tend to throw in the towel after a slip-up, reframing can help. Consider your goals as an experiment. You are simply there to collect data on what does and does not work for you. “Failure” can be counted as a win because of the valuable information you gather.
It’s normal to feel a bit discouraged when reapproaching a health behavior you’ve attempted to change. Hypothetical thinking can provide fresh perspective and insight by looking at the goal from the finish line. Suppose you did find success and were looking back on it now; what do you think would have worked?
10. Unlock Lasting Motivation
Motivation is evoked, not installed. No one is unmotivated. One of the most powerful ways to stay with a goal is to link it with our personal values and desires. How does your goal connect to your larger view of your purpose in life? Humans yearn for integrity to behave in concordance to our values.
Someone with prediabetes who deeply values family may decrease their sugar consumption to be able to give more of themselves to their kids or grandkids. Someone who values excellence on the job may decide to implement a mindfulness break to better handle stress and make better decisions during the workday. These are types of intrinsic motivations that far outlasts external motivations such as “If I eat that my wife will yell at me” or “I ought to exercise because it’s the right thing to do.” Lasting motivation brings purpose, creativity and intention to what can be both a stretching and rewarding journey of change.
What Will Your Health Look Like in 2021?
As you set out to achieve greater levels of health this year, we’re here to help. Let us know how we can support you and your ideal vision for optimal health and wellness.
- “Why 80 Percent of New Year’s Resolutions Fail | Eat + Run ….” 29 Dec. 2015, https://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/articles/2015-12-29/why-80-percent-of-new-years-resolutions-fail. Accessed 29 Nov. 2020.
- “Auld lang syne: success predictors, change … – PubMed.” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11920693/. Accessed 29 Nov. 2020.
- “The broaden–and–build theory of positive emotions ….” https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rstb.2004.1512. Accessed 30 Nov. 2020.