And then the year starts over, with each of us resolving to be better in the coming year and not repeat the same mistakes. However, this rarely succeeds and most New Year’s resolutions do not last. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, only one in five people keep their resolutions for two years or more before falling off the wagon and one in four fail in the first week (Norcross & Vangarelli, 1989).
However, this is not a reason to despair. Here are some tips and tricks that can help you become one of the few that makes a change and keeps it:
This may sound cliché, but research suggests that belief in one's own ability to change is key in achieving goals. A study published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2014 found that people who believed they could not change themselves on average had lower grades in school as adolescents, showed more hostile reactions to social challenges, and had more stress (Yeager, et al., 2014). If you believe you cannot change your personality or behaviors, a New Year’s resolution is not likely to succeed because it is a resolution to change. This means you believe that achieving the resolution is not possible, which is (understandably) a huge motivation-killer.
On the other hand, believing that you can change restores this motivation and gives hope that the resolution can succeed. You are not stuck the way you are forever, and your past does not define you. The only thing that defines you is the present, so live in light of that fact!
It is very hard, if not impossible, to achieve a difficult goal with no help from others. Research has shown that social support is a crucial part of making a meaningful behavior change. A study published by Psychology & Health in 2016 showed that people were more successful in quitting smoking when there were people actively helping them quit along with their own individual effort (Oschner, et al., 2016). This not only applies to smoking but also many other behavior changes, including diet and exercise (Hempler, Joensen, & Willaing, 2016).
How exactly can people help in the struggle to keep a resolution? They can encourage you when you feel like giving up, hold you accountable to your promise to yourself, and even join in on your resolution to better their own lives too!
We often don’t realize how much of our actions are actually reactions to what’s around us. Think about it: does a bowl of candy being in front of you make you tempted to eat a piece when you weren’t even thinking about candy before? The answer is probably yes. Putting obstacles in your daily life and removing opportunities for a better behavior choice can be a death sentence to New Year’s resolutions. Research confirms this; a study in 2013 by the Journal of School Health showed that giving schoolchildren more access to fruits and vegetables at lunchtime, verbally encouraging the children to eat them, removing “unhealthy” food choices, and including more exercise during the day resulted in healthy eating and exercise habits in the children that continued long-term (Belansky, et al., 2013).
You can apply this in your own life too. Make it as easy as possible to make the right choices and as difficult as possible to make the wrong ones, and success will come much more easily.
With these tips in mind, I hope you face your year and your resolutions with more confidence than ever before and live the life you have always wanted to live. Happy New Year!
Yeager, D. S., Johnson, R., Spitzer, B. J., Trzesniewski, K. H., Powers, J., & Dweck, C. S. (2014). The far-reaching effects of believing people can change: Implicit theories of personality shape stress, health, and achievement during adolescence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 106(6), 867–884. https://doi-org.jpllnet.sfsu.edu/10.1037/a0036335.supp (Supplemental)
Norcross, J. C. & Vangarelli, D. J. (1989). The resolution solution: longitudinal examination of New Year's change attempts. Journal of Substance Abuse, 1(2), 127-34.
Ochsner, S., Luszczynska, A., Stadler, G., Knoll, N., Hornung, R., & Scholz, U. (2016). The interplay of received social support and self-regulatory factors in smoking cessation. Psychology & Health, 29(1),16-31. doi:10.1080/08870446.2013.818674
Hempler, N. F., Joensen, L. E., & Willaing, I. (2016). Relationship between social network, social support and health behaviour in people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes: cross-sectional studies. BMC Public Health, 16, 198. doi:10.1186/s12889-016-2819-1
Belansky, E., Cutforth, N., Chavez, R., Crane, L., Waters, E., & Marshall, J. (2013). Adapted Intervention Mapping: A Strategic Planning Process for Increasing Physical Activity and Healthy Eating Opportunities in Schools via Environment and Policy Change. Journal of School Health, 83(3), 194-205. https://doi-org.jpllnet.sfsu.edu/10.1111/josh.12015