According to a University of Scranton Journal of Clinical Psychology study, 92% of Americans fail to keep their New Year’s resolution. The reason is simple: the advent of another year conjures images of newness and change within us, but our learned behaviors cause us to fall back into our old routine. With 2014 only a few weeks away, you may be considering making yet another next-to-impossible-to-keep resolution. But instead of signing yourself up for another doomed mission, why not strategically seek to make a lasting change in your life?
The top six New Year’s goals that Americans list are as follow: lose weight, get organized, spend less money, enjoy life more, stay fit and healthy, and learn something exciting. Although these are admirable goals, the reason they fail is because they are too vague. It sounds great to say you want to lose weight, but without a practical roadmap such a goal will quickly fall by the wayside.
The surefire way to guarantee that you will be able to keep your resolutions is through having clear, measurable goals in mind.
1 – Lose Weight
This is the #1 most popular New Year’s resolution that Americans list. It quickly falls by the wayside, though, because we easily fall back into our old habits and routines. Plus, there’s just so many great foods to enjoy during the holiday season! Instead of making a vague goal of “losing weight,” seek to make your goals more concrete. What is your desired weight? What type of exercise routine are you going to implement each day? What types of food are you going to stop eating? What types of foods are you going to start eating? Will you join Weight Watchers or another support group? Consider making a month-by-month checklist of goals. This makes the goal more doable than simply hoping you’ll be 40 pounds lighter by this time next year.
2 – Get organized
This is another admirable goal, but it suffers from the lack vagueness. So start asking yourself some specific questions. What do you want to organize: your house, your car, your schedule, your garage? Write down specific goals for how you want to get organized. Do you need a better household cleaning schedule? Do you need to get rid of the extra junk in your garage? Plan how exactly how you will become organized.
3 – Spend less money
Consider using a financial planning service such as Mint.com in order to figure out how much you’re spending on items each month. Next, make a desired budget for various items (rent, food, gas, insurance, etc.) and be serious about sticking to it. Keeping a close eye on your budget will enable you to spend less money and say no to things you don’t really need.
4 – Enjoy Life More
Figure out how you want to enjoy life more. Do you want to spend more time with family and friends? Do you want to go on a hiking or camping trip? Do you want to volunteer with a local charity? What, exactly, will enable you to enjoy life more, and how can you go about implementing this?
5 – Stay fit and healthy
Do you need to change your eating and exercise habits? Do you need to get more sleep each night? Should you be taking daily vitamin supplements? Are you interested in running a marathon? Should you stop buying soda and begin shopping at Whole Foods instead? What is your definition of being “fit and healthy,” and what are the practical steps you can take to get there?
6 – Learn Something Exciting
Do you want to take a class? Join a group or club centered around your favorite hobby? Get a magazine subscription or library card so you can read something new each month? Make measurable goals to make sure you are actually achieving your goals.
Spend a few minutes today thinking about what goals you have and the measurable steps you can take to get there. Write down your goals, since that increases the likelihood of keeping them. It takes 21 days to make something a habit, so in the beginning you will have to be incredibly intentional about implementing these new lifestyle changes. If you’re able to do this for the first month or two, though, it will soon become second-nature. That is the true way to create positive change in your life—not through a vague New Year’s resolution but through clear goals and conscious effort.
Peter Jones writes about technology and science.