Making Resolutions That Stick

It’s that time of year again! Everyone has just made resolutions for the New Year.

According to Dr. John C. Norcross at the University of Scranton, each year ~ 40 – 50% of us make New Year’s resolutions, yet most of us don’t follow through with them. In 1989, Dr. Norcross showed that “77% of people who made resolutions kept their initial resolutions for one week, 55% for one month, and 40% for six months.”

While a 40% New Year’s resolution success rate after six months may seem low, Dr. Norcross published an additional study in 2002 showing otherwise. The 2002 study compared ‘resolvers’, individuals who made New Year’s resolutions versus ‘non-resolvers’, those who did not make New Year’s resolutions, but were interested in changing a problem later in the year. He found that after six months, 46% of ‘resolvers’ were continuously successful in their goal(s) compared to 4% of ‘non-resolvers’. The mere act of setting intentional goals, aids in being successful at changing problems or habits.

Do you want to be in that 46% of ‘resolvers’ that succeeds in 2016? If so, keep these five tips in mind as you approach your goals:

  1. Start small! Kevin Doherty, a Kaiser Permanente Colorado Behavioral Health Counselor says, “Make your resolutions small, realistic, and obtainable.” Making small goals allows us to change our habits and slowly implement new behaviors. You can’t change everything in one night!
  1. Change one behavior at a time. The American Psychological Association states that “Unhealthy behaviors develop over the course of time, therefore replacing unhealthy behaviors with healthy ones also requires time.” People often fail at New Year’s resolutions because they have high expectations and try to change too many behaviors at one time.
  1. According to Dr. Norcross, “no one resolution is more difficult to keep than any other.” What really matters is how attainable your goal is. Remember to be realistic when setting new goals for yourself.
  1. Make sure your goals are measurable. Norcross states, “We say, if you can’t measure it, it’s not a very good resolution because vague goals beget vague resolutions.” Think about making S.M.A.R.T. (Specific Measurable Achievable Relevant and Time-bound) goals in 2016!
  1. Set up your life to minimize temptations. According to a study led by Dr. Wilhelm Hofmann at the University of Chicago, the people that succeed are those that practice self-control and don’t surround themselves with temptations.
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Image: Alan Cleaver, Flikr

Implementing these tips towards your New Year’s resolutions just might get you a spot in the 46% of effective resolvers. For more details on how psychology can help you stick to your resolutions, check out this recent podcast featuring The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Here’s to a successful and productive 2016!

About the Author

Amanda Shaver is a Ph.D. student at the University of Georgia. She enjoys dancing, crafting, and playing with her dog Mr. Peabody. High on her list of accomplishments is eating a whole block of cheddar cheese in one sitting without negative consequences. You can email her at Amanda.shaver@uga.edu or follow her on Twitter @AOShaver.