Every year, at this time, millions of people make New Year’s Resolutions. They are resolved that “this is the year that something is going to change”. Some decide that it’s time to lose some weight, quit smoking, drink less alcohol, get out of debt, get organized, or manage some emotions in a healthier way. Others make commitments to spend more time with their families, reconcile broken relationships, lessen the stress in their lives, go back to school, change careers, enjoy life more, or volunteer to help make the world a better place in some way.
Why is it that so many make these resolutions during the beginning of the New Year? It’s because a new year presents a new opportunity to change something, to do something, or to become a better person in some way. After struggling, failing, or repeating unhealthy habits time and time again the past year, the new year seems to stimulate hope for the possibility of new behavior. The first week of the new year is a great time to make some life-changing decisions; however, research reveals that only around 12% of people stick with their resolutions and end up changing. So, how can people truly make resolutions that remain for a lifetime?
Real change takes more than a resolution. It takes commitment, determination, discipline, support, goals and a plan, but these don’t seem to be popular with today’s cultural trends of “instant” and “entertainment”. Experts agree that it takes a minimum of 21 days of consistent change in behavior to change a habit, and then more work to maintain it. One of the key elements in making resolutions that last is replacing the habit or behavior that is being changed with another, more healthy behavior. Another major factor for making resolutions that last is goal setting. Any change in behavior or desired outcome must be broken down into bite size pieces – monthly goals, weekly goals, and daily goals. To lose a pound a week, one must burn 3500 more calories than they consume. If they make a goal of cutting or burning 500 calories more a day, they will lose approximately a pound a week – 52 pounds in a year. Setting and working consistently to achieve short term goals is the way to achieve long term change.
A third key to making resolutions that remain is a strong support system – a workout partner at the fitness club, an accountability companion, or even a few fans at work or in the family for encouragement. When other people know about resolutions that have been made, they can help with accountability. It’s vital that all who make resolutions realize that there will be times of failure. If this is realized from the start, it will be easier to get back up and get back on track, instead of becoming discouraged and giving up. In the end, what matters most is how quickly people recover from the setback. Resolve, replacement of a habit with another, realistic goals, repetition, and rapid recovery from failures and slip ups will lead to resolutions that remain for a lifetime.