New Year’s resolutions are broken probably as often as they’re made, but they don’t have to be. Keeping a New Year’s resolution, as with any goal in life, requires preparation, discipline, and the drive to keep going even when it gets tough. According to PsychCentral, successfully meeting your goals in the new year will largely be determined by your ability to exhibit self-control and your belief that self-control is an important component of keeping your resolution. Once you conquer that, you’ll be armed to break any bad habit.
“What all of this means is that you’ll do better on your New Year’s goals if you believe that self-control is indeed an unlimited resource that we all have access to and can leverage with our resolutions.,” wrote Dr. John M. Grohol of PsychCentral. “The more you believe in your own capabilities — high self-efficacy — the more likely you will succeed as well.”
The American Psychological Association suggests these three steps to make your New Year’s resolution stick:
1. Tackle one behavior at a time. “Setting small, attainable goals throughout the year, instead of a singular, overwhelming goal on Jan. 1 can help you reach whatever it is you strive for,” said psychologist Lynn Bufka, Ph.D. “Remember, it is not the extent of the change that matters, but rather the act of recognizing that lifestyle change is important and working toward it, one step at a time.”
2. Tell your friends and loved ones what your resolutions are. Telling people about your goals gives you both a support system and a way to hold yourself accountable. It also makes the goal that you’re trying to reach less intimidating. “Announce your goal to friends, family, random strangers, social media,” said fitness enthusiast Bethany Lyons, according to the NY Daily News. “This puts your intention out there into the universe, and the universe will support you in ways you have yet to imagine.”
3. Don’t beat yourself up if you falter along the way. “If you fall off the wagon, you don’t have to wait until Jan. 1 to start again!” said ballet dancer Marisa Ceveris. “Every Monday, every day is a fresh start.” And the American Psychological Association agrees. Remember that setbacks are normal, and recovering from mistakes will be the difference between those who succeed in keeping their resolutions and those who fail.
For more information on the psychology of New Year’s resolutions, visit the American Psychological Association.