by Melissa Chichester
A study conducted by the University of Scranton revealed that a whopping 80% of people give up on their New Year’s resolutions by February. Furthermore, one fitness app evaluated 800 million user-tracked activities in 2019 and found that the majority of people gave up by January 19, not even three weeks later. So what does it take to keep your momentum up when it comes to goal setting? A lot of it has to do with how you approach the goal.
Don’t try to change too many things at once or set too many goals. This may set you up for failure. Mix it up with two or three important goals and a few fun ones. For example, you might set out to drink 100 ounces of water per day and get 30 minutes of activity five times per week. If those are your highest priorities, a smaller (and fun!) goal could revolve around your hobbies or even something that seems silly but makes you happy. Maybe you want to build three 1,000 piece puzzles this year or play more board games. Keep the big goals simple so you can succeed, but make some fun and small goals too.
A measurable goal will help you see progress during your journey. If one of your resolutions is to start running, you are not going to wake up one day and be able to run a 10K. But if you make your goal to be able to run a 10K, you can break up the distance into measurable intervals each week. If you want to learn a language, keep track of how many words you are learning each week or track progress with a language learning app by making your way through modules each week.
It is important to reward yourself as you make progress on your resolutions. Can you run one mile without stopping now? Celebrate it! Did you write an entire chapter of your first novel! That’s worth celebrating too. Rewarding yourself will help you keep pushing forward and keep your motivation high, especially if your goal requires a longer time commitment.
Vocalizing your goals with others helps with accountability. When you have a support group cheering you on, you are more likely to work toward your goal and not give up, because people will be asking about your progress! Plus, you can even enlist an accountability buddy to work toward the goal with you. For example, if one of your goals is to read 50 books this year, joining a book club is a great way to share this goal and stay accountable.
The environment where you spend time plays a large role in keeping your momentum up. If you seek to exercise first thing in the morning, put your workout clothes out the night before where you can see them. Improving your diet? Keep the fruit bowl full and out where you can see it. Committing to eating a nutritious breakfast? Make your smoothie or overnight oats the night before so you can never use the “I don’t have time to make breakfast” excuse.
You can’t be perfect all the time. For some people, this is hard to accept. But you need to be graceful with yourself on the road to self-improvement.
When goals are set with rules that are too rigid, it shifts the focus from the goal to not making a mistake.
Perfection is not possible. Bad days are normal. So you missed a run? That’s only one run. Don’t miss the next one. Or make it up on another day. Or walk the mile that you missed.
Don’t think of your goals as something you have to do but rather that you want to do. You get to do them. Completing the activities and steps toward your goal should be something you enjoy, not dread. You will enjoy them more if you have gratitude for them. Instead of grumbling about the alarm going off for your workout first thing in the morning, be grateful that you get to wake up and move your body. Author and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar used to refer to the alarm clock as the “opportunity clock!”
Do your resolutions need a refresh? They might! Go over the goals you set at the beginning of the year and check-in with them. How is your progress? You might need to adjust the goal or the steps you are taking to achieve that goal.
If the steps you’re taking to keep your resolution aren’t working, it’s important to shift your route to get back on track. Going back to that running goal, if you can’t get past a certain point, maybe you need to incorporate cross-training. Maybe you haven’t been honest with yourself about the effort you have made. Maybe you need a running coach or just need a new and better pair of shoes. Figure out why you’re stuck so you don’t give up.
Today, we have more access to information than ever before. Want to get obsessed with something? Want to be the best you can be? Well, the information is probably at your fingertips. Do the research you need to do in order to support what you want your new reality to be. The more knowledge you gain, the more passion and motivation you will have behind the goal.
Set an intention and recite it daily. Write it down, stick it on your mirror, your steering wheel, your water bottle, wherever you will see it. “I am a 10K runner.” “I am successful.” “I will read 50 books this year.” Seeing, memorizing, and reciting your intentions put your focus on the goal.
One final note about keeping momentum: make sure that you are having fun along the way. Self-improvement is supposed to be enjoyable. It is a process that makes you a better version of yourself. Yes, there will be difficult days, but you should also be enjoying most of your journey.