Breaking the Cycle: How to Make Your New Year's Resolutions Stick

One week post New Year’s Day and the high of new resolutions is already beginning to fade.


As the holidays come to an end, students return to school and the time dedicated to resolutions gets exchanged for the regular demands and commitments of a new semester. In a few months, only 10% of resolution makers will still be on track with their goals.


There are a number of reasons people struggle to make New Year’s resolutions last, many of them psychological. For some, the arbitrary start to a New Year’s resolution is a problem in itself - they feel bound to a timeline that doesn’t allow room for mistakes. Other people set too many goals. Some people set unrealistic goals, pushing themselves to completely overhaul their lives. Some people have unrealistic expectations about the time it will take to achieve the results they want.


All of these mistakes present barriers to real, lasting change. They build up excess pressure to succeed, but also create enormous guilt over little failures - guilt that prevents people from getting back on the horse. Knowing the factors behind dropped resolutions can prevent you from making the same mistakes - and the following tips will help your 2019 resolution last the whole year.


  • Forgive yourself

You will fall off the wagon. Many of our resolutions involve major lifestyle changes, but change isn’t something that comes easily to humans. It’s in our nature to relapse and fall back into bad habits - what matters is that you pick yourself up after you fall. Accept that you will have setbacks and make a plan to overcome them. Forgiving yourself, even if you’re frustrated and upset, will help you transition from old habits to new without extra emotional distress.


  • Celebrate the small victories

Whatever your end goal is, there are smaller steps to reach the finish line. Celebrating the completion of those steps is not only fun, but it motivates you to reach the next goal. Keep in mind that some victories aren’t measurable or tangible. If your goal is to lose 20 pounds, a small victory might be taking the stairs to work for a week straight, completing your first marathon, or noticing that you feel stronger, happier, and more confident - no matter your size.


  • Find a support system

Accountability, friendship, advice, comfort-- these are just some of the things a support system can offer you. You’re not on your resolution journey alone. Finding a support system makes the task less intimidating and helps incorporate your resolution into every area of life, giving you a better chance of success. Whether they act as a gym partner, sobriety sponsor, or a listening ear, real friends will see that your resolution is important to you and help you achieve it.


  • Be optimistic about realistic change

Most people fail to stick to a New Year’s resolution because their resolution isn’t attainable. Don’t expect massive change to happen overnight; change happens when you repeatedly make the right choice, which eventually evolves into the right habit. Like most things worthwhile, that takes time. Developing your resolution along the SMART goals guidelines will get your journey off on the right foot. Once you do that, stay optimistic! Don’t get discouraged by setbacks. Having the right attitude is half the battle.


These four tips will help you overcome the regular roadblocks, but if you find yourself doubting your resolution, remember why you made it in the first place. Our New Year’s resolutions are supposed to make our lives better. If yours is making you miserable, maybe you chose the wrong resolution. If that’s the case, don’t worry... there’s always 2020.