Flatlay of a table featuring an open goal setting notebook, gold watch and coffee in a mug

As January is almost upon us, there’s no time like the present to think about those New Year’s Resolutions you want to make. But with the failure rate of New Year’s resolutions riding at about 80%, and most people giving up by mid-February, how can you keep your resolve and make sure that those resolutions work for you?

Here’s our top tips to help you keep those resolutions and become part of the 20% club:

1. Keep your goals specific

It’s much easier to work towards a goal if you have a tangible result that you want to achieve. It means that you can imagine yourself completing the goal, while you can also plan exactly how you are going to accomplish it. 

For example, rather than saying that you are going to get fitter by then end of the year, you could create a goal of running a 10K event in September. That gives you the opportunity to plan with smaller goals to work towards, and gives you some time off along the way, which will help you stay motivated throughout the year. 

2. Concentrate on one goal

Rather than having a whole host of goals that are competing for your attention and time, focus your energy on just one thing. Having a long list will mean that you won’t know where to start and just this fact might mean you never start! 

Once that resolution has become ingrained enough to become a habit, for example if your last year’s resolution was to get fitter, and now you attend gym classes twice a week, you can tick this one off the list, continue with those classes, AND focus on something else. 

3. Tell your friends and family

Telling your friends and family that you are embarking on a New Year’s resolution is a great way to make you accountable for your goals. It shows that you are serious about wanting to make a change, and also means that you can ask for support if you need it.

You never know, you may find that your friend also wants to achieve the same goal as you, and working towards something together is so much easier than going alone. You’ll push one another to work that much harder and pick each other up when the other is struggling. 

4. Start small

Often resolutions are hard to accomplish because they seem so daunting. To make them less daunting, focus on the smaller steps that will help you reach the larger goal. 

With our 10K example, there’s no way you are going to be able to walk out on January 1st and run 10K after a week of eating and drinking too much, and a year of sitting in front of the TV. Instead, give yourself small goals which you can then celebrate when you complete them. You might want to start with the NHS’s couch to 5K app so that by mid March you can then run 5K and build the rest of your routine from there. 

5. Plan and track your progress

Similarly, planning will really help you narrow down on how you are going to achieve you goal. It’s a great way to help you think about what challenges you might face along the way and how you are going to deal with them - for our 10K example, you might consider what happens if you have to work late for a few weeks or sustain an injury along the way. It also means that you can check your progress and discover what works and what doesn’t to better achieve your goal in the long run. 

You can also track the progress of your goal along the way. It’s a great way to keep you motivated on the task at hand. As well as showing you how much time you’ve put into your goal, you can also journal about your successes and struggles and refer back to them when you are in a slump and need some inspiration to keep you going. 

6. Reduce your ‘activation effort’

According to Shawn Achor in his book The Happiness Advantage, only an extra 20 seconds of “activation effort” —the energy it takes to get started—is enough to cause most people not to do an activity. 

This means that if you are really determined to start a new habit or reach a goal, you should eliminate that 20 seconds. For that 10K to be run, get your gym clothes out waiting for you in the morning, so all you have to do when you wake up is get them on!

7. Choose a resolution that doesn’t require willpower

Although we’ve been concentrating on getting fit during this blog post, a resolution to much easier to stick to if it doesn’t require willpower. Instead, choose a resolution that adds something to your life and will probably make you happier, such as joining a book club or eating fruit with breakfast. 

8. Give it time

On average, it takes more than 2 months before a new behaviour becomes automatic — 66 days to be exact. And how long it takes a new habit to form can vary widely depending on the behaviour, the person, and the circumstances. In one study, it this was anywhere from 18 days to 254 days.

If you do miss a day it’s important not to let the slip-up dictate your motivation and the outcome of your goal. However, as you’ve a plan per action 5, you can miss days, understand the circumstances of your relapses and quickly get back on track. This means that you’ll still be able to work routinely towards your overall goal - as they say, slow and steady wins the race!

With these 8 tips to help you get started, now all there is to say is:

Good Luck!