New year, new me? The start of a new year is a time for fresh beginnings and the chance to turn over a new leaf. It’s no surprise, then, that New Year’s resolutions are so popular. According to a recent survey, approximately 45% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions each year.
But as the weeks and months go by, it’s all too easy for these resolutions to fall by the wayside. In fact, most people fail to achieve their New Year’s resolutions. So what can we do to increase our chances of sticking to our goals? Here are some tips to help you stay on track and make lasting changes in the new year.
Common New Year’s Resolutions
If you’re still looking for New Year’s Resolution ideas, here are the most common ones:
- Improving physical health (e.g., losing weight, exercising more, eating healthier)
- Saving money or improving financial health (e.g., creating a budget, paying off debt)
- Getting organized (e.g., decluttering, creating a schedule)
- Pursuing a career ambition (e.g., finding a new job, improving your current position)
- Learning a new skill or hobby (e.g., improving your business English, delivering more impactful presentations, playing an instrument)
- Quitting a bad habit (e.g., smoking, alcohol consumption)
- Improving relationships (e.g., spending more time with loved ones, improving communication)
- Traveling more
- Reading more
- Volunteering or giving back to the community
- Reducing stress or improving mental health (e.g., practicing mindfulness, seeking therapy)
Why do New Year’s resolutions fail?
Out of the many adults who set New Year’s resolutions, just 9% of people are successful in achieving them. 23% of people quit by the end of the first week, 64% after the first month (according to a study with Australian and UK citizens), and 81% before the end of the second year.
💡 Did you know?
In 2019, a study conducted by Strava, a social networking site for athletes, found that approximately 80% of people who made New Year’s resolutions gave up on them by the second week of January. By analyzing data from 800 million user-logged activities that year, Strava was able to predict that the second Friday of January is when the motivation of most resolution-makers starts to decline. They named the second Friday of the year “Quitters Day”.
But why do New Year’s resolutions (and new habits) fail?
There are a number of reasons why New Year’s resolutions and building new habits may fail. Some common reasons include:
- Lack of motivation: It’s easy to get excited about making a change at the beginning of the year, but as the weeks go by, it can be difficult to stay motivated.
- Unrealistic goals: It’s important to set specific and challenging long-term goals, but it’s also important to be realistic. If your goals are too ambitious, you may become discouraged and give up.
- Being too busy: When we have a lot going on, it can be difficult to find the time and energy to focus on making a significant change. Other priorities and commitments may take precedence, making it difficult to stick to our goals. Sometimes, unexpected life events can derail our progress. It’s important to be flexible and adapt your goals as necessary, but also to not let setbacks discourage you from continuing to work towards your goals.
- Poor planning: Without a clear plan of action, it’s easy to get sidetracked and lose sight of your goals. It’s important to break your goals down into small, achievable steps and consistently work towards them.
- Lack of accountability: It can be helpful to have someone to hold you accountable and provide support as you work towards your goals. This could be a friend, family member, or even a coach or mentor.
- Lack of support: Making a significant change can be challenging, and it’s important to have a supportive network to help you stay on track. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people who are working towards similar goals can provide motivation and encouragement.
By identifying and addressing these potential obstacles, you can increase your chances of sticking to your New Year’s resolutions and making lasting changes.
How to stick to new habits?
Making lasting changes and developing new habits can be challenging, but it is possible with the right mindset and strategies. Whether you’re trying to exercise more, improve your business English skills, eat healthier, or advance in your career, the process of sticking to new habits requires dedication and perseverance. In this section, we will explore some helpful tips and strategies for sticking to new habits and making lasting changes.
1. Understand your why
Before you set a goal, it’s important to understand your motivations for making a change. What do you hope to gain from achieving this goal? How will it improve your life? By understanding your “why,” you can stay motivated and focused as you work towards your goal.
2. Make the most of the “fresh start effect”
One way to increase your chances of sticking to new habits is to make the most of the “fresh start effect.” This refers to the psychological phenomenon whereby people are more likely to make changes and adopt new habits at the start of a new year, month, or week. This can be a powerful tool for making lasting changes, as it allows you to take advantage of the energy and motivation that often comes with a fresh start.
3. Set specific and challenging long-term goals
In his book The Art of Non-Conformity, Chris Guillebeau puts it this way: “We tend to overestimate what we can complete in a single day, and underestimate what we can complete over long periods of time.” You’ll be surprised by how much you are able to achieve with small, daily steps taken over a month, year, or decade.
4. Consistently set small and realistic short-term goals.
In addition to setting long-term goals, it’s important to consistently set small and realistic short-term goals. This could be something as simple as showing up daily or following the “2-day rule,” which means that you don’t miss twice in a row. By consistently meeting small goals, you can build momentum and stay on track.
5. Learn to set SMART goals
SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals that can help you stay focused and motivated as you work towards your objectives. Here are some tips for setting SMART goals:
- Specific: Make your goals as specific as possible. Instead of setting a vague goal like “exercise more,” set a specific goal like “exercise for 30 minutes at least 3 times per week.” “Learning English” is also a vague goal. Instead, set a specific goal like “feel confident speaking up in my daily team meetings” or “be able to understand 80% of my favorite podcast without having to pause and rewind.”
- Measurable: Your goals should be measurable, so you can track your progress and see how far you’ve come. For example, “lose 10 pounds” is a measurable goal, whereas “get in shape” is not. When it comes to improving your English skills, a measurable goal would be “For example, “increase my vocabulary by learning 10 new words per week for the next three months.”
- Achievable: It’s important to set challenging, but achievable goals. If your goals are too ambitious, you may become discouraged and give up. For example, if you’re just starting to learn English, setting a goal to become fluent in six months may not be realistic. Be realistic about what you can accomplish. Rather than trying to tackle your goals all at once, break them down into smaller, achievable steps. This will make them more manageable and help you stay on track.
- Relevant: Make sure your goals are relevant to your overall objectives. For example, if your long-term goal is to improve your overall health, setting a goal to train for a marathon may not be relevant if you’re just starting to exercise. Or if your long-term goal is to improve your communication skills in order to advance in your career, setting a goal to learn slang may not be relevant.
- Time-bound: Set deadlines for your goals to provide a sense of urgency and keep you on track. Make sure to set deadlines that are realistic and allow you enough time to make progress, but that also provide a sense of urgency.
You can also make SMART goals SMARTER, by making them Exciting and Refreshing.
6. Manage expectations
Expect to experience setbacks and realize that resilience, or the ability to recover from setbacks, is crucial for achieving your goals. Research shows that successful individuals typically experience around 14 slip-ups over a two-year period. Be prepared for the possibility of hurdles along the way. Remember that they are a normal part of the process and that the key is to learn from them and bounce back.
7. Remove friction
Removing friction, or making it as easy as possible to stick to your habits, can be a powerful strategy for staying on track and achieving your goals. Here are some tips for removing friction.
- Identify and eliminate distractions: Distractions can be a major obstacle to sticking to habits. Identify the distractions that are most likely to derail you and eliminate them as much as possible. For example, if you’re trying to focus on work, turn off your phone, or limit your social media usage.
- Make it easy to get started: The easier it is to get started, the more likely you are to stick to your habits. For example, if you’re trying to start exercising, lay out your workout clothes the night before or keep your gym bag packed and ready to go.
- Set yourself up for success: Make it easy to stick to your habits by setting yourself up for success. For example, if you’re trying to eat healthier, keep healthy snacks on hand and avoid tempting unhealthy foods, or schedule your English learning lessons when you feel fresh and rested.
- Use cues and triggers: Use cues and triggers to remind yourself to stick to your habits. For example, you could set a reminder on your phone to take a break and stretch every hour, or put a sticky note on your fridge to remind you to log in to your English self-study platform.
8. Create a learning calendar that works for you
Consider how you are ‘designing your day’ with your goals in mind. Block off dedicated learning time: set aside dedicated learning time in your calendar. This could be an hour each day, 10 minutes a day, or a few hours each week. Be sure to set aside enough time to make meaningful progress towards your goals.
Try to be consistent with your learning schedule. This will help you build momentum and make it easier to stick to your habits.
While consistency is important, you should also be flexible. Life happens, and it’s okay to adjust your learning schedule as needed. Just be sure to make up any missed time as soon as possible to stay on track.
Use a planner or calendar to help you stay organized and track your progress. You can use a paper planner, a digital calendar, or a combination of both.
In his book “The Slight Edge”, Jeff Olson outlines the importance of doing small, little improvements in our everyday life to achieve a successful bigger picture, and how by focusing more on making better day-by-day choices you can shape a remarkable future.
Making new habits stick is hard. If you’re looking to learn a new skill, for example, shift your mindset from “I don’t have time to learn” to “It will save me time in the long run” or “It is an investment in myself”. Don’t let past experiences cloud your objectives. If you had bad learning experiences in the past, know that there is a way that will work for you. Whether it is through a consultant, a coach, a 1:1 instructor, or self-directed learning. Find what works for you and apply the 8 strategies we presented in this post.
If in 2023 you are looking to advance in your career or improve your English communication skills, we would love to help. Explore all our business English programs and get in touch for more information.
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