Five Steps to Making Your New Year’s Resolutions Stick

By Kara Fields

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It’s the start of the spring semester and I, like the hundreds of other Longhorns mentally chanting “new year, new me,” find myself looking for any free space in the weight room at Greg Gym. It’s no secret that Gregory is packed during high frequency hours, but the first two weeks of the semester after the New Year are by far the worst. After about a month in, the crowds and myself will inevitably abandon any fitness resolutions and resort to curling up in bed to mindlessly binge another Netflix original series and Gregory will once again be a physical example of survival of the fittest.


New Year’s resolutions are fun to come up with and share with others, but are seldom kept. It turns out that only 8% of people are successful at achieving their resolutions (or at least sticking with it for more than the first month of the year). 


If seriously want to adopt that “New Year, New Me” attitude in 2019, here are the 5 of the most common steps recommended by psychologists to help you stick to your goals. 


1. Find your motivation



Okay, so this one sounds easy but as every procrastinating student knows, digging deep for a morsel of motivation without a pressing deadline breathing down your neck is actually harder than it seems. According to Dr. Michelle Segar, the quality of our motivation directly affects whether our resolutions stick or fade away. Reading this wise advice off of the Internet, the first thing I wondered was how on earth the quality of a motivation is even measured. As it turns out, the reasons we make resolutions in the first place is a major determining factor for whether or not we achieve our resolutions. We need to have a motive behind a resolution that will energize our ambition for a whole year. As Dr. Michelle Segar says, “research shows that our primary reason for initiating a change determines whether we experience high or low-quality motivation.” So before setting a resolution, ask yourself how the change will improve your life and make you a happier person.


2. Break it down



 Having a big resolution like wanting to run a marathon, achieve a certain grade in a class, or expand your social circle is excellent for seeing the big picture and finding your motivation, but at times larger goals can seem impossible to achieve, too far out of reach, and can induce stress which eventually leads us to drop the resolution out of fear of failure. Every single source I meticulously combed through (as a sophisticated student journalist does) said the exact same thing: BREAK. DOWN. YOUR. GOALS. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are your big resolutions  so break them up into smaller, realistic pieces that encourage you. These goals should be realistic, specific, measurable, and time bound. For example, let’s say that in 2019 you want abs (don’t we all?), set smaller goals of achieving daily workouts and making the right food choices. These small decisions will go a long way and keep you motivated by smaller fitness achievements rather than ask yourself why you don’t have a six-pack after only two weeks and then leaving Greg Gym in defeat.


3. Record your progress



Research shows that you are more likely to remember and follow through on tasks when you write them down. Having something in ink physically in front of you makes it harder to ignore. Write down your goals, motivations, and track your progress. A study at the University of Washington found that the more you monitor your performance, the more likely you are to achieve your goals. This frequent feedback makes you feel proud of what you have achieved and thus encourages you to do more. An easy way to do this is to keep a diary or a calendar.


4. Make a monetary commitment



So this is the point in the article where I lose my college audience: spending money. It’s alright to skip out on this one you broke university student, but I’m just letting you know that research shows that making a monetary commitment to a goal helps to motivate you, because if there’s one thing we all have in common, it’s that we hate losing money.


5. Set prevention goals



Many New Year’s resolutions tend to be promotion goals, an aspiration that we hope to achieve. Prevention goals are usually things that we are already responsible for doing and want to change, and are just as important as promotion goals when it comes to making healthy life decisions. Spending more time outside is a promotion goal while spending less time on social media is a prevention goal. Both promotion and prevention goals can work hand in hand by providing you with a reward replacement. For instance, if you want to spend less time on social media because you feel isolated, set a promotion goal of hanging out with friends instead.


So there you have it everyone, the five steps to changing your life. Now go out and have a happy new year.