Tips For Ensuring Your New Year's Resolutions Last Beyond January

All too many Januarys have come and gone over the years with broken New Year's resolutions. In fact, according to Fisher College of Business, as many as 43% of Americans have waved goodbye to their resolution by the end of January. And, no matter how well-intentioned we may all be, up to 23% of people give up on their resolution before they get to the end of the first week of the month. That results in only around 9% of our resolutions coming true by the end of the year. Yikes!

Not only can not reaching yearly goals be disappointing, but it can also take a toll on one's mental health. "It can lead to feelings of inadequacy, which can harm self-esteem and lead to self-criticism," Michelle Turk, a licensed marriage and family therapist, told CBS News. And failure to complete our resolutions can also make us less likely to do one the next year. "Repeated failures at overly strict goals can lead to a person believing that personal growth or change is unachievable, which can be disheartening," she shared. 

But if you find yourself amongst those who can't make it past January with their New Year's resolution still going (us included), it doesn't have to be that way. There are ways to ensure you're not abandoning your aim to improve your life (or the lives of those around you!) and we're sharing some of the best with you.

Set your goal(s) alongside others

One of the very best ways to make sure you stick to any New Year's resolutions is to be accountable to someone else. Even if you don't have the same goal for the year, knowing you'll need to let someone else know if you slip up on your goal is a great way to hold yourself accountable.

Even better is setting the same New Year's resolution as someone close to you to help keep each other motivated, and sharing tips and tricks between you. This is a particularly great tip if you've decided on one of the most common New Year's resolutions — getting fit. "The way others help with goals is either by doing it with you — it's teamwork, and many of our important goals are teamwork," Ayelet Fishbach, a professor of behavioral science and marketing at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, told Chicago Tribune. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you're more likely to experience more consistency in your workouts when exercising alongside a friend, feel more motivated to get on the move, and you're even more likely to try new exercises together. Not to mention, there's a social aspect to working out with someone else, with many couples swearing by the quality time they get to enjoy during joint workouts. Win-win right?

Choose resolutions you're actually excited about

Picking a New Year's resolution you want to achieve and are excited to check off your list will likely make you more motivated to actually get out there and do it. "My number one tip would be to make [resolutions] intrinsically motivating. That means setting New Year's resolutions that we are excited about doing," Ayelet Fishbach told the Chicago Tribune. For example, setting a resolution to do something you currently hate and trying to force yourself to love it probably isn't going to yield the best results. "Pick an activity that you genuinely enjoy and look forward to. This reframes the resolution to focus on not just a physical end goal and external results, but how it impacts your overall well-being," Nicholette Leanza, a licensed professional clinical counselor, shared while speaking to CBS News. That may mean only choosing resolutions you choose specifically for yourself, not ones others set for you.

So, for example, if you're looking to eat a little healthier as the New Year rolls in, deciding you're going to incorporate more salads into your diet if you hate the green stuff may not be the way to go. Instead, try choosing a healthy food you already love and adding more of that to your eating habits instead. Or, try making meals you already know you enjoy healthier by taking away a fatty ingredient and adding more vegetables. 

Ensure your New Year's resolutions have some flexibility

It can be near impossible to know exactly what you're going to do and where you're going to be in the 12 months after you set your New Year's resolution. So, it's important to give yourself some flexibility with your goals and not get too down on yourself if you have a week, or even a month, where you don't quite go as hard on your goals as you'd have liked. As Michelle Turk told CBS News, "Overly strict goals can also lead to an increase in stress and/or anxiety." Instead, as Nicholette Leanza suggested, "Be open to adjusting [New Year's resolutions] as life evolves over the course of the year."

Equally, it's easy to get out of your motivational state after a period of not following through on your goals as much as you should, so allowing yourself some flexibility will help you get back into your routine without getting too down on yourself. "Being too strict or setting unattainable goals can have negative impacts on mental health. Instead, focus on progress and self-compassion," Leanza explained. "Acknowledging that progress is not always linear and that setbacks happen but they don't mean that you haven't progressed towards your goals," she added.

Try creating smaller goals out of each bigger resolution

Sometimes, even though we have the best intentions, our New Year's resolutions can just be too big to handle quickly. And when it feels like our goals are stretching out over months and we're barely getting anywhere with them, it can be pretty demotivating. That's why it can be useful to break one big goal down into a few smaller goals that are more achievable. Ayelet Fishbach recommended to the Chicago Tribune breaking things down into weekly or even monthly goals, as this will make you more likely to achieve your big resolution. Nicholette Leanza agreed, telling CBS News, "I recommend shifting the focus from drastic, all-or-nothing, 'outcome-based' goals to more approachable goals that celebrate small victories along the way."

Exactly how you do this will, of course, be dependent on what your New Year's resolution actually is. But, for example, if your big resolution is to be kinder to others, try starting by sharing a smile with a stranger every day for a week. You could then set a monthly target of paying for the groceries of the person behind you at least once (only if you're able to, of course). And then, by the time the end of the year rolls around, you've done several smaller niceties that add up to a whole lot more kindness being put out into the world.

Get specific when setting your goals

Vague New Year's resolutions are more unlikely to be met than more specific ones. So thinking about exactly what you want and how you're going to achieve it before starting is a solid way to keep your resolution going for as long as you need to achieve it. That can involve a specific plan. If the overall goal is, for example, to get your home more organized, that can be a little vague. Instead, try setting the goal of sorting through a specific closet each week or vowing to put your clothes away in the closet instead of leaving them out. Not only will each smaller task build towards the bigger goal, but you'll know exactly what you need to go to check off your resolution.

That may also mean choosing your words a little more carefully at the start of your resolution journey, as the way your goals are phrased can have more of an impact than you think. "On a neurolinguistic level, word choice can make all the difference between wanting to keep a New Year's resolution, and not being truly invested in the change," Dr. Carla Marie Manly, a clinical psychologist and author, told Real Simple. "When you create your resolutions, be sure to use verbiage such as 'I want to' rather than 'I should.' Those who want to see a change are far more likely to maintain resolutions compared to those whose resolutions feel like shame-induced 'shoulds'."

Don't rush your resolutions

So many of us try to get a jump on our New Year's resolutions, which means we can try too much too fast and end up burning out. Oftentimes, our goals are too big to complete in just a few weeks or even months. "One reason why so many New Year's resolutions fail is that people often set large goals, follow them for a few days or weeks, and begin to get tired when they see there's still so much ahead of them," Dr. Caroline Leaf, a cognitive neuroscientist and author, told Real Simple. "When we do this, it's like trying to sprint through the 365 days instead of pacing ourselves," Leaf added, emphasizing that taking things a little slower and allowing yourself some time will make you more likely to keep going throughout the year or until you've achieved your goal. "This allows you to focus on the present moment and work from there."

And there's some good reasoning behind the slow and steady approach that can make us more likely to achieve our yearly goals. According to Dr. Carla Manly, "This slow, step-wise approach builds self-efficacy, self-esteem, and patience." And that can never be a bad thing.

Use numbers to keep you motivated

Another way to stay strong with New Year's resolutions past January is to attach numbers to your goals. According to Ayelet Fishbach, quantifying the things we want to do will make us more likely to achieve them. "Numbers tend to help us motivate our progress and help us stay accountable," she explained to Chicago Tribune. There are countless ways this tip could help you stick to your resolutions. For example, if your goal is to write a novel, having the goal of writing a page every day, or 10 pages a week (depending on your schedule) can help you not only keep track of your progress but also make you more likely to push a little more to hit that target number.

Just remember if you're trying this technique though, not to get too bogged down with the numbers. The numbers you attach to your goals should be more of a target than a necessity. "As long as you have a healthy relationship with your number and understand that it's just a strategy, then it helps," Fishbach explained. So, now you have the tools, go forth and complete those New Year's resolutions to make the coming year the best one yet.