The results are in – here are the top five resolutions from our 2012-2013 survey:
1. Become more physically fit
2. Improve financial condition
3. Improve health
4. Lose weight
5. Read more/become more educated
In an interesting twist, we also asked our respondents about their resolutions’ duration, both which resolution they gave up first and which one they stuck with the longest. Losing weight topped both lists.
So what makes the difference between those who keep resolutions and those who don’t? It’s more than just willpower – there are several steps that you can take to keep your resolutions going long past January.
First off, make sure that your goals are realistic, and expect change in small increments. Losing 20 pounds by the end of January simply can’t be done in a healthy way (which goes against the physically fit goal). But developing a plan for diet and exercise designed to help you lose a more realistic five pounds each month can help you get on your way, and provide small successes to celebrate.
Try this mental exercise – whatever you do, don’t think about an elephant. Of course, it’s impossible to avoid thinking about an elephant. Strangely enough, though, when tempted to break a resolution, you might spend mental energy trying not to think about the problem, staying in that uncomfortable place called indecision.
In one famous study, researchers put a toddler in an empty room with a marshmallow, instructing the toddler that if they waited 15 minutes without eating the marshmallow, they could have two marshmallows. Two-thirds of the kids ate the marshmallow. But a follow-up study showed that kids who could distract themselves by looking at the walls, reciting a rhyme, or playing a mental game, did much better at the test. They weren’t thinking about the marshmallow, so they weren’t spending energy deciding not to eat it.
Developing your own distractions can help you defuse the situations where you’re tempted to break your resolutions. If you’re used to hitting the vending machine at lunchtime, plan on running an errand instead, or take a short walk to the drinking fountain. Trying new activities to replace your old habits can also keep you from thinking about your resolutions.
Finally, keeping a resolutions journal can help you stay accountable to yourself for your actions. Each day, write down how things went, whether you were 100% compliant or whether you fell off the wagon. If you make a small mistake, you can also write down the situation where the mistake happened and plan ideas for how you can get back on track the next day. After all, falling off the wagon isn’t an excuse for running down the road in the opposite direction.
When you spend enough time planning your resolutions, your mind is free to enjoy the benefits those resolutions provide. Here’s wishing you the best of luck with your resolutions this year!