However, 25 percent of us fell off the wagon within the first week of January and 80 percent join the club by mid-February.
If you are part of the failed resolution club, all is not lost — New Year’s resolutions are salvageable! Try following these steps to resurrect your resolution. You may not need to use all of them. Identify the ones which seem helpful and plan to implement those.
Kindly acknowledge your disappointment.
Acknowledge feeling disappointed or frustrated that you did not achieve your goal without beating up on yourself or judging yourself incapable of attaining the goal. Acknowledge and own your emotions but be willing to let them go and move on.
Remember, life is not predictable so it is hard to stick to any routine—especially a new one. Don’t beat yourself up over what has happened!
Refine your original resolution so it works better.
Fell short of your original resolution goals? Don’t allow your errors to give you permission to give up! Dust yourself off and try again. Mistakes don’t mean you can’t be successful. If you are willing to look at your mistakes, learn from them, and commit to trying again, you will continue to strengthen the muscles needed for success. It’s important not to allow a trip to the candy dish (you swore you were avoiding) trigger abandonment of your plan to eat healthier.
Recommit yourself to the goal and start fresh from the current moment.
I had a bag of chips for lunch, but I can still eat a healthy supper. I don’t have to over-compensate by eating nothing for the rest of the day or give in tonight and overdo it at dinner because I already blew it with the chips.
Review how realistic the goal is for YOU.
Many of us make resolutions based upon what we think we “should” do rather than taking time to be honest with ourselves. It is important to be honest with yourself about who you are and what you are willing to do at this stage in your life.
- Is this a realistic goal for me—will I do what is required to meet this goal?
- Is this goal something that fits who I am at this stage in my life, or is it just something I think I “should” do?
Re-write the goal to be more realistic
If the original goal either doesn’t fit who you are or isn’t something you have the time or willingness to accomplish right now, it’s OK to rewrite it!
RESOLUTION: Work out 30 minutes every day.
Why this might not be realistic:
- You haven’t worked out in 10 years.
- You’re already struggling to balance work, parenting and other commitments.
MORE REALISTIC GOAL: Train so I can work out for at least 30 minutes three times a week.
Be specific about your goal and how you’re going to meet it.
How this goal could be more specific & flexible:
- Add smaller goals
- Add a timeframe to complete
MORE SPECIFIC REALISTIC GOAL: Start training weekly in 10-minute intervals, increasing number of sessions and length of sessions in order to build up endurance to 30 minutes three times a week by the end of May.
Break big goals down into attainable smaller goals.
If you tend to either feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the goal or give up when you don’t see immediate results, it is important to find ways to break things down.
Make one change at a time instead of attempting to change everything all at once.
A goal to eat healthier could be broken down into smaller, easier goals such as eating at least one vegetable a day for a month and then adding in a second vegetable the second month instead of trying to totally overhaul your diet on January 1.
A goal to learn a new skill could be broken into more manageable steps by focusing on each individual step involved in the new skill and practicing each step in sequence.
Identify resources you need to be successful.
Perform an autopsy on your failed New Year’s resolution to determine what went wrong. In other words, let go of judging yourself to be “lazy” in favor of assuming something wasn’t right in your plan and needs to be adjusted so you can be successful.
Factors to consider: Did you…
- Underestimate how much time this goal would take?
- Underestimate how hectic your work schedule can be?
- Forget to build in time to learn and practice the skills you need to tackle this new goal?
- Neglect to include enough support, encouragement and accountability?
Understanding the pitfalls which derailed you is an important step in correcting the course and becoming successful!
If your goal is to start training, do you need to…
- Join a gym?
- Buy some equipment?
- Find a work out partner?
- Have a trainer show you how to use equipment?
- Add training dates on your calendar?
Tie your goal to rewards
We are motivated to move toward pleasure and away from pain. If you’re struggling to establish a new habit, try pairing it with something that will feel rewarding or something you will be motivated to avoid.
For example, if you want to consistently exercise, pair going to class with something you like – ask a friend to come with you to exercise class or to meet you afterward for coffee.
If you are attempting to stop something (like snacking after supper), pair snacking with losing something you care about. You might try telling your kids they get $5 every time they catch you snacking after supper. They will love seeing if they can catch you!
Above all, don’t be discouraged. Even if you fell off the wagon January 2, take hope…there’s no time like the present to start again!
Jean Holthaus, LISW is a Licensed Independent Social Worker and clinic manager at the Pine Rest Pella Clinic. She earned a BA in Elementary Education from the University of Northern Iowa and a Masters of Social Work from the University of Iowa in 1995.