How To Set New Years Goals That Stick

Lifestyle

How To Set New Years Goals That Stick

As we settle into the new year, so too do a new set of ‘resolutions’ — a vague crib-sheet of objectives that help you become healthier and happier as the new year progresses. Here’s the kicker though: around 80% of people abandon their new steely resolve by February. This year, let us help you buck the stats by arming you with real, actionable advice that will help you maintain motivation, take back control of your fitness and keep your passion for health very much alive, whether you’re starting fresh, pushing forward or picking things up. Let’s get after it.

 

Gang Up on Motivation

Why go solo? Make healthier habits a team sport and share your goals with your friends and family, asking them to check in every so often on your new goals. A study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology found that those who shared a fitness target with a support network enjoyed a not-so-insignificant 42% increase in sustained weight loss. It works in the digital realm, too. Research from Stanford University found that a ‘feedback loop’ — WhatsApp groups, for example — were instrumental in study participants achieving their goals, as the level of self-regulation was lessened.

 

Get SMART On Your Goals

A University of Michigan study found that any objective — whether it’s building up to a double-bodyweight compound lift, dropping weight or nixing bad habits like biting your nails — was considerably more achievable when phrasing was Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound (SMART). Instead of just wanting to “lose weight,” or to “eat more sustainably,” opt for an objective that provides a discernible time frame — “lose two to three kilos this month” — or a quantifiable metric to monitor — “eat plant-based for five meals per week” — as each are specific, measured and realistic objectives.

 

Breakdown Your Objective

Diluting your overall objective into smaller, more achievable goals is a sure-fire way to maintain new year discipline. Smaller, more specific benchmarks will help you become far more accountable in the long-run, rather than working towards one enormous task three months away, explains a study in the International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology. Likewise, if you’ve set a goal and struggled to stick to it in the past, then it’s time to recognise that this method may not be working for you. 

Instead of wanting to lose a certain percentage of body fat or build muscle mass, focus instead on the immediate rewards that come with your new goal — for example, focus on the endorphin rush, mental health benefits and the change in discipline a new fitness programme brings, instead of focus on dropping a jeans size or filling out your T-shirt. Using this method, a University of Michigan study found that study participants were 34% more likely to stick with their routines. 

 

Take Notes

Chances are you’ve seen your fellow gym members noting down their sets, reps and weights during a workout. Similarly, you’ve seen your fellow runners critique their runs on Strava and friends post their workout highlights on social media. This year, take a note out of their book and begin to detail your progress in a training diary. A comprehensive physiological playbook, this is not — but, by jotting down more concrete metrics (weight lifted, reps and sets performed), you can gauge your progress as the days, weeks and months roll on. For a welcome top-up of motivation down the road, re-read last month’s notes and see how far you’ve progressed. 

Handily, Hertfordshire University found that a fitness journal holds the power to help you keep progressing. In the same notebook, try to schedule your sessions too — a British Journal of Health Psychology study found that study participants doubled their workout frequency when sessions were scheduled ahead of time. 

 

Rephrase Your Objective

Lastly, try rephrasing what you want to achieve at the beginning of your journey. People classed as  ‘approachers’ — ”I want to run more” — were found to be 59% more successful than avoiders — ”I will quit chocolate” — in a Stockholm University and Linköping University study published in journal PLOS One. Instead of ditching sweets, for example, opt to eat fruit several times a day. This helps to reframe your new resolution as something positive and opportunistic, rather than abandoning something that you often enjoy. “What surprised us were the results on how to phrase your resolution,” said Per Carlbring, a professor of psychology at Stockholm University and lead study author. “The support given to the participants did not make much of a difference when it came down to how well participants kept their resolutions throughout the year.”

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