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Mental Health

Expert Advice: How Do I Stick To My New Year’s Resolutions?

Simple tips to boost your confidence and guarantee success.

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It’s officially January of 2023 — which means it’s time to set those New Year’s resolutions in motion. But by some estimates, as many as 80 percent of people abandon their resolutions by February, and only 8 percent stick with them for the entire year. You might be thinking: How do I stick to my resolutions? Our experts are here to help: Here, they provide some simple ways to boost your confidence and guarantee success.

Meet our expert panel

  • Ayelet Fishbach, PhD, author of Get It Done: Surprising Lessons from the Science of Motivation, is a psychologist at the University of Chicago.
  • Katy Milkman, PhD, author of How to Change, is a professor at the Wharton School and co-director of The Behavior Change for Good Initiative.
  • Tanya Dalton, author of On Purpose: The Busy Woman’s Guide to an Extraordinary Life of Meaning and Success, is a productivity expert.

Focus on fun.

The best predictor of successful change is how fun it is, says expert Ayelet Fishbach, PhD. “If you want to eat healthier, the food has to taste good. If you’d like to be more active, the exercise has to be enjoyable.”

To ensure your journey is joyful, enlist a friend, adds expert Katy Milkman, PhD. In a study she conducted, one group of people was paid a dollar each time they went to the gym, while a second group was only paid if they showed up to work out with a friend. “The people who only got paid if they came with a pal exercised 35 percent more often,” she explains. “Making activities more social tends to make them much more enjoyable.”

Keep goals small.

Our biggest goals — from saving more money to eating healthier — are abstract. “That’s why it’s so helpful to be concrete,” says Milkman. “Rather than say, ‘I want to get into better shape,’ tell yourself, ‘I’m going on a 20-minute walk each day.’” Small goals you can easily reach increase success.

Celebrate every step.

Savoring small victories is vital to keeping up momentum, says expert Tanya Dalton. “Create your own ‘breadcrumbs’ to help you see your path,” she urges. “I put green stickers on every day of the calendar when I take one action toward my goal. The stickers show me my progress — and make me want to keep going.”

Outsmart setbacks.

“When people reflect on their challenges in the form of advice that they can share with others, they develop a ‘growth mindset’ — that is, they learn from setbacks more easily because giving advice focuses on the lessons they’ve learned,” reveals Fishbach. No matter what your goal is, from quitting smoking to losing weight, don’t doubt your own knowledge — sharing it with others will prove just how far you’ve come.

Boost motivation.

People who see setbacks as a sign of their lack of commitment often give up, while those who see obstacles as a lack of progress, tend to persevere, says Fishbach. “That’s because a lack of commitment is internal and makes us think something is wrong with us — but progress is external, something we can achieve little by little,” she explains. “Just ask yourself, ‘What small thing can I do tomorrow to get back on track?’” This simple shift helps you accomplish goals.

Give yourself grace.

No matter where you are on your journey toward your goal, it can be helpful to reevaluate if it’s still what you truly want. “Take a pause and pinpoint if you want to take another step tomorrow or would rather stop chasing your original objective,” says Dalton. “Whether you stay the course or choose another goal to go after, you’ll succeed as long as you give yourself grace.”

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.

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