BY STEPHANIE VOZZA
A new year can feel hopeful. It’s a fresh start, and many of us make big plans for what we want to do or do differently. Unfortunately, many of us will also fail to make good on those plans, with 80% of us not making it to the second week of February. “Unlike fairy tales, there is no magic that happens at the stroke of midnight,” says Dr. Andreas Michaelides, chief of psychology for the weight-loss program Noom.
If you’re thinking of making a New Year’s resolution, you can increase your chances of sticking to it by avoiding these five things, which probably indicate you should revise your resolution:
1. IT’S TOO MUCH
If your resolution is more of a to-do list or requires several steps to complete, you might want to rethink it. Broad, sweeping changes are susceptible to failure, says Luke Ayers, PhD, a behavioral psychologist and assistant psychology professor at Widener University. “Throwing any single part of a routine off can be aversive, so a large change might be more so,” he explains. “We are stressed out by the experience.”
Small changes have a better chance of becoming habits, says Ayers. “You are constantly tempted to fall back into your old habits, probably through the presence of cues, and so it takes a lot of self-control,” says Ayers. “Self-control is impaired by stress, so it compounds the problem.”
“Start with one behavior and one behavior only,” says Michaelides. “Make that one behavior a habit first—don’t try to take on 10 new things all at once.”
2. IT ISN’T SPECIFIC
Another failure waiting to happen is making a resolution that’s too broad or vague, says Jonathan Alpert, a psychotherapist and the author of Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days. “For example, resolving to exercise more or lose weight are easy ways to set yourself up for failure, as they lack ways to mark progress and are unlikely to keep you motivated throughout the year,” he says.
Instead, try making your goal specific. For example, “I’m going to run this 5K,” which you circle on the calendar. Or “I’m going to write 500 words a day for my book.”
“It’s easier to drop out when you set goals or resolutions that are vague,” says Alpert. “When it’s really detailed and specific, it’s harder to walk away from it.”