Let’s be honest with ourselves this year. Most of us make New Year’s resolutions to improve our overall quality of life, only to let our newfound goals fall by the wayside after only a few pitiful weeks, broken and forgotten.
According to a recent study by the University of Scranton, only one in 12 Americans who make New Year’s resolutions will actually achieve their goals.
So what is the secret to sticking to your guns and accomplishing your resolutions?
Many, like Richard Wiseman, psychology professor who has studied New Year’s resolutions, claim that the best way to achieve success with a resolution is through a gradual, disciplined process. He said setting small and achievable goals, documenting progress and rewarding yourself along the way are all part of the process.
The psychological phenomena known as the Hawthorne effect is often cited as part of this gradual process, stating that individuals try harder when they feel they are being monitored.
“In high school I always told myself, ‘I need to work out more, I need to eat healthier,’ and it just didn’t happen,” Ana Mason, junior English education major, said.
“I’ve learned that if I don’t set standards, really structured resolutions — like I need to do this by this time — and if I am more open and optimistic, I actually go above and beyond what my original resolution was.”
Mason, who ran a half-marathon in 2013, is slated to run her first complete marathon later this year. Her 2014 New Year’s resolution is to get fit and relieve stress by running more often.
“I feel like if you’re easier on yourself, you’re more likely to do what you set out to do,” Mason said.
Megan Stinespring, a junior psychology major, who has resolved to live a cleaner life by eating healthier and keeping her apartment tidy, agrees with this approach.
“My New Year’s resolution is easier this year because it’s more generalized. I’m not super strict with it,” Stinespring said. “If you fall off the wagon it can be hard to get back on if you’re really tough on yourself.”
Indeed, the individuals who get the most success out of their New Year’s resolutions are the people who keep working toward their objectives, even if they deviate from their initial plans.
Remember, as the wise Hannah Montana once put it: everybody makes mistakes. Don’t beat yourself up about modifying your goals along the way.